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Lisbon and Sintra, Portugal in 3 Days

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

Day 1: Lisbon

  • Hall Chiado
  • Pasteis de Belem
  • Jeronimos Monastery
  • Belem Tower
  • The Monument of the Discoveries
  • Praca do Comercio
  • Lisbon Cathedral

We had just spent 5 amazing days on the island of Madeira, Portugal (read that Trip Report here). Our flight from Madeira landed in Lisbon at noon. We found my mom, who was meeting us there, and followed signs to the metro. They have self-service kiosks and staff that can help you if needed. It was easy to buy a 24-hour pass and equally easy to navigate from the airport to city center via public transportation. Also, definitely look into the Lisbon Card in advance. It covers your transportation and also includes admission to many of the best museums and attractions.

In order to get to the good stuff in Lisbon, you have to take the Red line (the only option at the airport) to the Alameda stop and transfer to the Green line. It took us about 40 minutes to get from the airport to the the last stop on the Green line, Cais do Sodre. We were staying at Hall Chiado, which is close to the water and a short walk from there.

After checking in and dropping our bags, we grabbed a kebab from a nearby stand (so good). Then caught the metro #15, which stops right outside the Cais do Sodre metro station. It took about 20 minutes to get to the Jeronimos Monastery stop. Our first stop was Pasteis de Belem, which is the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon. We weren’t huge fans of the Pastel de nata, which is the custard pastry they are known for. The mil folhas (aka mille feuille), however, was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Basically a Napoleon, but way better than any I’ve had before. I sought them out multiple times over the next 48 hours.

A block away from the pastry shop is the Jeronimos Monastery. We didn’t have a ton of time and there was a very long line (plus the line for tickets) so we just admired it from the outside. Continued walking to the Tower of Belem. There were no tickets left to go into the tower, so again we admired from the outside. Walked back along the coast to The Monument of the Discoveries. It’s a very neat monument, especially with the bridge in the background. You can pay to go to the top but we just walked around it then hopped back on the 15 tram.

We took it to the Praca do Comercio stop and walked around the square. Ambled up to the Lisbon Cathedral, got some ice cream and relaxed for a bit. Grabbed tacos on the way back to Hall Chiado and called it a night. Before going to bed, we bought tickets for the 2 castles we were visiting the next day so we didn’t have to wait in line.

Day 2: Sintra

  • Rossio Train Station
  • Quinta da Regaleira
  • Castelo dos Mouros
  • Carmo Convent
  • Time Out Lisbon

Sintra is a magical city full of castles. It’s a short (45 minutes) and cheap (about 5 Euros per person for a RT ticket) train ride from Lisbon. Must-do if you’re visiting Lisbon. There are 2 train stations that go from Lisbon to Sintra, and Rossio is the one most tourists will take. The other station, Oriente, is closer to the airport. Most castles in Sintra open at 10 am so we planned on taking the 9 am train. I got there a bit early to buy tickets in case the line was long, but it wasn’t bad at all. Once on the train, however, there were some people that had to stand the whole way because all the seats were filled.

When arriving in Sintra, there are several options for getting around. You can take the bus, a tuk-tuk, or walk. Castelo dos Mouros and Pena Palace are up a huge hill, however, so I’d only walk if you have plenty of time. The 434 bus stops right outside the train station and you can buy a hop-on, hop-off ticket for about 14 Euros per person (as of this writing). You can take it from the train station to Castelo dos Mouros; pick it back up when done touring that castle; get off at Pena Palace; and then pick it back up again to return to the train station. The tuk-tuks are priced to compete with the bus, so you may find them more convenient.

The 434 bus does not go to Quinta da Regaleira, however. There is a different bus that goes somewhat close, but we opted to make the ~20 minute walk there. I’d been there twice before and it is one of the neatest places I’ve ever visited. We wanted to explore the grounds as early as possible, before the mass crowds arrived. My mom has wanted to go there for years and we thought the kids would really enjoy it, too. We spent 3 hours going through all the underground tunnels, trails, monuments, towers, wells, waterfalls, and everything else spread among the property’s acres. Watching the kids, and my mom, take in the wonder that this place brings was such a special moment. I’ve never been anywhere like it and they loved it maybe even more than we hoped.

We talked to a couple of tuk-tuk drivers about how much it would cost to take us right to Castelo dos Mouros, but it seemed pretty expensive. In hindsight, we probably should have paid to save some time but we walked back to the train station. Stopped for lunch on the way and caught the 434 bus around 2:30 pm. Got off at the Castelo dos Mouros and spent a couple hours exploring this one. The sprawling castle walls are also a blast to explore and you can see for miles.

Afterwards we took the short, signed trail through the woods to Pena Palace instead of waiting for the next bus. Pena is the most popular castle in Sintra so you’ll definitely want to get tickets in advance. You get a great view of it from Castelo dos Mouros, but it’s pretty neat to see up close, too. Looks like something out of a Disney movie. If you’re planning a visit, I’d probably skip going into the castle and just view the gardens and grounds. You’ll need to set aside a good amount of time for that, though, as it takes around 30 minutes to walk from the entrance to the castle to get a good up-close view. There was a line for tickets and they were closing soon, so we decided to catch the bus back down and head back to Lisbon.

On the way back to our hotel from the Rossio train station, we walked around the Carmo Convent and did some shopping. You can pay to go into the Carmo Convent, but as was customary for us during our time in Lisbon, we only looked at it from the outside.

After a brief stop at our room we walked the short distance to Time Out Market. This is a huge food hall with tons of different vendors. You can get all kinds of cuisines, drinks, and dessert. Finding a place to sit down to eat proved a little difficult as it’s first-come, first-serve, but we eventually found a spot. We had quite an array of food plus a mil folhas, donuts, and ice cream for dessert. Highly recommend.

Day 3: Lisbon

  • Pink Street
  • Elevador da Bica
  • Santa Justa Lift

I woke up early and did one of my favorite things when traveling: explore a city before it really wakes up. I had most places to myself and my first stop was Pink Street. We had passed it multiple times since it’s right by where we stayed, but had only seen it from the bridge above it. There were always tons of people and it’s quite a party atmosphere. Completely empty except for trash early in the morning, though.

I stopped at the Cais do Sodre metro stop to reload all our cards so we were ready to head to the airport later. Next I went to the Elevador da Bica. This is one of the most photographed spots in Lisbon and I got lucky with the timing as there was no one else in sight. The funiculars started shortly after I got there so I got to watch the one go up and the other go down.

A yellow and white street car at the top of the Elevador da Bica in Lisbon, Portugal
A carriage getting ready to descend the Elevador da Bica

I worked my way across the city, taking random roads to get to the Santa Justa Lift. This is just ok and I wouldn’t pay to ride it. Arguably not worth going out of your way to even see it. It had started to rain, so I quickly went by Praca do Comercio again on my way back to our hotel. Grabbed some breakfast for everyone from a bakery (including another mil folhas), ate, and headed to the airport.

It was a short time in Lisbon and Sintra, but I knew most of the places we’d want to see and it’s very doable over a weekend. Plus, Madeira was the main point of our trip and this was a perfect add-on. One other thing that is awesome but we didn’t have time for is the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The view from up there is fantastic and I know the kids would have liked it, but we prioritized the castles in Sintra and deliberately skipped it this time.

Traveled in April 2024

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