Travel Plan Idea – Destination Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, offers travelers a look at the culture, the maritime history of Portuguese explorers, and a romantic ambiance. All types of music, especially Fado the folk songs of the poor, are an attraction for many travelers to Lisbon. Although the Mediterranean climate is generally pleasant year round, Spring may be the best time to visit this beautiful city. This itinerary should work in any season.

Day 1 – Arrive La Portela Airport and taxi to the Sofitel Lisboa Libertedad hotel, only 4 miles away and centrally located on one of the main avenues in Lisbon. Check in to a tastefully decorated room with a pleasing combination of historic and modern amenities and decor. Dine in at the hotel’s elegant Ad Lib restaurant and begin sightseeing tomorrow. The menu offers a variety of a la carte Portuguese and French gourmet cuisine such as quail and foie gras appetizers, seafood, pasta, and meats, as well as an extensive wine list. Avg Prices (entrees): $28-$50. Dinner Hours: Mon-Sun, 7:30pm-12Midnight. The restaurant is also open for weekend brunch and lunch, Mon-Fri, 12:30-3pm Avg Room Rate: $126.

Day 2 – Out and About

Buffet breakfast at the hotel and off to explore. Take Tram 28, the best way to reach St George’s Castle, a 6th century B.C. fortress on a high hill overlooking the city and the Tagus River. Hours: Mar-Oct, 9am-9pm, Nov-Feb, 9am-6pm. Entry: $8
(Note: Trams avg fares $2-$5.) Wander through the narrow streets of the historic Alfama district before a tram ride to the 16th century Belem Tower, a former lighthouse, fortress, and prison, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hours: 10am-5pm daily except Monday. Free admission.

Leaving the Tower, visit Jeronimo’s Monastery, part of the same World Heritage Site. Built by King Manuel I during the Age of Discoveries to give thanks for Vasco de Gama’s safe journey to India. A unique mix of architectural styles can be seen throughout the entire monastery, in the halls, cloisters, and tombs. Hours: May-Sep, Tues-Sun, 10am-6:30pm. Oct-Apr, 10am-5:30pm. Adults – $9. Under 14 – Free.

For lunch head over to Flor dos Arcos for gazpacho, the local specialty “bacalhau” cod fritters, and a glass of white wine. Cozy, good service, reasonable prices.

A few hours left before dinner and time to take the 40-minute train ride to the nearby town of Sintra to visit the Pena Palace and Park. Designed by King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II and completed in 1847, it became a World Heritage Site and one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal.” Tourists will be intrigued by the different, somewhat gaudy architectural styles and pastel walls of the exterior and the lavish interior furnishings. Stroll through the splendid gardens and see the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, built for Ferdinand’s second wife.
Hours: Pena Park – 9:30am-8pm, Palace – 9:45am-7pm, Chalet – 9:30am-7pm. Closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan.
Ticket Prices: $15 – Palace & Park. Guided Tours: $7

After a full day of sightseeing, return to the hotel before dinner tonight at Café de Sao Bento, perhaps the best steakhouse in Lisbon and a long-time favorite of politicians and celebrities. Excellent place for delicious steak and fries! Hours: Mon-Fri, 12:30–2:30pm, 7pm-2am. Sat & Sun, 7pm-2am. Main meals: $40

Day 3 – Visiting Cultural Attractions

Fado Museum – Following the history of Fado or “destiny,” music, the museum features exhibitions, interactive information panels, audio-visual presentations, wax figures, and other memorabilia. Live performances of Fado are given by the Visitas Cantadas, Singing Tours. Gift shop & café onsite.
Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, & 25 Dec. Admission: $5

Maritime Museum – Not to be missed, this museum traces Portugal’s maritime history with model boat exhibits, memorabilia from ships and famous explorers such as Vasco de Gama, as well as nautical devices and uniforms. Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm, Oct-May. 10am-6pm, May-Oct. Admission: Adults – $5, ages 6-18, $2.50.

Lunch at the highly recommended Gambrinus restaurant in the city center before going on to the Tile Museum, a short distance from town. Specialties include shellfish bisque, gourmet appetizers and shrimp, lobster, sea bass, and spicy chicken. Expensive, great food, excellent service. $27-$47 (full meal).

National Tile Museum – Known for exquisite ceramic tiles or “azulejos” throughout Portugal, Lisbon’s Tile Museum in the Convento Madre de Deus is definitely worth seeing. Housing collections and history of tiles and tile making dating back to the 15th century, the museum features Lisbon in 1738 with a 7′ long landscape masterpiece of 1300 tiles. Cafeteria & gift shop. Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-6pm, Tues, 2-6pm. Admission: $7

After a full day, return to hotel. Go Italian tonight with pizza, pasta, or risotto at the small, romantic Come Prima restaurant. Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7-11pm, Fri & Sat, 7-Midnight. Prices: $12-$22.

Day 4 – Shopping Day

Explore and spend money in the Chiado district of numerous boutiques, designer label shops, and second hand clothing stores. Among those recommended are A Vida Portuguesa for unique gifts, the beautiful Ourevesaria Aliança for silver and gold, Bertrands, the oldest bookstore in the world, and Voa for perfumes, textiles, and ceramics.

Lunch at A Brasileira café on Rua Garrett, the famous café/coffeehouse popular with visitors, poets, writers, and artists. From the bronze statue of poet Fernando Pessoa at the entrance and the art deco interior of chandeliers and mirrored walls to the outdoor umbrella tables, A Brasileira is the place to socialize and people watch, or join friends for late night drinking and conversation. Be prepared to pay a bit more here because of its popularity, over $6 for a cup of local coffee “bica” or a pastel de nata “custard tart.” Hours: 8am-2am.

Return to hotel with full shopping bags, relax before dinner and cocktails at the Ad Lib hotel restaurant.

Day 5 – Tours

After breakfast, join the 3 1/2 hour guided tour of the old parts of Lisbon including the Alfama, Graça, and Castelo districts. Walk through the Martime Moniz Square and the traditional neighborhood of Mouraria while learning about the Moorish conquests. Other highlights of the tour include the spectacular view from the Chapel of Our Lady on the Hill, the Castle Citadel, and the Casa dos Bicos palace. Price: $20.

Lunch at one of the many cafes and spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sights in town.

Return to hotel to pack before joining a small group for the Fado and Tapas 4-hour tour beginning at 7pm. Visit neighborhoods and listen to music with a glass of beer, wine, or Lisbon’s Ginjinha liqueur. The tour ends at a small restaurant with a live performance of Fado and a plate of tapas. Price: $52

Day 6 – Leaving Lisbon.

Sharon L Slayton

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