Ah, Portugal. So dreamy, so special, so accessible and so amazing for kids! It is honestly going to be hard for me to write this post without rambling on about how wonderful our time in Portugal was. But I'll try. If you don't want to hear all about why we loved it so, that's ok! You can scroll on down to the bottom to get the summary itinerary of our trip.
We arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on a Saturday morning after a direct, overnight flight from Montreal. The airfare was surprisingly affordable, considering we were traveling during peak season (August). For 3 tickets on AirTransat we spent just around $2400. It was our first time flying this airline and we were really impressed with the service. Due to a severe lack of sleep, I don't remember much of the airport, but I do remember finding our car hire waiting for us upon our exit from the airport. While we know we can take public transportation from most airports at a much lower cost, we definitely prefer to pre-book a taxi. It saves us from any 'getting lost' drama, lugging our bags onto a crowded bus or train, etc. No need to start the trip off on a bad note just to save a few, you know? Our driver was extremely friendly, which I'll say is not always our experience! He pointed out interesting things on our drive into the city, gave us some helpful Portuguese words and phrases and was proud to talk about the country he loved so much. He dropped us right in front of the office where we were to pick up our Airbnb keys. Of course, as is usually the case, our apartment check-in was not for some time, so we checked our bags into rented lockers at the property management office and went on a stroll into the center of town. We promptly found ourselves a Starbucks on our walk, which is always a little bit of heaven when you're exhausted! We even treated little C to her first iced coffee (decaf, of course).
We strolled around the Praca do Comercio for a bit, watching all the people and enjoying the Lisbon sun. Once we were good and caffeinated, we headed over to Ao26, a lovely vegan spot, for some lunch. Following lunch, we headed back to the property management office, grabbed our bags and keys and headed off to our apartment. It was a lovely, spacious apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen and laundry! At just under $500 for 3 nights, it was a great place in a super location. That night we grabbed some items from a local market and cooked a nice little dinner for ourselves before heading off to bed.
We awoke to another gorgeous day in Lisbon with the sun shining brightly, warm air and a perfect breeze. Today we were heading off to Castelo de Sao Jorge. As is typical for us, we opted to walk to our destination, rather than taking public transport or a taxi. We find that we get to see so much more of the culture when we walk through the streets, finding little hidden gems along the way that we might not have seen otherwise. The walk took us a good 30 minutes, but it was well worth it.
The entrance fee to the castle was a little over $20 USD (kids under 12 are free), and we purchased our tickets upon arrival. We like to get an early start, so when we arrived, there was not yet a huge crowd at the grounds. The castle was built in the 11th century and has a rich and varied history. There are archaeological ruins that predate the castle that were also fun to explore. Lots of walls to climb on and steep and windy stone steps. We opted not to take a guided tour, but instead wandered around at our own pace. On Sundays, there are also crossbow demonstrations, which we happened to stumble upon (yay for good timing!). The poor chaps in their heavy clothing and armor - not sure how they stand out in the sun like that!
The views alone at the castle are enough to warrant a visit!
After about 4 hours of exploring the castle grounds, our bellies were getting hungry so we headed out to a nearby lunch spot called Princesa do Castelo Restaurante. The food was delicious and it was in a great little area that we enjoyed exploring after we ate.
After lunch, we made our way back to our apartment, stopping for gelato along the way. We rested up at our flat for a bit before heading out to dinner at Jardim das Cerejas, which was easily our favorite vegan spot of the trip. It's done buffet style, which usually freaks me out, but we got there early each night and everything was so fresh! There were amazing options like stews and casseroles, along with an abundance of fresh salads, and all of it was vegan. And don't even get me started on the desserts! I still dream about them. After dinner we strolled about for a bit, popping into little shops near our apartment, before turning in for the night.
We woke up on our third day in Lisbon ready to head out of town on an excursion to Sintra. After fueling up on breakfast in our apartment and some more Starbucks, we headed to the train station (on foot). The train ride is approximately 40 minutes and runs very frequently from Rossio train station. When we arrived at the train station there was already a long (and I mean really long) line of folks waiting to buy tickets. We missed a couple of trains while waiting in line, but, since they run so frequently, we didn't have to wait long for ours to arrive. The train was quiet and clean and we arrived at our destination quickly. Heading out of the train station, we immediately headed into the old town. It was a solid 20 minute walk, but it was a walk surrounded by trees and beauty, with little artists setting up shop along the way. Our first stop was Quinta da Regaleira. Again, we waited in line for quite a while to purchase our tickets...we were noticing a pattern here?? Once we got inside, though, all the waiting was forgotten! This place was like something out of a fairy tale. The grounds were spectacular with hidden tunnels everywhere, beautiful greenery and flowers, towers and stone walls and so much more. Our little one loved exploring all the hidden places!
After leaving this area, we walked to get ourselves some lunch. Things might have taken a bad turn here, as we were a bit indecisive about what to eat. We walked all the way back towards the train station to a little vegan spot I had read about, only to decide upon arrival that nothing there appealed to us. So, we headed back towards the old town and settled on a burger place, only to find out that all the veggie burgers were gone. Womp womp. In the end, because we were starving, we settled on a few orders of fries and some salads. But, to make up for the pathetic lunch, we treated ourselves to some gelato, before heading up to Pena Palace. Our legs were a bit tired at this point, so we did what everyone else seemed to be doing and hopped on a tuk tuk! Well, ours was more like an old dune buggy type of car, but it was still a ton of fun. It cost about $15, I think, but was worth it because the trek up to the palace was LONG! Our driver was the cutest young man who chatted with us the whole time about Sintra, the palace, the weather, his buggy business and everything else. We discovered on this ride that Mondays were the worst day to go to Sintra!(?) Clearly I had failed in my research, because I thought Monday was a good day to go! Apparently, though, on Monday's, most museums and sites are closed in Lisbon so everyone heads to Sintra. Oops. When we got to the palace, the line to get tickets was long, like everywhere else. With little shade in the ticket line, we decided we would try to navigate our way, on foot, to Castelo dos Mouros.
Well, this was another mom fail. Despite having my trusty maps app on my phone, we just couldn't quite figure out how to get to our destination. We wandered up some very steep paths and ended up at the top of a hill...with a great view of the Castelo dos Mouro...in the distance. Our little one was getting nervous that we were lost, but we kept our calm and told her we were just going on an adventure. We made our way back down the hill and thought we might stand in line to get into the palace. However, the line was still so long and we were all getting a bit tired, so we hopped on another tuk tuk (a real one this time - like a bike with a rollercoaster car around it). This ride was, ummm, exciting? It was down hill all the way, and despite the traffic, our driver seemed afraid to use the brake. The wind was whipping in our faces and little C was squealing with both delight and fear! We made it safely to the bottom, though, and headed back to catch our train into Lisbon. Despite not seeing the things we had planned to see, I'd say our trip to Sintra was a success. We all loved it so much, and now just have a reason to go back.
Check out our next post where we talk about our time in the dreamy Algarve!
Day 1: Arrive, Praca do Comercio, Check into apartment
Day 2: Castelo de Sao Jorge
Day 3: Sintra
Day 4: Train to Lagos, Lagos beach/pool
Day 5: Pool, Cove beach
Day 6: Pool, Cove beach
Day 7: Pool, Cove beach
Day 8: Train back to Lisbon, exploring area around hotel
Day 9: Return home!
(all prices USD) - Excludes food or unplanned activities (such as TukTuk rides)
Direct Flight YUL to LIS - $2484
Lisbon Airbnb (3 nights) - $500
Airport Transfers (roundtrip) - $67
Castelo de Sao Jorge - $20
Train Tickets to Sintra - $10
Quinta da Regaleira - $23
Train Tickets to Lagos (roundtrip) - $100
Lagos Hotel (4 nights) - $800
Lisbon Hotel (1 night) - $280