Lisbon + Sintra

The combination of Lisbon’s sunny weather, bohemian vibe, scenic location, and affordability is what initially attracted me to visit Portugal’s capital. I was looking forward to spending as much time as possible in the outdoors exploring the colorful streets. The fact that is was New Year’s Eve only added to the excitement of being in a new city!

Three hours after leaving Porto behind my boyfriend and I arrived by train into Lisbon. The sun was still shining and dinner was already on my mind. I had my heart set on eating at A Cevicheria – a Peruvian restaurant with a focus on Peruvian specialities infused with Portuguese, Asian and tropical flavors. It’s relatively small and we ended up waiting around an hour for a table. We ordered drinks while waiting outside and I tried my first Pisco sour (a popular cocktail in Peru made up of Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites and bitters). Everything on the menu sounded amazing which made narrowing down what we were going to share a difficult task. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the ingredients and presentation of the dishes. The BBQ octopus was insane – it was super tender and served with black mashed potatoes, padrón peppers + bits of crispy pork belly.

After dinner we left in search of some bars to continue the night. Unfortunately a lot of the places I wanted to go were closed for the holiday (which I thought was weird considering it was New Years Eve?) but we ended up finding a cute beer and wine bar off a side street. After midnight we eventually made our way through the crowd of people to watch the fireworks going off from the main square – Praça do Comércio.

Our morning started bright, early and slightly hungover. Our plan to go to the Saint George Castle didn’t work out because it was closed for the holiday. Sad that we missed out on the castle I improvised and lead us to the Time Out Market – a giant food hall that has vendors representing the best restaurants, bars and cultural experiences in the city. I would have been content to stay here all day sampling the food!

Lisbon is definitely one of the hilliest places I’ve ever been – I can not stress enough the importance of wearing comfortable walking shoes here! We walked an average of 9 miles a day and my calf muscles were definitely feeling it. The good news is all those hills create some incredible views.

We headed outside the historic city center to LX Factory – an old abandoned complex of warehouses that has been transformed into an artsy collection of bars, shops, boutiques, restaurants and start-ups. It’s like a creative mini city! We ended our evening with Spanish inspired tapas + drinks at Mez cais.

While there are plenty of things to see and do in Lisbon, there are a lot of beautiful towns nearby that are worth making a day trip to. Since we only had time to see one, Sintra was an easy choice for me. It’s a stunning mountain town nestled with palaces, romantic gardens and castles. Though only less than an hour away from Lisbon it feels like a world apart.

Here’s what we squeezed into our last day…

Quinta da Regaleira: I absolutely loved everything about this estate! The Quinta da Regaleira was transformed by an Italian artist/architect during the 20th century over the course of nine years. This place is full of surprises from its caves to its secret tunnels and winding stair cases.

Castle of the Moors: Dating back to the 9th century, this ruinous castle is the oldest structure in Sintra. It was originally constructed as an outpost to protect the town and offers a great panoramic view.

Pena Palace: Constructed on one of the highest peaks is Sintra’s most spectacular and famous site, the colorful Palacio da Pena. This vibrantly painted palace stands out against the lush green of the surrounding mountains and has the best views (when weather permits and there aren’t lots of clouds). It’s architectural style is unique and each section of the palace is different from the rest – I was completely enthralled by the fairy tale-like extravagance of it!

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