Things to do in the Lisbon, Portugal Area for a Quick Trip Adventure
I loved visiting the vibrant, welcoming, hilly city of Lisbon and the amazing seafood! Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and is known as the “city of seven hills” because of the 7 hills that surround the center of the city. In Lisbon many of the buildings are covered with colorful tiles, known as azulejos, and even many of the sidewalks are also intricately tiled masterpieces.
It’s also good to know that Lisbon is a very affordable city for the budget traveler. Lodging, transportation, food and drink are all very reasonably priced – well below that of other metropolitan cities in Europe.
Things to do in Lisbon, Portugal for a Quick Trip Adventure
Where to Stay in Lisbon
For the budget traveler who likes to stay in neighborhoods that are not full of tourists then there are an abundant number of reasonably priced apartments for short stays. I use VRBO as I’d rather stay with the Portuguese than with other temporary visitors and walk or take public transportation to the sites.
There are many districts of Lisbon and all have easy access to public transportation including easy-to-navigate subways, and quick-to-arrive, inexpensive Ubers. Plus most major sites are walkable all throughout the city. I stayed in the Arroios district which was an easy 20 minute walk to the iconic Alfama area.
Exploring the Alfama District in Lisbon
The Alfama district of Lisbon is most likely what most people envision when thinking of Portugal. The Alfama district has the colorful and tiled buildings, mazes of narrow cobblestone streets, hills with trolleys all overlooking the beautiful Tagus River. Alfama is a perfect area to start your Lisbon adventure as it is fun and easy to get lost in while meandering through the iconic historical buildings, cathedrals, and São Jorge Castle while catching a ride on the cable cars. Sit in one of the many outdoor cafes and enjoy a typical Portuguese espresso, port wine or Ginja (Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries in alcohol).
Portugal is known for its fresh seafood due to its abundant coastline! Per capita, Portugal has the highest fish consumption in all of Europe! There are actually stores that sell only canned sardines. Must tries are: salted cod, sardines (fresh), barnacles, Bacalhau fish, pastel de nata custard pastry.
Tour of Lisbon on E-Bike (electric bike)
If you’re an adventurous person and you’d like see most of the Lisbon sites and viewpoints in one day, then the 7-Hills of Lisbon E-Bike tour fits the bill! Our electric bike tour guide grew up in the city and knew every inch of it as he demonstrated with a passion. We learned the fascinating history and culture of Lisbon while moving through it and feeling the vibes.
Day Trip from Lisbon to Sintra and Cascais
A perfect day trip from Lisbon is to Sintra and then from Sintra to Cascais. The distance between villages is:
- 18 miles from Lisbon to Sintra (40 minutes by train – Rossio station)
- 10 miles from Sintra to Cascais (22 minutes by Uber, not train, as train heads to Lisbon first)
- 18 miles from Cascais back to Lisbon (59 minutes by train)
The trip is best done by train as parking in both locations is scarce and mass transportation is extremely inexpensive. Trains run frequently – several departures each hour.
Sintra is a lovely resort town nestled in the mountains where royal castles and palaces, historic estates, villas, and gardens are plentiful. The small but charming, historic center of Sintra sits at the foot of the mountain and includes picturesque buildings with the signature pastel colors and terra cotta roofs of Portugal. It is worth spending some time here before or after visits to the castles. The castles are located in the Sintra mountains which is up the narrow, tree- and stone wall-lined road, Estrada da Pena.
I hired a tuk tuk (TuksofAnarchy by the train station) for a nice, personal, open air (think: eucalyptus tree scents) tour – usually 3 people fit in the back, snugly. The tuk tuk stopped at all the tiny, picturesque sites, and it was easy to hop right off and see all the overlooks and palaces.
If you opt to walk up to the castles – do not walk up the main road (Estrada da Pena) as it is very narrow and dangerous for pedestrians. An easier route would be the Caminho de Santa Maria footpath up to the Moorish Castle and the Park and Palace of Pena.
If you opt to take Bus 434 (hop on/hop off bus) from the train station up to the castles, then it’s best to purchase your tickets for the castle entrances ahead of time. The main 3 sites include: Palácio da Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, Quinta da Regaleira (or Palácio Nacional de Sintra).
The charming beach town of Cascais is a popular tourist destination both for Portuguese and foreign tourists. However, it is more than just a restaurants/shops location as it sits along the coastline encompassing both beaches and cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean.
Cascais has 10 miles of coastline with a variety of beaches for every type of beachgoer from secluded to urban.
Cascais is known for its seafood and has a walkable city center with a great variety of restaurants, all with outdoor seating, as the weather in Cascais is perfect throughout most of the year (average 77° F in summer, average 57° F in winter).