Lisbon Cruisers: From the Port to the City in Minutes

Sunny Lisbon’s port of entry is situated along the Rio Tejo River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. One of the hottest travel destinations in the world, Lisbon welcomes approximately 18 million visitors a year arriving by air, rail, and sea.

The modern Port of Lisbon isn’t just for transportation and shipping, it’s also a cultural and commercial hub with a wide-array of restaurants, bars and cafes. To date, the port serves fifteen cruise lines arriving at one of three terminals (Alcântara, Santa Apolonia, and Jardim do Tobaco Quay). From any one of these piers, it’s an easy jaunt to Lisbon’s city center—between 1 km and 4 km, depending on where your ship docks.

Get printable map here

If you cometh by sea, here’s how to easily “geteth” to town…

There are six (6) options to reach the historic center from the port: By foot, bus, tram, metro, train, or taxi.

From Alcântara and Rocha Conde de Óbidos:

Buses (Nos. 28, 714 & 732) and trams (Nos. 15 & 18) depart along the main road just north of the docks. Alternatively, you can take the train at Alcântara-Mar station (Cascais/Cais do Sodré line). *Note: A one-day (24hr) ticket can be purchased; valid on buses, trams, funiculars, and metro.

From Santa Apolónia:

It’s a short walk to the old town center or, if you don’t feel up for a stroll, take the metro from Santa Apolónia (Blue Line) station, getting off at the Biaxa-Chiado stop.

Taxi ranks are located at each terminal, as well.

Lisbon in a day: From ship-to-shore-to-city!

Port of Lisbon, Gare Marítima de Alcântara 1350-355 Lisbon, Portugal; geral@portodelisboa.pt; Tel: (+35) 1 21 361 10 00

 

 

 

Lisbon: Leave your luggage and go, go, go!

It continues to be an exasperating travel dilemma: where to leave your luggage before check-in or after checking out of your Lisbon accommodation. Fortunately, companies have heard the call from travelers and answered with many convenient solutions.

In Lisbon for example, CityLockers provides users a safe and uncomplicated way to deposit and hold valuables. The lockers are under CCTV monitoring 24/7 (they’re connected to a central alarm system), are economically priced and centrally located at the Rossio Metro station with easy connections to the Lisbon Airport (Green Line – change once at Alameda to the Red Line). The self-service process is pretty straightforward.

To deposit bags:

1. Place bags in any available locker
2. Close door and wait for the light to turn on
3. Pay your fee (cash or credit cards)
4. Obtain and keep safe your access code

To collect bags:

1. Enter the access code
2. Pay any balance due
3. Take luggage and go

Lockers dimensions are as follows:

  • Small lockers: 36x48x60 cm or 14x19x23.6 in.
  • Medium lockers: 36x65x60 cm or 14×25.6×23.6 in.
  • Large lockers: 36x99x60 cm or 14×38.9×23.6 in.

CityLockers is open from 6:30am to 1:00am, 365 days a year. Hourly fees start as low as 1€ and special long-term rates are available. Note: For luggage storage of more than 7 days, advance booking is required. There’s also a new location in Porto (Porto-Trindade Metro Station).

Drop and go. Lisbon is waiting!

CityLockers
Rossio Metro Station
1100-201 Lisbon, Portugal
E-mail: citylockers@citylockers.pt
Hours: 6:30am to 1:00am (365 days a year)

Sintra: A Lisbon Daytrip Fit for a King

by Jessica Infantino Trumble

A visit to Sintra will have you feeling like a royal for a day.  This quaint little town just 20 miles northwest of Lisbon is characterized by cobbled streets, charming shops and fairytale-like castles built high atop lush green hills.  In the 19th century, Sintra was a summer retreat for the Portuguese monarchy who sought to escape the heat, and is an easy and worthwhile daytrip from Lisbon today.  Here’s what you need to know.

Getting There and Around

The best way to get to Sintra is by train, which departs from Lisbon’s Rossio station about every 15 minutes.  Buy your ticket from a window or vending machine near the tracks or swipe your Lisboa Card at the turnstile – it covers the fare and gives you discounts on some of Sintra’s main sights.  Then it’s just a quick 40 minute ride to Sintra, which is the last stop on the line.

When you get there you can explore the lower town on foot (and you should), but save yourself the steep hike and take bus #434 to see the sights further up.  The bus does a loop every 30 minutes connecting the train station with the main square near the National Palace, Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.  You can buy a “Pena circuit” ticket from the driver and hop on and off at any stop on the route. Click here for bus timetables and an interactive map.  You can also get a unique guided tour of the area, including transportation, with our friends at We Hate Tourism Tours.

What to Wear

Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking and castle climbing, so sturdy shoes are a must for Sintra.  A light jacket is also a good idea since it’s a little cooler than Lisbon given its coastline location.  After all, that’s why the monarchy came here to escape the hot summer months.

Rainy season is usually winter through spring (and occasionally in the fall), so pack an umbrella if you plan on visiting during these months, otherwise you may find yourself waiting in line to buy a poncho in the gift shop at Pena Palace.  And since many of Sintra’s sights are outdoors, you may want to bring a hat in the summer.

Sintra Highlights

One way to tackle Sintra is from the top down, which means your first stop would be Pena Palace.  This whimsical palace is an eclectic fusion of architectural styles inspired by the castles of Bavaria.  A prime example of romanticism, its bold red, yellow and purple exterior is hard to miss, complete with Moorish turrets, alligator water spouts and a Triton-flanked archway.

Built by King Fernando II, the palace was home to 5 generations of Portuguese monarchs from the mid-1800s until 1910 when they fled during the Republican Revolution.  Thereafter Pena Palace was converted into a museum, and has been restored with a keen attention to detail, looking as if the royal family left just yesterday.

As you explore the interior, you may notice that the palace is considerably modern as palaces go (i.e. Versailles in France or Schönbrunn in Vienna, etc.), offering up an intimate look at 19th and early 20th century life.  Pena Palace was actually quite progressive, having the flush toilets and hot shower in Portugal, a telephone to listen in to the opera when the king didn’t want to make the trek to Lisbon and an enviously well-stocked kitchen by today’s standards.

The palace itself is surrounded by the sprawling Pena Park, which is more like a forest than a park with dense trees, plants and other hidden treasures.  The palace grounds make for an almost magical downhill walk, otherwise you can pick up bus #434 and head next to the Moorish Castle.

Located on an adjacent hilltop, this medieval castle was originally built in the 10th century by the Muslims as a military fort.  After years of conquest, rebuilding and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake that caused considerable damage, King Fernando II launched a campaign to restore and preserve the castle and its surrounding forest.

Buy your ticket and then follow the winding forest path to get to the main entrance.  Once inside, you can walk along the moss-covered ramparts and climb the stone towers for amazing panoramic views on a clear day.   Even if the weather is less than favorable, or you’re left without a view thanks to the thick fog that rolls in off the Atlantic, you can still have a great time, trust me.  Read more about my foggy day in Sintra here.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, there’s also a zip line that allows visitors to soar through the tree tops at the base of the castle.  After you’ve had your fill of castle-climbing, hop back on the bus and get off at the main square where you started for the National Palace (it will stop at Pena Palace first, so sit back and enjoy the ride).

This palace also dates back to Moorish times, making it the oldest surviving royal palace in Portugal – and hard to miss thanks to the two white conical kitchen chimneys on top.  The interior is truly a feast for the eyes with highly decorated, themed rooms each with a unique story, like the Swan Room (an homage to the king’s daughter) and the Stag Room (adorned with coats of arms and hunting scenes).  The National Palace also boasts the largest collection of Portuguese azulejos painted tiles in the world.

Other worthwhile sites in Sintra include the Quinta da Regaleira, an elegant estate towards the outskirts of town with yet another absolutely gorgeous park filled with grottoes, fountains, underground wells and hidden tunnels.  It’s an easy 10 minute walk from the National Palace, otherwise you can take a separate bus #435 from the main square.

This bus will also take you the farther out west to Monserrate.  This palace has a bit of a different flavor than the others in Sintra, combining Gothic, Moorish and Italian styles of architecture (it’s dome was modeled after the Duomo in Florence) and a subtropical garden with waterfalls, palm trees and other exotic plants.  There’s also a free app to guide you through an interactive tour of the palace.

For another unique experience, the Toy Museum is just 2 minutes from the National Palace on foot.  The museum houses an expansive collection of more than 40,000 items from around the world – from ancient Egypt ion toys to Nazi toy soldiers, as well as trains, planes, cars, boats, games, books dolls and even playthings that belonged to royal children – dating back as far as the 3rd century BC.

Finally, for an especially memorable way to see the main sights in Sintra, you can take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city.  Book in advance or look for these old-fashion carriages waiting near the main square.  Tours range from 25 minutes to 2 hours and 40 minutes for up to 4 people, and can be customized to make your daytrip extra special.  Check out the company Sintratur’s website for tour options and rates.

For more travel tips by Jessica, check out her blog here.

 

Discovering Lisbon’s Belém Neighborhood

by Jessica Infantino Trumble

A day spent in Belém is a journey back to a time when Portugal ruled the seas.  This peaceful little suburb of Lisbon played a huge role in the Age of Discovery, as it was the starting point for explorers like Bartolomeu Diaz, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan.  Their journeys literally spanned the globe, staking claims in Africa, Asia, India and South America along the way.  Even Columbus landed in Lisbon before returning to Spain after his famous 1492 voyage.

With boatloads of history and impressive panoramic views, Belém warrants at least a half-day of sightseeing, or longer if you have an appetite for discovery.

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to Belém from downtown Lisbon is to hop on tram #15E.  You can pick it up at Praça da Figueira, Praça do Comércio or the Cais Sodré rail station, and in about 30 minutes it will drop you off right in front of the Jerónimos Monastery.  Just be sure to not get off at the first “Belém” stop, rather wait for the next one named “Mosteiro Jerónimos”.  From there most of the main sights will be within walking distance.

Alternatively, you can also take bus #714 from Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio, or bus #728 from Praça Comércio or Cais Sodré.  When you’re ready to head back to Lisbon, catch the tram or bus from the same stop in front of the monastery (they come about every 10-15 minutes).  Both are covered if you have a Lisboa Card, otherwise just pay the driver when you get on.

The Lisboa Card also includes free entry to many sights in Belém including the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery and offers discounts on several others.  If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing or using a lot of public transportation in Lisbon, then the card is a good bet.  If your usage will be light, then you can probably skip it.

What to See

Belém offers a good mixture of museums and monuments depending on your preference.  Here are just a few of the top highlights.

You can’t miss the impressive Discoveries Monument soaring 171 feet high on the waterfront.  Built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s death, the monument immortalizes Henry, placing him at the helm of the ship.  He’s followed by 32 other larger-than-life figures who also played a role in the Age of Discovery – monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists, missionaries and the only female, Henry’s mother Felipa.

As you stand at the base of the monument, look around and take in the view anchored by the 25th of April Bride and Monument to Christ in the distance.  Then look down at the inlaid marble map in the square in front of the monument that chronicles the expeditions of Portugal’s explorers.

Next head to the Belém Tower, which was built in 1515 as a fortress and watchtower to guard Lisbon’s harbor.  The tower quickly became a symbol of the Age of Discovery since it was the last thing explorers would see as they embarked on their journeys and the first sign of home when they returned.


The exterior is an ostentatious example of Manueline architecture, named after King Manuel I to celebrate the prosperity during his reign.  This style of architecture is characterized by intricate ornamentation that glorified Portugal’s achievements as sea, like twisted rope, anchors, shells, flora, Manuel’s armillary sphere and Christian symbols because, after all, someone had to finance the journeys.

Cross the makeshift pedestrian bridge to get to the visitors entrance (during high tide the water can completely surround the tower), then spend some time exploring the various rooms that were once used for cannon firing and spoil storage.  The climb to the top of the tower’s terrace is worth the 120 steps for the sweeping view of the Tagus River.

Continuing with the theme of discovery, Portugal’s story of sea exploration comes to life at the Maritime Museum.  Located in a wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, adjacent to Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium, the museum houses a collection of more than 17,000 seafaring items.  You’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at model ships from the Age of Discovery, ornate royal barges and other vessels, maps and navigation tools from the past few centuries.

From sea to land, the National Coach Museum offers another perspective on Portuguese transportation from a bygone era.  In 1905 when it was clear that motor cars would become all the rage, Queen Amélia had the riding arena at the royal palace turned into an exhibition area to preserve her collection of fancy coaches.  The museum’s unique collection began with 29 royal vehicles, along with uniforms, harnesses and other cavalry accessories, which has grown to include even more vehicles, art and artifacts from the 17th to 19th centuries.


Ending up back where you started, the Jerónimos Monastery is another brilliant example of Manueline architecture in Belém.  Construction began in 1501 under King Manuel to give thanks for the successful sea voyages of Vasco da Gama and other great explorers, fitting since it was the sale of spices from da Gama’s trip to India that financed the project.

The monastery was inhabited by the Hieronymite order of monks who provided spiritual guidance to sailors before they embarked on their journeys.  It’s also the final resting place for King Manuel, da Gama and other Portuguese notables.


The real highlight of the monastery is its cloisters.  Just like the Belém Tower, the bold yet elegant, lace-like arches and columns are heavily decorated with nautical motifs, representing a time of Portuguese wealth and sea power.  With such breathtaking architecture, it’s no wonder that the monastery and the tower are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


What to Eat

After a day of sightseeing, treat yourself to one more discovery at Pastes de Belém.  This café, which is conveniently located across from the Jerónimos Monastery bus stop, stakes claim as the birthplace of Lisbon’s trademark custard tarts.

They make about 20,000 of the pastel de nata a day, and rumor has is that the closely-guarded recipe is only shared with 3 pastry chefs at a time.  The tarts are served with little packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on top, and usually warm and crunchy right out of the oven.

To read more about Jessica’s travel experiences and tips, check out her blog Boarding Pass.

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Some of the best value can be found in Lisbon on self-catering apartments.  Here’s 3 stylish, central and ultra-inexpensive places to stay in Lisbon:

Lapa D in Estrela – €60/night

Lisbon Core apartment – €60/night

My House in Lisbon – €79/night

Lisbon tour guides you love to hate

by Steven Brenner

I was working through my list of stuff to see and do – the neighborhoods I wanted to visit, the Moorish castle in Sintra, Belém, a few beaches along the Cascais train line… – but I wanted to know what I might be missing.  So I googled something to the effect of “different things to do in Lisbon” and the first thing that popped up was We Hate Tourism Tours (WHTT).

I’m a sucker for their punk rock attitude and surf style designs, but I also could tell they were on to something different and unique.

I wanted to know about things that were overlooked in Lisbon.  I wanted to know the unusual stuff that could easily slip under a tourist’s radar.  It was clear that’s what these guys were about – they’re more than guides, they make the magic that happens when you visit friends who know and love their city.

For 25 to 45 euro, depending on the tour, they’ll take you around Lisbon, or to Sintra and Cascais or into the Bairro Alto for dinner.  They also have a “pirates” tour and are in the midst of creating a “crooks of Lisbon” tour as well.

Are they just for the young and hip?  Well, reading their many positive reviews on Tripadvisor, I get the impression that their clients represent a pretty wide mix of ages and backgrounds.  Clearly these guys aren’t set out to only capture the ex-skater dads like myself – they offer something way beyond the scripted history lesson or flag carrying guide with a microphone.  They want you to truly know the city and to help you understand the Portuguese mentality and culture, why things are the way they are, combining history and facts with a hand’s on experience of Lisbon life.  They want you to be a temporary local.

The founder, Bruno, told me this story that puts who they are and what they do into perspective:

It’s the early days of the company and Bruno has decided that when he schedules a tour, it’s going to go even if there’s only one person.  So he pulls up to the meeting point in his black, open top vintage jeep and meets his client – a single, American guy, who jumps in and asks Bruno if he’s the only person on the tour.  Bruno says, “yeah” and the American guy responds, “well, you’re not going to make much money today!”

“Thats ok – maybe I’ll make a friend instead!” Bruno says.

I met three of their guides – Jose, who was doing his first day in training as a driver, and who manages this apartment just above the old Bairro Alto quarter that’s famous for its nightlife.  I met Marcos, a smiling surfer guy who is clearly into what he does and never tires of infecting people with his love of Lisbon, and Bruno, the founder (and now friend).  They’re about 7 people strong and run a few tours a day, rain or shine, despite how many people sign up.  However, I think the days of having just 1 person on a tour are long gone!

For great local info from the WHTT crew, follow these links:

Only with Locals map of Lisbon

Lisboa Lovers (photo blog)

Lisbon google map for travelers and “temporary locals”

Check them out, or as they say on their site, “stay home and cry!”