Travel Guide: Seville, Lisbon & Sintra
I think your level of sadness after returning from vacation has a direct correlation with how good your vacation was. That being said; since my evident “low” manifested itself into a full-on summer flu, I’ve come to the conclusion that my vacation was totally-Mary-Poppins-Flying-A-Kite-WONDERFUL.
So: after the Costa del Sol , our little trio drove to Lisbon. The big frenchman and I enjoy road trips on our own continent, so in Europe it seemed like a good idea. It was a relatively easy and straightforward drive, and took about 6 hours in total. We took the coast as much as we could and stopped in Seville for lunch. If you have never been to Seville and are in Spain, or planning to visit in the near future, I highly recommend taking the time to visit Seville. We had a flighty few hours there, and it was enough to captivate my imagination and a little piece of my heart. Seville has a cosmopolitan vibe infused with history – buildings are ornate, the cathedral is a jaw-dropping site (and that’s just the outside!), and the vibe is fast and fresh.
A street in Seville – these awnings were everywhere for good reason – it’s the hottest major metropolitan area in Europe.
Glimpses of Spanish architecture – it’s like the maximalist 90’s mixed with baroque periods for a beautiful mix – ornate, historic, and very romantic.
We zoomed through the orange and lemon groves of the Algarve (another spot that I’ve decided will need a return trip) and finally arrived in Lisbon. We stayed in the northern part of the city, further out from the centre, but the easily accessible metro system got us to the coast in a few stops. When it comes to foreign cities, I get overwhelmed with all the travel guides and “things to do” lists, because, what I like to do most is wander, stop, have a coffee, and meander through shops, markets and cultural neighbourhoods. I don’t tend to seek out monuments, historic sites or museums. If a gallery catches my eye, I’ll pop in. Or if inclement weather forces me to find indoor attractions, I’ll visit. So that’s what we did, and if you’re like me – a dolce vita lifestyle seeker on vacation – here are some recommendations that I can make for your next trip in Lisbon:
Wander through the streets of the Principe Real neighbourhood: Colourful buildings, beautiful mansions, a leafy green square that overlooks the city and the coast – this is a great place to get your bearings while you sip on freshly squeezed lemonade. Known also as the LGBTQ quarter, the shops and food are fab and it’s a beautifully maintained part of the city.
The square in Principe Real that overlooks the city – amazing view and behind which you can’t see – a little local market.
Best idea ever – freshly squeezed lemonade or orange juice with the option to add different yummy flavours. SO good.
The view from the square in Principe Real.
Dinner at A Travessa: Blink and you’ll miss it. A Travessa is found in a 17th century convent down a side street and will charm you upon first steps inside. We found it thanks to a friend’s recommendation and are so glad we followed up and made a reservation. From a range of starters that are served family style (eggs and wild mushrooms spooned from a skillet, a few bites of pork (probably the best pork I’ve ever had) freshly at your table), to hearty yet delicate mains (I had the scallops with risotto) – it’s a wonderful experience and a must if you’re a foodie.
Gold digging at the Feira da Ladra: Ok, I’ve seen and seeked out many a market (thrift, and non-thrift), but I’ve never seen anything like this. In the historic district of Alfama, steps from the Pantheon, the Feira da Ladra is a thrifters’ dream. Stalls, no stalls, clothes, antiques, luggage, furniture, dolls, electronics – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE. Most vendors didn’t bother setting up racks for clothing, there were simply piles of it. Apparently it’s been happening since the 12th century – now you can catch it on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You need an entire day (probably more) to sift through it all, but my best advice to enjoy this type of thing is to keep an open mind.
If you see this, you’re close … the beautiful pantheon in Alfama.
Excuse the blurry finger in this iphone photo – I was so excited/in shock at seeing this market I couldn’t handle myself properly. I mean … LOOK!
A ride on the number 28 tram: To get around the hilly streets you can take a funicular or one of the very old trams that ramble through the streets. The oldest and most famous of which is the number 28. We happened upon it randomly and hopped on – it was like traveling back in time. The number 28 hasn’t been updated since 1914 when it was first inaugurated.
Lunch at A Fabrica de Santiago: Another chance visit – we were wandering the historic district of Alfama and happened upon a small and picturesque terrace on a quiet street. Lunch was served in a peaceful setting – a simple but great menu followed by cappuccinos. The best part of this visit was discovering the stunning boutique hotel attached to the restaurant – Santiago de Alfama. Just taking a peek into the exquisitely decorated lobby gave off a sense of easy luxe. Definitely staying there next time I’m in Lisbon.
#ootd in Lisbon … when it comes to food and enjoying sitting time, I rarely take photos – so again, in lieu of a pretty plate of yummy goodness, here’s an outfit.
Visit Sintra and the Coast: The ancient town and district of Sintra has a huge number of castles – apparently it was the place to be if you were a king – who knew? We took a short train ride into Sintra and hired a WONDERFUL guide who we met outside a coffee shop. Although it seemed a bit odd – he had a map and excitedly told us we could hire him, and his van, for a mere EUR 40 per person and he would take us wherever we wanted along the coast (I thought it was too good to be true! Nice man, has a van and willing to spend the whole day with us for that price?!? I thought we were about to be kidnapped …) – so we took him up on his offer and were SO glad we did. If you go to Sintra – he waits at the little coffee shop outside the train station and his name is Hugo – he’s AWESOME. Do hire him. We spent the whole day visiting castles, driving along the beautiful coast, and stopping for local pastries – which by the way, the Portuguese do incredibly well. Our favourites were the Pasteis de Nata and a long, fluffy, cream filled thing which for the life of me I cannot remember the name of.
Our guide Hugo for our day in Sintra and the coast! So glad we did this.
A beautiful antique market that we unexpectedly stumbled upon … we soon discovered that Portugal specializes in gorgeous antiques and delicious pastries – a perfect combination!
Some glimpses of Portuguese architecture – in some ways simple (flat, pastel buildings with white borders), and in other ways hyper detailed and ornate – best seen through their famous tiled homes like these above.
Lisbon has a great artistic side – in random neighbourhoods you’ll find public art – open for everyone to enjoy … this was one of my favourite pieces to stumble upon.
Not on this list is listening to Fado music in the district of Alfama in the evening … Although Lisbon would definitely be the place to do this, we saved that little nugget of fun for our second Portuguese location of Madeira … next up on the blog.