A day in Lisbon and a visit to the fairy tale town of Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira.
It has taken me at least a week to start writing this post. After some thought I’ve decided that’s because we weren’t that enthusiastic about Lisbon and I’m not excited to start writing about it! I don’t write travel guides, I write about our journey. If we love a place and find lots to do then I’ll write more about what to see and do. We want to share with others the great things we found and help them have a great stay too. When we are less enthusiastic I tend to skip it altogether or keep it brief. For a few reasons Lisbon just didn’t work out for us, so here is a brief post.
Camping near Lisbon
We stayed outside Lisbon city centre in the area of Costa da Caparica. Now is probably the time to talk about Portugal’s campsites. The Orbitur chain of sites is common in Portugal and they were very disappointing. Old, rundown, dated bathroom facilities, no entertainment. Unappealing bars and restaurants, limited grocery shops if any, never enough washing and drying facilities and I could go on. On the site we stayed near Lisbon, we were woken in the early hours of the morning, by a couple having a very loud and drunken argument that went on for hours. With the exception of the Yelloh Village in the Algarve and the small family run site in the Douro Valley, I wouldn’t rush to camp in Portugal again. Small family run hotels can be very good value for money alternatives.
A walking day in Lisbon
The one benefit of the area we stayed was the nearby ferry into Lisbon which saved us having to negotiate traffic, parking and the toll bridge. The ferry terminal was a short walk from the Praca do Comercio. Lisbon claims this as Europes largest square and it did seem vast. At the time we visited it was set up to show World Cup games on a large screen so it was impossible to get good pictures of the square itself.
Arco da Rua Augusta
From here we walked through Arco da Rua Augusta and up R. Augusta taking in the street scenes, bustling with tourists and locals. We stopped to watch the street performers and living statues that S and L have become big fans of. Each day they choose their favourite to give a coin to.
Number 28 Tram
We were heading for the famous number 28 tram. The most popular of the few remaining tram routes in the city. It passes through the Baixa, Graca, Alfama and Estrela districts. As well as providing an affordable and interesting tour of the city’s sights and hills it saves a lot of uphill walking!
Lonely planet tells us we musn’t leave Lisbon without riding on the number 28 tram.
It also says we should watch our valuables as it is favourite of the pickpockets!
The problem is every other tourist in the city also wants to ride the number 28 tram! Guides tell me the tram comes every 11 minutes, we waited an hour and saw 2 trams. They can only take limited numbers so the huge line we were in barely moved in that time. We gave up and decided to walk instead.
We walked to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia for a great view while we had our picnic lunch. Walking higher to more lookout points and then descending back to R Augusta from a different direction, we were worn out! After a cold drink and ice cream we decided it was time to call it a day. We didn’t really see a lot of Lisbon’s sites but we got a feel for the city and it was enough for one day.
The ferry back gives fantastic views of Lisbon and the suspension bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril, almost identical to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
View of Lisbon from the water
For our second day in the Lisbon we took a day trip to Sintra. Sintra is a land of palaces, castles, villas, forests and gardens. Magical fairy tale scenes every where you look. We stopped first in tiny Sintra Vila. The narrow, windy streets of the town are home to souvenir shops and pretty cafes.
Quinta da Regaleira
After refreshment we headed to Quinta da Regaleira. There are many palaces and villas to choose from. We chose the villa Quinta da Regaleira because it’s garden sounded fantastic for kids. There is a grotto, fountains, towers to climb, underground lakes and the star of the gardens, the initiation well.
The well is 27 metres deep, with a nine tiered spiral staircase. At the bottom you arrive in underground caves / galleries lit with fairy lights.
Walking through the different paths you arrive at a pond you can cross with stepping stones. The whole garden invites exploration with new surprises around every corner. It was lovely to see the kids with some freedom to run around after the restrictions of busy cities.
We spent several hours at the villa, mostly outside in the gardens but we had a quick look inside too. If you are visiting Lisbon leave at least a day to make a trip to Sintra, over night would be better.
You can visit Quinta da Regaleira from Lisbon with Get Your Guide on this tour.
Now this post is done I’m looking forward to writing a post about our time in the Algarve, dolphin watching, sea caves and geography!