My visit to Lisbon, Portugal was unique to most of my trips given the fact I was able to stay with a friend for one last time. My good friend Bruno couldn’t have been a better host, with sightseeing tips, great cooking, a comfy place to crash and fantastic restaurant selection. I would recommend staying with a friend or at least someone you know sometime during your trip, it opens up a whole different world that you don’t usually get when staying at hostels.
Let’s start with the main city of Lisbon, which is quite beautiful. It sits right at the tip of the Tagus river as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. On the Northeastern edge of the city is the Nations Park, or commonly referred to as the “Expo” given the fact it was host to the World Expo in 1998. There are tons of attractions to visit here including parks, concert venues, a shopping mall, and my favorite of all the Oceanario de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium). This massive aquarium contains one central tank that is intertwined with four other tanks that represent the aquatic ecosystems of the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian Oceans. This is definitely worth the 12 euro entry fee. Heading back towards the city center you have to visit the main attraction that sits atop one of the many hills within the city, Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George’s Castle). The earliest portions of this fortress date back to the 2nd century BC. Offering great views over the entire city you can’t pass this guy up for only 2.50 euro with a student ID (5 euro without). Shoot just a little west and you’ll run into the area known as Belém. Here you will find a number of museums, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery), and the landmark Belém Tower. Spend at least an afternoon here and then treat yourself to some delicious pastries at Pasteis de Belém.
I was staying just east of the central portion of the Lisbon in a town called Carcavelos, which had very nice beaches set along the Atlantic and a very relaxed environment, perfect for my last week in Europe. When I wasn’t enjoying the warm weather and sun soaked sand, I found time to make a trip to my favorite spot just outside Lisbon, Sintra. Hard to explain, this hillside retreat revealed a mystic environment surrounded by castles and palaces neatly intertwined with lush green foliage. It was almost a fairy tale atmosphere as I hiked all over until I reached my one desired location, Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). Take a glance at my photos from this spot and you’ll immediately see why I spent the majority of my day just taking in the scenery and imagining myself traveling back in time to become an inhabitant of this fortress in the sky. If you don’t have the time to visit, make time because you will not regret it. Only 6 euro to enter, you’ll not only love the castle itself but the incredible hike through some amazing forest scenery.
As with all the cities I’ve visited I only skimmed the surface of Lisbon, but I did get a sense that there is so much more than I ever thought there would be here. Lisbon is more or less off the radar for most tourists and I couldn’t tell you why. I had an amazing time and wished I could have stayed even longer. It may be tricky to get here by train, but don’t let that discourage you from an amazing adventure.