I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday. A few months ago, my son and I took a long-weekend trip to Lisbon. This Lisbon trip immediately followed my budget trip to Krakow, Poland (inspired by a $306 roundtrip flight deal).
The motivation to go to Lisbon was also from a cheap fare. This time it was a $341 deal.
I chose to fly all segments on Star Alliance carriers in order to re -qualify for Star Alliance Gold status until 2018. We flew from Newark to Lisbon on the outbound and then Lisbon to JFK on the return. My son lives in New York, and flying home into JFK allowed us to spend a whole day in Lisbon because of a much later departure time.
I flew on the Krakow trip with my wife, and yes, I came back to US for one day before flying to Lisbon with my son. This was part of my strategy
to re-qualify status and spend quality time with each member of my family.
We used a total of 35,000 IHG points for the 3 nights we spent in Lisbon. We spent the first night at the Holiday Inn Lisbon – Continental for 15,000 points, and 2 nights at Holiday Inn Express Lisbon – Av. Liberdade for 10,000 points per night.
Both of these properties will be going up in points-price on January 15 (25,000 and 15,000, respectively).
The total “cost” was under $15 a night via last year’s lucrative “Priceless Surprises” promo. I won 52,500 IHG points, and my son won 47,000 by sending 94 hand-written postcards each. The total cost was $47 in stamps + time.
I booked these hotels because they were close to train stations. When I visit a new country I like to easily locate my first hotel. The first hotel was nice, however breakfast was not included, but it was easy to reach tourist attractions from the location.
In my opinion, he second property was better-situated (about 1/2 mile walk from the train station and closer to all of the action), it included breakfast, and cost less in points. In the future, I would probably choose the Holiday Inn Express Lisbon over the Holiday Inn Lisbon – Continental for those reasons.
Our flight from Newark landed at 6:30 am. We immediately bought a “viagem card”. The viagem card is similar to a metro card in New York. We loaded 10 euro each and proceeded to try to check in early at our hotel.
To get to Lisbon Continental Holiday Inn, you’ll have to take the red line to Saldanha (10 stops) and change to yellow line, and take that one stop to Campo Pequeno. The metro trip was about 25 minutes from airport. You can also take Uber, but we travel light, so taking the train was perfect for us.
The hotel is about 3 blocks from train. It is not visible from train station, but we used this easy Lisbon metro guide to plan almost everything.
When we arrived at hotel, early check in was not available, so we dropped off our luggage and started our sightseeing.
- Sintra is connected to Lisbon by an inexpensive train service that departs from Rossio train station in central Baixa.
Rossio station is connected to the green metro line and a short walk from main tourist district of Lisbon. The journey takes 40 minutes and a single ticket costs €2.15/€1.10 (adult/child), and a return is double the price at €4.30. Bikes can be taken on the train for free, but rides during rush hour can be crowded.
Dad Tip: When you arrive in Sintra, avoid the people trying to sell you tours. Make a right, and go to the end where you can board buses to take you to the castles. Bus #434 costs about 5 Euro round trip. There are also buses that go from Sintra to Cascais. Bus #403 is slower and bus #417 takes 30 minutes at a cost of about 4 Euro. Check at train station for an up-to-date schedule.
- Tram 28 Tour is extremely popular, and visits most of the tourist spots. Keep in mind that the tram is extremely crowded and a breeding-ground for pickpockets. We took train to the first stop, Martin Moritz, and waited on a long line for about 40 minutes before we boarded. The tram was so crowded that we did not see much.
Dad Tip: If you plan on doing the Tram 28 Tour, buy a 24 hour pass for 6 euro. This is a great way use trains, trams, San Just a elevators, etc. A better idea may be to board at last stop which is a lot less crowded. We exited at Mirardor Porta Del Sol and walked to most of the other sightseeing spots.
- Belem and Cascais You can take Tram 15 to visit Belem. We were short on time, and my son wanted to see Cascais, so to accomplish both attractions, we took an Uber directly to Pasteis De Belem for 6 Euro. Pasteis De Belem is a must-do, a bakery dating back to the 1800’s with delicious pastries.
All of the attractions in Belem are about 30 minutes from the bakery. Then from Belem, we caught the train to Cascais, and the ride was about 30 minutes. We headed straight to the airport to catch our flight home directly from Cascais.
We absolutely loved the fresh seafood we ate on this trip. The prices were reasonable and everything was perfectly tasty.
Here are some of the restaurants we tried:
- Cervajara Ramiro – This is the restaurant made famous by Anthony Bourdain, and the food was excellent. The tiger shrimp were as big as lobster legs. The proscuitto pata nero was better than most Italian brands I’ve tried. The service was quick and efficient (you pick your food from an iPad). This place is popular, so it definitely gets crowded.
We had clams, oysters, shrimp, steak sandwiches, beers, and coffee for about 100 Euro total. Keep in mind that the seafood is priced by weight (our 4 tiger shrimp alone were 32 Euro). This was our most expensive restaurant we ate at, but well worth it.
- For another night, the plan was to eat at the well-recommended, Taberna Da Rue Da Flores in Barrio Alto, but when we arrived at restaurant, it was really busy and we could not get a table. We walked around the Barrio Alto area and found a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant to eat in. The restaurant was filled with locals, had cheap prices, great Sangria, and excellent food. When a restaurant is filled with locals, it usually a good sign.
The bad new is that I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but Barrio Alto is very alive at night, so it will not be hard to find many good restaurants, bars, and clubs.
- A Pescaria – In my opinion, this place was the find of the trip. We arrived after not being able to secure reservations at two other restaurants on a Saturday night. The reviews were great and were the only people there. The location is not easiest to find, but I am glad to report we were not disappointed. We had the best sea bass with seafood and excellent service for under 50 Euro for the both of us.
Overall Impressions of Lisbon
I thought Lisbon was a great under-rated Western European city with great food, attractions, and accessibility – friendly locals and more pastries shops per square miles than anywhere else in the world!
I definitely recommend visiting Lisbon, and I hope I inspired you to take a similar trip.