Five Days in Lisbon, Portugal

The beautiful city of Lisbon reminds some people of San Francisco: it’s hilly, there are trams everywhere, it’s beside the water, and it even has a big bridge built by the same company that constructed the Golden Gate Bridge.

If you visit Lisbon, one thing I recommend you do is take the Yellow Bus tram tour. This 1.5 hour tour takes you on a tape-recorded tour of key city sites. It cost €20. While a little pricey, once you buy the ticket you can ride other city buses, trams and funiculars for free that day. The first area we went through was Castle of Sāo Jorge. Many people got off there. Then the tram passed by Monastery of Sāo Vincent de Fora and the neighborhoods of Estrela Basilica, Alfama, Cathedral and Chiado. The ride starts and ends at the big arch facing Praça do Comércio.

Yellow Bus company-operated tram car for the hills tour.
Here is the famous arch and the place where the trams leave from.

After getting a sense of where things were in the city thanks to the tram tour, I decided to take advantage of the free pass on other public transportation to use one of the city’s funiculars to ride back up to the area where our rental apartment was located. It cost €3.80 to ride the funicular without a free pass.

Here is one of the city funiculars that you can ride up or down the city’s hills.

One of the other days we were in Lisbon we took a tapas tour we found on Airbnb. It was called “Taste of Portugal 18 tastings tour.” I really recommend this 3.5 hour tour because you explore different neighborhoods of Lisbon in a small-group guided-tour setting while trying great food from a wide variety of places. Here are photos of some of the delights we experienced on the 10 person tour.

Yummy white bean and codfish salad.
Cured ham, cheese with quince jam, bread and tawny port wine.
Two types of sausage we tried after being cooked by fire.
Pungent, creamy, and delicious Portuguese cheese we sampled.

On Sunday, we took an Uber to the nearby city of Sintra, where Pena Palace and a national park is located. Sunday is a very busy day there so the palace was quite crowded. We had to wait more than 1 hour to get into the palace. If you go there when it is crowded, I recommend you buy tickets for the palace but go up the left side of the hall rather than wait in the long line on the right side. When you get to the top, walk around on the outside of the palace for great views of both the palace and nearby park and the Atlantic Ocean. The inside of the palace is mostly small, old rooms with old furniture. Ho-hum. Also, you aren’t allowed to take photos indoors. So here are some nice photos of the outside of Pena Palace.

Panoramic view from the outside of the palace.

If you go to the Pena Palace, make sure to check out the National Park below. There is much to see there, including winding paths, lakes, bridges, fountains, ducks, horses, sheep and more. Here are some photos of what we saw in the park.

One of our five days there, we went to the nearby town of Belem to see the contemporary art museum called Museu Coleçao Berardo. I was told you can rent bikes from Lisbon and ride them to the museum along a designated path. It is supposed to take about 20 minutes to do this. Since we visited the museum the last day of 2019, the museum closed early at 2:30 PM so there wasn’t time to pursue the bike-riding option. We took an Uber there. I am not a big fan of modern art and wasn’t keen on most of what I saw but our two millennial sons and their girlfriends liked it. Here are a few photos from there.

Is this really art, just because the table and the objects on it are on the wall?
Not my cup of tea either.
Here is one of the few paintings I liked at the museum.

All in all, I would highly recommend Lisbon, especially if you have never been there before. The people are nice, food and drinks are generally good and mostly inexpensive and there is much to see and do.

Two restaurants worth a mention if you get to Lisbon are Sessenta and Pharmacia. We had an excellent four-course New Year’s Eve dinner for €50 a person, including copious amounts of red and white wine, at Sessenta.

Third course at Sessenta. This was a tender filet of beef with sweet potato puree and portabello mushrooms.

Pharmacia is a drug store-themed restaurant with great food and funny names and descriptions for their alcoholic beverages. The cocktails menu comes in the kind of box you might receive for your medications. So that’s a nice touch to carry through on the pharmacy theme. I had a Moscow mule cocktail, with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice and a celery stick. I can’t remember what ailment a Moscow mule was supposed to help. But I can tell you it tasted great and I felt much better after finishing it! Check out these two delightful restaurants if you get the chance!