What to do if you’ve only got a day or two to spend in the Portuguese capital city? Many of you city break travellers might have the same thoughts or concerns as I did on this fourth visit of mine to “boa Lisboa”. After food-touring downtown Mouraria districts as well as Campo d’Ourique with my friend Filipa, of Taste of Lisboa Food Tours, I knew it was time to get to know yet another lovely side of Lisbon.
Only half an hour’s train ride away from the bustling city life of downtown Lisbon, you are met by the lush, fairy-tale like forests, palaces & gardens of Sintra.
“Just take the train from Rossio station; it leaves every twenty minutes”, my friend André tells me with a smile. André and I just caught up in one of the coolest places in town, called “By The Wine” in Lisbon’s famous Rua das Flores, easily one of the city’s trendiest streets chock-full of charming cafés, bars, restaurants and inns. After dropping me at the train station and me snoozing for the promised half-hour, 40 minutes train ride, I can hardly believe my eyes “waking up” again in magical Sintra. …
“Yes ..! Let’s go to Sintra”, my dear friend Marc would chime in, eyes lighting up, literally bouncing up and down with delight. “I have read so much about its fairy-tale like palaces and gardens .. and did you know that some of them kings of old even imported exotic plants and trees there that only grow in this part of Portugal? Not to mention the historic palaces and mansions …”
We found a great place to stay for our short time in Sintra, called Almáa Sintra Hostel, a small eco-hostel tucked away in a quiet little forest near the main Sintra Palace of Regaleira. From there, it is easy to explore all that Sintra has to offer.
Just a short bus ride away from Regaleira Palace, you can visit Pena Palace, one of the most “exotic” and worthwhile palaces of the entire Sintra Heritage landscape. Besides offering an insightful history on late 19th century Portugal, including stints by king-cohort Ferdinand from Austria (!), its gardens offer some of the best 360° views around Sintra all the way out to the Atlantic Sea and back to Lisbon. A gorgeous place to be discovered. Check this out.
Back in Lisbon, I suggest you take it easy. Take a walk downtown, feel the sand between your feet at Tejo river just off the famous Praça do Comércio, and look for “Gelato Therapy” whenever possible.
This is mid-October talking, and we are still at a pleasant 20°, 25° degrees in the middle of the day. Oh, Lisbon … You just have to choose well, I am tempted to think of my friends and family now, sure jealous under the rain (even snow!) back home in Austria. Sometimes, of course, you just have to go with the (weather) flow, even in a sun-kissed city like Lisbon. Thank God there is always a delicious eatery, an artisan ice-cream shop or a beautiful (wine) bar near to you. Let me show you where to go for fun and easy city strolls in Lisbon …
Last but not least, I have a special, almost “secret tip” for you. Ever heard of Patrícia Canejo and her company Singulartrips.com?
To be fair, I haven’t either – before lovely Patrícia came up to me in this year’s World Food Tourism Summit here in Lisbon and we ended up becoming friends thanks to our shared passion about creative travel. “With my company, we organize cooking classes, excursions to wineries, opportunities for travellers to participate in the olive harvest …” I just knew Patrícia and I were to hit it off immediately. Take a look at what you, too, can do if signing up for one of her tasty culinary experiences …
Check out my Flickr Photo Gallery for another introduction to Lisbon & Sintra on this rather magical, short-term city visit of ours. Hope to see you soon for more cultural & foodie travel in Portugal!