Pena Palace, Sintra, PORTUGAL

Pena Palace truly is the fairy tale castle it’s depicted to be. Set high up on a mountain, the castle was once the summer palace for the royal family, as it looks all the way to Lisbon on one side, and out to the west coast on the other side.

Tourism through the palace is a well-oiled operation. The queue is lengthy, but winds through every room in the palace, through the domestic quarters, to the diplomat’s dining rooms. Everything is preserved well by the caretakers and in great condition.

My advice would be to explore the grounds. The perimeter of the castle showcases stunning architectural influences and views of Portugal . There’s also a little nature walk through to a small summit that gives you nice views of the castle as well. Apparently public transport is few and far between, so unless you want to walk up a mountain I’d recommend jumping on a tour or hiring a car. Visiting this palace is definitely worth the effort though, it captures a slice of Portuguese history in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

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Straight out of a fairytale.

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Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Historic Centre, Sintra, PORTUGAL

The Historic Centre in Sintra was one of the highlights of my trip to Portugal. Sintra is this lovely, quaint little village where everything is boutique, local and artisan. It’s a labyrinth of alleyways with a restaurant on every corner and a the delicious smell of something cooking wafts down every street. It’s vibrant, there’s colour everywhere, from the little flags that string across the pathways, to the deep mustard buildings, and the flower boxes that sit below windows. Little frescoes and tiles painted with rural scenes adorn the outsides of residences and they show a side of Portugal that is still very real. Try the cherry liqueur served in a little chocolate shotcup, try the pastries all buttery and warm from the ovens. I got my keepsakes and souvenirs from here. If you wander off the main tourist trail it was all unique arts and crafts. We visited the historic centre as part of a larger tour, and I cherished the free time we had here. I’d factor in a few hours to your trip here because you want time to explore and have a bite to eat.

 

*Hit the links for images of this stunning little village!

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Living Lounge Hostel, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

My trip to Portugal was my first step into Europe. The Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon was my first step into a European Hostel. Oh, am I glad to have come here.

The hostel was perfect for all my backpacking needs. Set at a reasonable price, this hostel felt more like a home, a giant sharehouse right in the heart of Lisbon. The communal areas are cute and kitsch, with vintage record players and astroturf and indoor plants. The kitchen is just big enough to offer cheap community dinners every night, as well as complimentary breakfasts of a morning. The bathrooms are clean.

My travel partner and I stayed in a private two bed room which had the feeling of being in a penthouse at the tippy-top of the hostel. It was spacious and fun, with a near-vertical climb up the stairs in our room.

This hostel offers communal activities as well, we were disappointed we didn’t try more than we did. We went out to see Fado for the evening, arranged by the hostel, and the night was cheap, informative and the perfect cultural experience. Living Lounge was an excellent hostel for us in Lisbon and would absolutely stay here again.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Inside Lisbon day tour to Sintra and Cascais, PORTUGAL

João picked us up from outside the Hard Rock Cafe and we set off from Lisbon to Sintra and Cascais.

For me, this was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip. A road trip through the countryside was just magical; a warm summer breeze, a brilliant blue sky, vineyards as if from an animation, a cerulean sea. We packed a lot into the day trip. We stopped at Cabo Da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe and breathed in the clifftop glory of a truly perfect day.

We drove to Pena Palace and João provided an excellent commentary of the history and architecture. He was our tour guide and showed around the whole palace, then gave us time to walk through the palace ourselves. Then, we had some free time to wander the historical centre of Sintra. This town is full of narrow alleyways and boutique homewares. There are traditional restaurants and tasty delicacies so bring your coins and your camera. I would have loved more time here, in fact, I’d love to stay here forever.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant between towns nestled in a rural setting. The restaurant is clearly a roadhouse for tours such as ours, but I was happy with the meal. Air conditioning, wifi, clean bathrooms, rustic charm. The food was delicious- I loved trying the Iberico ham and local melons, and I had a main course of octopus, the thickest I’d ever seen! The wine rounded off the meal perfectly.

We finished our tour in Cascais, a boutique harbour town. The tourist markets and ice cream stalls weren’t to my interest by this time, so my partner and I found a cafe by the beach and sat with our sangrias. A truly excellent day.

I highly recommend this day trip. There’s so much packed into one day and as someone who only had a short stay in Portugal, I felt like I had seen enough of the country.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Hard Rock Café, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The Hard Rock Cafe in Lisbon promises a hearty meal and a time to recuperate. One goes to Hard Rock Cafe in order to savour the familiar, to hang their hat, plop into a seat and know what to expect. It’s stock standard, it’s a sense of home in a foreign place and it’s good food.

I had the local burger; a signature beef burger with egg and iberico ham and it was to die for. The flavours were a perfect match and it was the perfect little taste of unique Lisbon in an otherwise uniform menu. My strawberry and basil mock tail was saccharine, energising and refreshing on a summers day.

As to be expected, the venue is bouncing with music memorabilia and sweet tunes. The staff were particularly friendly and personable. Hard Rock Cafe is the place to be for a taste of home.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The queue is long. It is always long. It can last up to an hour and there’s no skip the line pass.

Entry to the elevator and the viewpoint is €5.15. You can use a transport card to use the lift and if you do, you must only pay €1.5 to go to the viewpoint. It’s open from 9am-11pm, but there’s always a queue. We went around dusk (summertime, 8.30pm) and waited about 45min.

The view is sublime. Panoramic scenes of Lisbon looking out to the sea, or out past the foothills. There shouldn’t be many people up there to ruin your picture perfect moment as only a lift-full of people can be up there at any given time.

Afterwards, the main question is how to get back to geound level if you choose not to take the lift down. It’ll be an adventure in the back alleys of the city.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Fado, Alfama, PORTUGAL

We set out from our hostel at 10pm to see Fado performed in Alfama. In a dimly lit Tasca, we were offered sangria or green wine to sip while we experienced this traditional art form.

Fado can be heard online or through CD but no. It must be experienced. Fado is a direct line to the passions of the heart and soul, and has been sung for centuries. It is the most emotional performance of any music I have ever been to. The two guitarists, one Portuguese guitar and the other a regular six string, accompanied the singer who closed their eyes and lamented from deep within. Before the performance, the bar owner dims the lights and demands silence. There must be no chatter, not even a whisper between songs.

The performance can last into the early hours of the morning. Go. It’s an essential Portuguese immersion that will leave you emotionally raw.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.