Travel

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.

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Suzhou and Zhouzhuang tour from Shanghai 

I’m glad we went on this private tour. We booked this at short notice through TripAdvisor and the company was very helpful with us.

Our guide was very informative, he had a lot to say and he spoke English well. The guided tour through the Master of Nets Garden was great, and we felt very supported having a knowledgeable guide take us through this beautiful ancient residence. The tour of the silk factory was also very interesting on the process of silk production (unlike other factory tours which can just seem like a showroom).

Visiting Zhouzhuang was my favourite bit of the whole trip, and I enjoyed my included gondola ride. However, would have appreciated more time, even free time to explore the water village. It’s such a cool place, I just wanted an hour or so to follow my nose, to explore the canals and see the little craftsmen in their shopfronts. This was the main feedback from all on the tour- there was too much time spent in the silk factory, and not enough time in Zhouzhuang.

Also, don’t expect too much from the lunch. As far as Chinese meals go, it was pretty disappointing and poorly produced. 

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.

Kasbah, Chefaouen, MOROCCO

Chefchaoen is a labyrinth. Especially dizzying if you don’t speak Moroccan, Arabic or French. There are no street signs, and the locals are likely more interested in selling their wares than give you directions. That said, the kasbah is right in the centre of it all, and hard to miss.

It’s a very old structure, but after visiting it, that’s all I really know. We went in the afternoon (double check opening times because they’re very specific) and paid the entrance fee. There’s signage, but none in English, so we just wandered the site in awe. Perfectly manicured gardens and turrets with stunning views.

I recommend you go, but only as part of your larger city adventure. It only really needs 20 minutes. It’s a perfect spot for sweeping pictures of the Blue Pearl.

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.

Cabo da Roca, Cascais, PORTUGAL

Cabo da Roca is stunning. A beautiful wide expanse of ocean marking the westernmost point of continental Europe. Well worth seeing if you’re passing through between Sintra and Cascais.

It’s very windy, so leave your hat in the car. There’s a tourism office there and an historic lighthouse to explore as well.

The view itself is sublime and noteworthy enough to warrant the trip.

Please note that €0.5 coin is needed for use of the toilet.

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.

Torres De Belém, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The Belém Tower is a landmark of Lisbon. We used the City Sightseeing Hop On/Off bus to access the Tower and we were not disappointed.

Built in the early 16th Century, the Tower stands steadfast. It looks out for the ocean as a testament to early naval defense, and has a museum attached dedicated to Portugal’s defense forces over the years.

The line was obscene, so we didn’t go inside. We could have bought skip the line passes, to go inside the tower, but we were happy to walk around and marvel at the Tower from where we were. The structure is stunning and it’s location on the Tagus is really something. Worth going to see as part of your Lisbon experience.

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.