10 reasons to visit: Lisbon & Cascais

Lisbon gets my vote for a spring city break. A short flight from London. It was somewhere neither of us had been to before.  And it’s by the sea.  Not hot weather per se, but warm enough to be out doors.  Tick, tick, tick, tick.  I will put it out there… If you want a city break and you don’t like a big city it’s perfect – not sprawling and so close to very beautiful countryside and vitamin sea! Spend time doing your hotel research – there are some charming historical hidden gems.

1. Walk, walk, walk

I always pack comfy shoes and an umbrella. A cardigan never goes amiss either. We did at least 30,000 paces a day and that was including the day the rain was incessant and went right through the umbrella waterproofing. Lisbon almost didn’t make the grade – let’s face it, traipsing around in the rain is pretty miserable.  I spent the rainy day grumpily trailing a few steps behind Mr P. Apparently this is what I always do when I don’t want to be somewhere! Who knew!

Then the sun came out and all was forgiven.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

I warn you it is hilly.  But hills mean views.  Great ones.  Lisbon is a little like Venice (with less water, more hills) in the sense that one must mooch without a map as you will undoubtedly stumble across something pretty.  There’s also plenty of architecture in the centre to enjoy – the Santa Justa lift, Bairro Alto, the wide shopping streets.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

2. Enjoy a pastel de nata

Or 10. Specifically at Pasteis de Belem. Delicious – perfect for elevenses. The café in Belem is the home of these tarts.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

This was the only advice I had been given before going and it was spot on. Pastel de nata are a local custard tart and they are divine – both the filling and the pastry.  Fresh and warm out of the oven with a latté.  Happily this isn’t like a Laduree in Paris debacle – the cafe seats 400 and service is slick and friendly and the prices low.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Belem is also a pretty little bit of the city.  There is more to see than just what you eat.  The Belem Tower, connected to the mainland by a little walk way is worth an ogle. As is the Jeronimos Monastery and a pilgrimage monument.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

3. Watch the funicular

I find trams a little eerie. Or perhaps fascinating, as we don’t really  have them in the UK.  I’m very taken by the funicular version that trundles up and down the steepest couple of hills in the city. The famous one is the Elevador da Gloria in Bairro Alto.  The climb to the top (if you don’t catch a ride) rewards you with a spectacular view of the city from Miradouro do Sao Pedro de Alcantara.  There’s a lesser known one that we stumbled on quite by chance – Elevador da Bica.  Far steeper and with an excellent view down the tram tracks and across the river.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & ParkerTop 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

4. Stay in a palace surrounded by azulejos

Even before we left for Lisbon I knew that I liked the Portuguese tiling that I had seen in so many of the pictures.  Imagine my excitement when I found Palacio Ramalhete. Tiling, called azulejos, is used to great effect throughout the property. And it’s gorgeous through and through, with stunning living rooms and even a pool.  The urban palace dates back to the 17th century.  It’s one of those special places I delight in finding.

Read my review of Palacio Ramalhete here.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

5. Spend an evening at the BA Wine Bar

This was a top tip from a friend, else we’d a) never had the luck to stumble across it and b) not managed to get a walk in booking.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The wine bar is hidden away on a side street in Bairro Alto and tables are all booked in advance.  This isn’t a bar you nip to for a quick drink.  It is an evening immersion into Portuguese wine.  Effectively a structured tasting.  The sommeliers find out your ‘type’ of preferred wine and before you order a glass they give you a few tasters to choose from.  We worked our way through some different local wines.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The food here is simple, but excellent – bread, cheese, meat and olive oil platters. Perfect with the wine. I booked through Facebook.

6. Soak up the sun in Alfama

This was the gem in Lisbon’s crown for us.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

It’s a village quarter of the city sat on a hill.  Cute little streets, old fashioned trams, tiled buildings, excellent view spots across the rooftops. St Jorges Castle is worth the entry fee.  The views from the top over the modern city and out to the sea are stunning.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The real treat was discovering ‘Wine with a View’.  A little tuk tuk with a bar in the back selling wine near the view spot. We really enjoyed taking in the view with a drink and letting the world go by.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & ParkerTop 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

7.  Enjoy the waterfront

The waterfront comes alive in the sunshine.  Our favourite part was Praco do Comercio – a stunning yellow square surrounded by elegant buildings and trams that trundle round the sides.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We actually found a little sailing boat serving beers – prize for the best novelty bar.  Take a walk along the promenade towards Cais do Sodre station.  It is dotted with little bars with seats in the sunshine and there are also excellent views of the striking golden-gate-esque bridge and the Cristo Rei monument, twinned with Christ the Redeemer in Rio. A city with a waterfront is perfect.

8. Stay in Cascais

We started our trip in Cascais.  30mins from the airport and a world away from the city.  It’s a seaside village. We lucked out by staying at Villa Cascais.  Our room was the penthouse and incredible – 3 balcony’s, stunning 360 views, endless hygge and the bath of dreams. The restaurant and bar were also the height of laid back cool.

Read my review of Villa Cascais here.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & ParkerTop 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

9. Paddle in the sea

Mooching around Cascais will take you to the beach – you won’t be able to avoid it, or the glimpses of sea down little alleyways!  Thank goodness, we all need our vitamin sea.  It wasn’t too cold for paddling, even in March.  The beaches are lined with little restaurants too.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The coastal location is pretty sleepy and pretty.  The harbour is dotted with sailing boats, the beaches are clean and restaurants are plentiful with excellent fresh seafood.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

10. Cycle to the western-most point of mainland Europe

The ideal way to cover more ground.  And exercise extra muscles. We hired a couple of bikes from MobiCascais.  Hiring wasn’t easy – the app is in Portuguese!  But Mr P isn’t the type to be beaten. He cracked it.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Comfy and good quality bikes. The cycle up the coast had some slight inclines but was generally flat and on good cycleways.  We stopped at Boca do Inferno to admire the rock formations.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Then headed north to Praia do Guincho – the western most point of mainland Europe. Pretty sand dunes and a quirky Relais & Chateaux hotel that was a top spot for coffee with a view (that reminded us of beloved Cornwall) before the return leg.

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

So despite a day of rain, I whole heartedly recommend Lisbon & Cascais for a mini-break.  We loved the balance of time in the city with time on the coast.  Finding the two hotel gems really made our stay complete – homes away from home. The city has a real historical and village culture to be found.

In a brexit nation with a weak pound, prices were also reassuringly affordable! Onwards to Faro, or perhaps Porto and the Douro.

And this wasn’t a bored yawn, but a happy exhausted one…

Top 10 Lisbon & Cascais - Travel with Penelope & Parker

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16 Comments

    • April 10, 2017 / 7:09 pm

      Me too already, but I think more of Portugal first. No time difference for us which is excellent!

  1. April 12, 2017 / 11:59 am

    I once spent a long weekend in Lisbon on my own. It’s the perfect city for a solo traveller and as you say compact enough to walk around. Really love the look of your hotel. So charming! I’d love to go back one day and stay at Palacio Ramalhete.

    • April 12, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      I am so glad we didn’t just book a business hotel, we were so close to it, too close, lucky escape!

  2. April 15, 2017 / 9:15 am

    Looks like you had a really fab time!! I’ve only been to Lisbon briefly, between you and Aftab, I think a return visit is in order!

    • April 15, 2017 / 5:04 pm

      I think we’ve researched it ready for you 😉
      Wait until you see the Palacio we stayed in, was a little slice of boutique heaven

  3. April 17, 2017 / 1:16 am

    I had the pleasure of visiting the Azores last year and fell in love with the food and people. I’ve been dying to get to Lisbon, and now I can just follow in your footsteps. Thanks for doing all the research for me. I know it was tough : )

    • April 17, 2017 / 8:55 am

      I remember following your walking adventures there – likewise, thank you for the research as I would love to go to the Azores! I have the taste of Portugal now!

  4. Lucy Dodsworth
    April 17, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    I spent about 30 minutes in Lisbon after getting off a cruise ship last summer but the bit we did see looked really interesting! The azulejos and trams remind me of Porto which I loved so I’m going to have to give it a try, and the idea of some beach time in Cascais too is a great combo.

    • April 18, 2017 / 7:32 pm

      That’s great to hear that Porto has the same charm, I am taken with the country and need to see more!

  5. Francisco Diogo Lopes
    April 21, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    “Praia do Guincho – the western most point of mainland Europe” You here near, but Guincho is not the western most point of mainland Europe. Cabo da Roca is the western most point of mainland Europe, just a few km’s ahead climbing the mountain you have in the background. Though going there by bike. 🙂

      • Francisco Diogo Lopes
        April 22, 2017 / 3:25 pm

        By the way, if I may, go first to Porto and Douro.
        The only thing to see in Algarve are the left side from Faro to Spain. And on the other end is Sagres, and starting from there up the coast towards north until Comporta, you have great beaches and same fine places to stay,
        Avoid the crowed middle of Algarve.

        Have fun !

        • April 22, 2017 / 3:58 pm

          Definitely – good advice! And there is an amazing road to drive into the Douro, and the wine…. Always avoid the crowds!

    • June 8, 2017 / 6:40 pm

      Thank you, heading back there with work in a few weeks which is perfect!

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