I’m very lucky that circumstances have allowed for 2016 to be my year of world travel. When I heard about a super cool promotion that TAP airlines was offering, I immediately started to research a trip to Portugal. In an effort to boost tourism in Portugal, TAP airlines – the major carrier servicing Portugal, offers a 1,2 or 3 day layover on transatlantic flights with no additional costs associated with the stop. Need to go to London for a business trip but want to tag on a weekend side trip? Set your final destination and arrival to London on Monday morning and ship out to Lisbon or Porto a few days before. Want to add an additional location to your eurotrip? Take advantage of the additional freebies such as discounted hotels, free museum tickets and wine yours through the TAP layover offer. Similar to the offer that Iceland Airs used to entice travelers to layover in Reykjavic Iceland, the TAP offer allows travelers to explore a destination not originally on the itinerary.
Now, I must confess that when I started to research the various cities in Portugal that was a MUST VISIT, I quickly realized that I wanted to stay a little longer than what the deal offered. In my 5-day trip, I visited Lisbon, Porto and Sintra. However, don’t be discouraged, the layover definitely allows for adequate sight-seeing if you limit yourself to one or two cities.
-You will have no problem getting around speaking only English. To be honest, this sort of is a bummer since I cannot practice a new language. However, it’s very convenient if you are taking a short trip
-Portugal has Uber. Maybe living in New York City has skewed my perception of what normal taxi costs should be but I was happily shocked at how cheap Uber rides are around Lisbon and other cities in Portugal (hint: a 45 min one-way trip from Lisbon to Sintra was only €24)
Day 1 – Lisbon
3:00pm – arrive and check into My Story Hotel Ouro (a super cute, affordable, clean hotel that is centrally located and offers a great breakfast)
4:00pm – Walk towards the water to the Praça do Comércio (a waterside public plaza) to purchase a 3-day Yellow Bus Tour ticket. Using the ticket, take the Yellow Bus tour to get a water view tour of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Concrete monument to maritime explorers), Christ the King monument, and Belem Towers (Landmark medieval defensive tower)
6:30pm – Have small bites to eat at da Prato 52 in the Baixa neighborhood of Lisbon
9:00pm – Get some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had at the hidden gem of a speakeasy the Red Frog. Described by World’s Best Bars as “quirky yet stylish speakeasy style bar…has a convivial, bohemian spirit, uniting people over prettily presented (these are some seriously attractive drinks) and well mixed cocktails”
Day 2 – Lisbon
9:00am – Have a healthy and light breakfast in the lobby restaurant at Café Portugal By My Story Hotel (included in hotel reservation)
10:ooam – Get the most amazing Pasteis (custard tart) at Manteigaria for €1 each. OR be like me and have one to stay while watching the pastry chefs at work and take two for the road!
11:30am – Get lunch at one of the best seafood restaurants in Lisbon, SeaMe which is described by LisbonGuide as a”modern fish market” where you can buy your own fresh fish to cook.
2:oopm – Take the famous tram 28 throughout the various neighborhoods in Lisbon. This tram takes the longest route in Lisbon, performing a loop in the east of Baixa, Graça and Alfama before heading west to Estrela and Campo de Ourique. The first section passes through Alfama, the Se Cathedral and the Santa Luzia viewpoint. The westward section passes through the Estrela district and terminates at the magnificent Estrela Basilica. Purchase a ticket for €2.85 and grab a window seat!
3:30pm – Head to the park at Jardim de Estrela to escape the afternoon heat with a cool cocktail from the quiosques de refresco (vintage-chic drinks kiosks) in hand and a Pasteis from Manteigaria to hold you over. Play with baby ducks, drinks delicious cocktails, repeat.
5:00pm – Nap time
7:00pm – Visit Time Out Market Lisbon to get a taste for Portuguese cuisine in true food court style eating. Get a meat and cheese plate at Manteigaria Silva – a 100 year old charcutaria. Pour yourself a beer from the uber-cool kiosk at Beer Experience Super Bock. Try the classic Portuguese dish, the Francesinha, at Miguel Castro E Silva. And don’t forget to stop at the Garrafeira Nacional to pick up some bottles of port such as reserves bottled the year you were born!
9:00pm – Drink and learn about port at the BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto – listed by The Culture Trip as one of the best wine bars in Lisbon. Don’t forget to make reservations as this small bar fills up quickly!
Day 3 – Porto Day Trip (2.5-3 hours train from Lisbon)
6:00am – Get a quick breakfast in the lobby restaurant at Café Portugal By My Story Hotel and head to the train station
7:00am – Arrive at Lisboa Santa Apolonia train station and board the Alfa Pendulare train to Porto Campanha train station
10:30am – Pay €4 to visit one of the oldest book stores in Porto Livraria Lello, also known as Livraria Lello & Irmão. This bookstore was the inspiration for Harry Potter when J.K. Rowling lived in Portugal but it packs up quickly so arrive as early as possible.
11:00am – Wander the twisting, winding, hilly streets of Porto to reach the north side of the Douro River waterfront – considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site
1:00pm – Feed the hungry tourist inside of you at Jimão tapas e vinhos, Restaurante, a cozy side street restaurant. Many of the decorative elements were conceived by the owner who will give you a delightful synopsis of her inspirations. Sit outside and people watch!
2:00pm – Take the cable car to ascend to the entrance of the Dom Luis bridge. Or take the winding steps up to the bridge and cross the bridge to get a more heart-healthy and scenic view of Gaia the south side of the Douro River.
3:00pm – If you are feeling adventurous, walk to Grahams Port Lodge (Or Uber it!). While it is the furthest from the main attractions, it has by far the most beautiful grounds and most delicious ports. Make a reservation for a tour and tasting (prior reservations are recommended but we walked-in and paid €15 each for a tour and tasting in English ). After your tour and tasting, get a bite to eat at Vinum Restaurant and Wine bar. Sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Douro River!
6:50pm – Take a cable car from Gaia to the train station on the north side of the Douro River for €4 each. It’s a nice way to end your day in Porto with a quintessential photo of the famous pier
7:52pm OR 8:47pm (last train) – Take the train from Porto Campanha to Lisboa Santa Apolonia train station and pat yourself on the back for a fun-filled albeit exhausting day of sight-seeing and port-drinking.
11:00pm- Have a late night dinner at the lobby restaurant at Café Portugal By My Story Hotel. Surprisingly delicious and unexpectedly frequented by locals!
Day 4 – Half Day Trip to Sintra (30 minute Uber ride from Lisbon)
10am – Shopping in the Lisboa neighborhood of Chiado. We visited some cute shops and went to the mall Armazens do Chiado for window shopping.
11am – Brunch at Tartines
12pm – Take an Uber to Sintra. You can also take a 40 minute train ride at a fraction of the cost for €4.30 each. Since we were pretty tired from our day trip to Porto, we decided to to take an Uber since it was relatively cheap for 2 (€24 one way) and a more direct route.
1pm – Visit the beautiful gardens of Quinta da Regaleira. No words can describe the fairy-tale like romantic grounds adequately. It is a cross between the mysteries and adventures reminiscent of The Secret Garden, dark romance found amidst waterfalls and tunnels a la Pan’s Labyrinth, and twisted fantasy of castles and lakes seen in Legend. If you look closely, you can almost imagine fairies dancing on sunbeams that pierce through the wooded canopy, unicorns grazing along the green-blue pond’s edge and something not quite visible rippling through the waters of the castle moat. Ok, I love this place. (Tip: you can purchase multiple site tickets at any of the ticket offices. I would recommend purchasing multiple site ticket since lines at each site can get long.)
3:00pm – Order a pick me up double espresso at Gazeta Coffee House and check out the monocled green man look through his phone.
3:30pm – Take an Uber (you will thank me for this) up the very hilly mountainside to visit the star attraction Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena. While the inside of the palace is interesting, the true beauty of the palace in only seen by walking the circumference of the palace and taking pictures against the stark backdrop of canary yellow and fireman red towers. (Tip: Take a selfie from the Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena of the Castelos dos Mouros .)
5:00pm – Backtrack to the entrance of the Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena to Estrada da Pena. Fromm this road you can get to the entrance of the Castelos dos Mouros. Take a short 15 minute walk from the entrance to the castle grounds and explore both towers. You should be able to get a great photo of Sintra and the Atlantic to the west from the north tower. The steps may be difficult to navigate for anyone with a fear of heights, small children, the elderly or the disabled, but the views are quite spectacular and worth a go (Tip: Take a sunset selfie from the Castelos dos Mouros of the Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena.)
7:00pm – Rest your weary feet and get a good meal at the cozy Romaria de Baco. Like many cozy spots, make a reservation as seats fill quickly.
9:00pm – Take an Uber back to your home port of Lisbon
9:40pm – Get a night cap of port at your cozy hotel lobby restaurant
Day 5 – Last Day in Lisbon
8:00am – Get breakfast and pack -this is your last day!
9:40am – Take an Uber to the Lisbon Oceanarium – the second largest aquarium in Europe. For those of you who are getting to know me better, my “thing” when I travel is to find the best aquarium (or zoo) that the city has to offer and get my mermaid on. The Lisbon aquarium doesn’t disappoint and their efforts at education about conservation was well done. Architecturally, it is designed as a large vertical tube and strategically placed by the water. While I have seen similar concepts at other aquariums, I think the Lisbon Oceanarium did it the best. It only took me about 1.5 hours to get through the entire aquarium, though I imagine 2-3 hours is adequate for the trip. (Tip: if you get there early at opening, 10am, you can avoid the strollers crowd)
12:00pm – Say goodbye to Lisbon and plan your next trip!