5 Days in Lisbon: The Perfect Itinerary

I’ve been to Lisbon, probably 6 times since 2006 and it is always a city that I will come back to for me. Flights from other cities in Europe are cheap and frequent and the airport is close to the city center, so you won’t have tough transportation issue when you land. So when I got the change to go and visit with a local friend I jumped on the chance to spend 5 days in Lisbon. So when you’re planning your trip, here is the perfect itinerary planned and approved by a local.

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Day 1:

  • Torre de Belem
  • Pasteis de Belem (breakfast)
  • Cloisters del Monasterio de los Jerónimos
  • Darwin Café (lunch)
  • Barrio Alto
  • A traditional cod fish dinner
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Belem Tower | Torre de Belem

First stop was a trip to Belem where we walked along the river and ventured into Belem Towers. It was free to enter this day because it was Sunday. This tower has an amazing view of the city and waterfront and beautiful architecture. Many spots for a great picture. The only peculiar part was the staircases leading up and down. There was only one for both ways of traffic and a series of electronic signs telling visitors when they could move or not.

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View from Belem Tower | Torre de Belem

Jo ran into some guys from her home town in northern Portugal, who are in a third tier football team and were eager to take pictures with us, a “we met Foreign girls” moment. So odd. But we took the opportunity to get them to take some snaps of just us. The spectacular view and facade were the most there was to see, so we finished quickly and moved on to the next stop.

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Pasteis de Belem

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Pasteis de nata – A must try!

After making a quick lunch reservation we decided to spoil our meal by starting with dessert at Pastèis de Belem. They have the most amazing pastèis de nata you could ever imagine. I’d never tried it before and it was pure heaven to my taste buds! Skip the link and just walk inside and find a table. The place is huge! Try sprinkling some powdered sugar and cinnamon to enhance the taste.

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Thai and Portuguese friendship

One our way down we passed a Thai structure that was a symbol of friendship between Thailand and Portugal. So amazing since I was with my Thai and Portuguese friends! A picture perfect moment and something different to see in Lisbon.

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Cloister of the Monastery de Los Jerónimos

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Absolutely stunning architecture

After getting sufficiently stuffed with dessert in this cavernous restaurant, we headed off to the Monasterio de los Jerónimos to visit the cloisters. The regular portion had a huge line we were unwilling to wait on in the midday heat. The cloister was beautiful, with carved marble and stone at every pass and many opportunities for a picture.

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View from Darwin Restaurant

And there was just enough time to visit before our lunch on the water at Darwin Café. The food was sub-par, but the view was definitely not and made up for it completely.

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Cable car

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Great view of the top of the city

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pink street!

To work off our meal we took a stroll around Barrio Alto,  and saw some of the familiar sights from my first visit to Lisbon in 2006. It was fun to remember and think just how different this trip was now that I am 7 years older and with a local. Either way Lisbon is an amazing city that I’d definitely visit again. In this part of town was one street that was completely pink that I was immediately drawn to and cable cards that ran quickly past unsuspecting pedestrians.

My first night ended with dinner at my lovely friend Jo’s cousin house where she cooked us a tradition Portuguese meal with not one but two kinds of bacalao (salted cod fish) or shall I say bacalhau. Delish!

Day 2:

Porto Covo, Portugal

  • Hidden beaches
  • Sapeteira (snack)
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My first ostrich sighting!

For the second day of my trip, Jo decided to take us to a beach town no more than 2 hours away, called Porto Covo. Unexpectedly on the way over we came across an ostrich farm! The first I have ever seen. I was a little scare to get to close to these ridiculously large birds, but it was awesome to see them up close. This one, that I assume is the male, came right over to see what was up when I came out of the car.

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Sapateira | Delicious Portuguese cold crab dish

Before heading down to the beach, we went into the city center and stopped at a local restaurant to try a traditional dish of Sapateira, a cold crab meat served with bread out of the shell of the crab. It was amazing! Lin had a lot of fun with the shell afterward. =)

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Clear water and beautiful hidden beaches

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Clear blue water

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Porto Covo

After we were well fed, it was time to explore the coast line a bit and it was every bit as amazing as I could imagine. Beautiful clear water and amazing rock formations creating small, hidden beaches all along the highway, accessed by long staircases built into the cliff side. It was absolutely stunning!

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A nice private beach to spend the day

We settled on this small beach to spend our day and it was well worth it. Beautiful, clear, cool water that was calm and not too deep. At the end of the day it receded nearly to the farthest rocks. It was interesting to see the water disappear into the ocean. What a great place for a beach day!

Day 2:

Evora, Portugal

  • Tasquinha do Olivera (lunch)
  • Cathedral
  • Bone Church

Libson, Portugal

  • Cristo Rei statue
  • Vasco de Gama Bridge
  • Aqueduto das Águas Livres
  • Umai Chido (dinner)
  • Fado performance
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Carriage horses in Evora, Portugal

On my third day we decided to venture out of Lisbon again and went a bit southeast to the small town of Evora. This town was small and beautiful and boasted only two tourist sites, a cathedral and a church made out of bones. Yes, bones. I was excited to see this because I couldn’t fathom a church made of bones and I must say it was much more eerie that I could ever have imagined.

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Cod Fritters

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Spinach Soufflé

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Chicken in Blood Rice

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Merengue

But first things first, the food! Jo made a reservations for us at a small, well-know local restaurant called Tasquinha do Olivera. When I say small, I really mean it. This tiny hideaway housed five tables, cramped together in front of an oversized bar. You have to make a reservations, or you may be out of luck if you try to dine here.

It’s kind of a funny business process where they bring out all kinds of things for you to try without you ordering and you have to refuse them if you don’t want to pay. We had cod fritters, chicken with blood rice and an amazing soufflé and of course we can’t forget the meringue dessert. It was every bit as delectable as I had come to expect from Lisbon. Mmmm…it’s almost lunch time and I’m thinking about those fritters!

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Roof of the cathedral

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What a view of the city!

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The cloister

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Lin posing for the camera

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The inner courtyard

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The other side of the roof

Once we were fed and watered we headed inside the cathedral. It was beautiful, although small. We were giving free reign to climb onto the precarious roof and explore everything. After going up one staircase we decided to choose a different set to go down, but that was a bad decision as it was closed off. It made us quite curious what else was there.

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Entrance to the Bone Church

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Altar of bones

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Even a bull skeleton hanging from the walls

After the cathedral it was time to move the car, so we quickly headed to the bone church, or Capela dos Ossos, to see what this was all about. And gah!! It was super scary. All of those human remains were literally on the walls. Not just tile made out of bones or something like that. Can you imagine coming here to pray?

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Cristo-Rei

In this jam-packed day in Lisbon we also made our way to the large Cristo-Rei overlooking the whole city and modelled after the one in Rio. It was amazing to see. And what was more amazing was the little old man waiting in front of the structure waiting for tourists who needed pictures taken to use the opportunity to cop-a-field with the ladies. We grab all of our asses while “helping” us up to a bench to take another shot that he recommended. Hands off grandpa!

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Vasco-da-Gama Bridge

From up here we could see another copy, this time of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Vasco-da-Gama Bridge.

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Aqueducts

Upon driving back to Lisbon we decided to check out another beach closer to home. Unfortunately the weather back in Lisbon was getting much cooler and it was in no way a beach day. So after 15 minutes of pretending it was warm enough to be in bikinis we decided to try a local beer a beach side bar and then head back home to get ready for dinner. I was able to get a great moving picture of the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (aqueducts) on our journey back.

Lin was craving sushi for dinner, so after checking with Jo’s chef friend we headed to Umai. A nice asian fusion, Japanese joint. Our meal consisted of paratha rolls with duck leg, sushi and sashimi, chicken teriyaki skewers, salmon tar tar (specially made per our request). It was delicious. Especially the paratha and duck. An unexpected Indian fusion delight!

Just a few blocks away we were able to experience something truly amazing. A portuguese specialty in entertainment: Fado. The explanation of what Fado is was a little hazy. The word literally means destiny or fate (check the wikipedia link or more details). It is a melancholy tune, with a lot of emotion and longing built-in. To see the performers were awe-inspiring. I was glad I got to experience it. Check out a short clip on here. It was a bit dark in the bar, so hopefully you can see with the enhancements what it was like to be there live.

Day 4:

  • Palácio da Pena
  • Ginjinha
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Palácio da Pena

Continuing my exploration of the region, we headed to Sintra for the penultimate day of my visit. This small town is host to a few palaces, most notably Palácio da Pena. The street was lined with other tourists parking their cars that we just made it into the last space in the last parking lot and had to make our way up to the castle on foot. It wasn’t too bad and we were able to walk through a nice garden on the way.

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Me in front of the entry gate

The palace was as picturesque as a storybook. It was very colorful and ornate all throughout. No details missed.

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It’s like being in a colorful fairy tale

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There were turrets that we could climb into for pictures

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So we took full advantage

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Doesn’t this remind you of Pan’s Labyrinth?

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So colorful! Lin fit right in!

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Doorway to nowhere

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Very ornate. I want this on my house.

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Now that’s a safe!

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Beautiful vaulted ceilings throughout

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Interesting and increasingly ornate artwork and sculptures everywhere

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The three of us at the end of the self-guided tour

We were able to get a nice group shot at the end from a kind stranger. Great palace! Next stop for the city center for some grub and a look around. In one shop we can across this artwork about Fado. Very poignant from the night before.

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Great sign in the city center

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You can see the fort at the top of the mountain from down here

The town was beautiful and the bit as colorful at the palace we just visited.

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Ginjinha – so delicious!

We finished our visit to Sintra by trying ginjinha – a chocolate cup filled with cherry liquor. Mmmmm! So delicious and worth a try. I’m glad I got to experience so many local things with my lovely friend Jo!

Day 5:

  • Hidden beach
  • Wonderful seafood (lunch)
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Beautiful hidden beach

I think the most wonderful part of my trip to Lisbon was definitely the beautiful beaches that I got to experience. In Barcelona where the beaches are all manmade you lose the feeling that coming from real fine sand and the beauty of the coastline. My lovely friend, and Lisbon native, was able to take us to a few of her favorite spots throughout my time there. Many of which were hidden off the beaten path and accessible only by foot. Here are just a few shots of the two beaches that we visited on my last day:

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So beautiful and untouristy

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Another smaller beach with crazy waves

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Love beach time with these ladies

And what beach day is complete without a delicious seafood meal. We went to a local restaurant where you select the fresh fish and seafood that you want to eat at the bar before sitting down. You know you’re going to get the best quality. We had an amazing meal, my favorite of which was these clams.

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Delicious clams

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Amazing desserts of tiramisu and almond cake

We finished it up with tiramisu and almond cake. Yum yum! The perfect end to a short trip. I could not have wished for a better time in Lisbon with better weather!

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