Day 1. First impressions of Lisbon

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Hotel Jorges V, Lisbon
We had been staying overnight at Canada Water in London’s docklands and needed to be up at 3.00 am to catch a night bus to Liverpool Streer for the Terravision express coach out to Stansted Airport.  Our Ryanair flight to Lisbon was one of the first flights to depart, and after boarding, we were soon asleep until our descent into Lisbon.
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Our room in Hotel Jorge V, Lisbon

The Metro station is connected to the airport making it easy for us to transfer to our hotel in the central business district.  It was only 10.45 am when we arrived at the Hotel Jorge V but we were pleased to find that we could check in and have access to our room straightaway.  The room was bright and functional with a small balcony from which we spotted a cafe opposite, so we headed there for a mid morning snack  before starting exploring.

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Funicular tram, Lisbon
A short walk from the hotel was one of the funicular lines, so we jumped on board, sitting on highly polished traditional wooden seats, riding up one of Lisbon’s steep hills.  A few photos up there admiring the view, then back down the hill and onto the main square, ‘Praco de Commercial’, a vast area, almost deserted this afternoon with a thick mist rolling in from the sea.
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Our chosen cafe in Lisbon

Feeling chilly, we warmed up with hot chocolates and a delicious Portuguese custard tart each in a traditional old cafe.  Next, it was a ride on one of Lisbon’s old yellow trams which rattled its way round sharp bends and up the steep hills of Alfama to the castle, Castello San Jorge.

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Old Lisbon tram
We walked around the ramparts, taking in the views and then returning downhill just in time to take the iconic ‘Elevador de Santa Justa’ (elaborate old iron lift) before it closed for the day.  This connects the districts of Baixa with the higher level Carno district.  Along the top is an ornate, gothic iron bridge leading to viewpoints over Baixa and the River Tejo. After a short rest back at our hotel we decided to eat dinner in the Chiado district as we had heard there were many small, local restaurants.

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Elevador de Santa Justa Lisbon
The one we selected had traditional Portuguese blue and white tiling on its walls, was small and cosy with a friendly atmosphere.  It was then back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

 

 

 

Day 2. A visit to Sintra

 

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Walking to Sintra’s old town
Breakfast at the Hotel Jorge V was relaxed, with the usual assortment of hot and cold dishes on offer.  Our plan for today was to visit the UNESCO World Heritage town of Sintra a short 30 minute rail journey from here.   Sintra’s old town was a 20 minute walk from the station, the walk providing us with views of the Sierra de Sintra (mountains) in the distance.

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The main square, Sintra
Arriving at the National Palace we were spellbound with its gorgeous Moorish influences, it features two enormous, conical chimneys, a landmark photograph which seems to be the icon of the town.
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Sintra, Portugal

There was a signposted trail up to the Castello dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), so we decided to follow it.  The sign didn’t indicate the distance, which was at least an hour,  trekking along steep, often uneven paths.  It began raining, and mist soon hung low over us, resulting in a lack of views at the summit, it was at least, warm rain.
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Following the hillside trail in Sintra

Close to the castle lies the Pena Palace (Palacio de Pena) built in the 19th century.  We just admired the palace gardens and then retraced our steps down below.  Returning to civilisation in the town centre, gladly below the mist once again, we headed to a welcoming, brightly yellow painted cafe for coffee and a local pastry.

The train back to Lisbon was crowded with Benfica football supporters going to watch their team play Porto,  conveniently for them, our train stopped at the Benfica stadium station.  On leaving Rossio railway station, we noticed another funicular across the road, this was the Elevador de Gloria, so we took a ride to the Jardin de San Pedro.

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Sintra
This is a leafy, residential suburb high over the city centre.   There were photo viewpoints nearby, but visibility was very poor as it was now raining heavily and the mist was thickening.
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The cosy small restaurant where we had dinner

To escape the heavy rain we decided that some retail therapy might be the answer, so we took the metro to the Oriente Shopping Centre near to the airport.   It was a modern mall with the usual mix of stores,  we spent our time window shopping and grabbing a snack in a McCafe.
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Dinner in Chiado, Lisbon
After a rest back at our hotel, it was time for dinner.   There were very few options open in the evenings in the CBD near us, so we travelled by metro to Chiado and found a cosy small restaurant there.   We noticed other diners having steak and chips, so decided on the same, not very Portuguese, I know, so we ordered a bottle of the local red wine to make up for it!

Day 3. Cascais and Estoril

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Cascais harbour, Portugal
The train to Cascais leaves from Lisbon’s other station, ‘Cais da Sotre’.  The line runs along the coast so be sure to sit on the left to take in the sea views on the 35 minute journey.  We loved Cascais, it’s a compact town with a pretty working harbour, fishermen were landing their catch, and small boats bobbed up and down in the water.

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Wavy pavements in Cascais
The town centre has pedestrianised streets with the traditional black and white ‘wavy’ pavements.  After sipping coffees overlooking the harbour, we followed the coastal path all the way to Estoril.  It was a bright, sunny day but it was quite windy, and this was creating big waves which were crashing into and over the sea wall, spraying sea water on us as we passed.  After pausing several times to take photos, we climbed up to the cliff top to explore Estoril.   Unlike Cascais, there wasn’t much to interest us.

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Estoril
A large casino seemed to be the focal point, with a few hotels and residential developments nearby.  We were able to return to Lisbon from Estoril and on leaving the train at Cais da Sodre we crossed the road to look inside the market there.  Some of the stalls had already closed for the day but we viewed the remainder, buying ourselves some fruit.
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Cascais, Portugal

Before nightfall, we returned to the main square, Praco de Commercial, to take some photos, as it had been very misty on our earlier visit.  We then had dinner in one of the restaurants just off the main square before returning to our hotel after another action packed day. 
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Cais da Sodre Market, Lisbon
 

 

Day 4. Belem and Estrella

After breakfast we checked out of our room and left our luggage to collect later in the day.  Then it was off to explore the district of Belem, catching a tram from the Praco de Commercial.

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Torres de Belem, Lisbon

Belem is dominated by its long suspension bridge ‘April 25th’ spanning the river Tejo and by its ornate tower,  ‘Torres de Belem’.  Other points of interest to see in the vicinity included Jeronimos Monastery and the National Palace and Gardens.  We found somewhere for a coffee before taking another tram along to the Estrella district where we looked in the Basilica and the formal gardens.   There were a few restaurants near the gardens so we had a meal in one of them before returning to the hotel to collect our luggage.

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National Palace Museum, Lisbon

As we had plenty of time we stopped off at the Oriente Shopping Centre again to take a look outdoors as the park was the venue for an Expo exhibition awhile back. &

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Vasco da Gama Tower, Lisbon

The cable car built for the event was still operating to the Vasco de Gama Tower, and in the distance we could see the Vasco da Gama bridge spanning the estuary.  It was then time to return to the airport for our flight back to Stansted and our overnight stay in London.

To summarise, Lisbon has been a good choice for a city break with plenty to do on a four day visit.  I felt that it lacked the style and sophistication of both Madrid and Barcelona but it’s got its own charm, and we were happy.