Lisbon has recently emerged as a popular travel destination due to its beautiful architecture, beach access, and the fact it is relatively affordable. When we visited Lisbon, we stayed in Cascais, which was about a 30 minute train ride to Lisbon. Typically, we enjoy being in the heart of the city when we are in Europe; however, our location worked out perfectly. Cascais provided us the opportunity to easily access Lisbon; however, it also allowed us to spend time just relaxing at the beach. We tend to be quite busy whenever we visit Europe because we are attempting to see as much as possible, but Cascais helped us to actually just stroll along the beach, try some local food, and enjoy the scenery.
Cascais is a town along the beach with a relaxed beach vibe. We arrived to Cascais in early afternoon and once we checked in, we decided to just explore the town. Our hotel was only a couple blocks from the beach, but still quite affordable, making it a rather carefree trip. We walked along the boardwalk and looked at various restaurants. The majority of cafes and restaurants along the beach specialized in sea food, which you could be assured was freshly caught. We grabbed some delicious pizza and then walked along the beach. In late afternoon, the sun was out, but there was hardly anyone else on the beach, allowing us to explore and enjoy on our own. We came across some tide pools filled with little fish and sea creatures. Then we just walked along the streets and enjoyed our vacation.
The next day we grabbed an early train and headed to Lisbon to explore. One of the best parts of Europe is simply strolling along the streets and looking at the old buildings. We ventured into the Igreja de São Roque, a Jesuit church from 1590, that has a simple design on the outside, but is quite ornate on the inside. We tend to wander into various churches and chapels, just admire the beautiful artwork and structures.
fter awhile, we headed to Carmo Convent, a former convent with a Gothic structure that was formed in 1389, but was destroyed due to an earthquake. The frame from the church still remains, and visitors can explore the remnants.
Afterwards, we stopped by the Santa Justa Lift, a tower that takes you up for views of the city. Then we walked around the city and explored small plazas.
Then, we ventured to Igreja de São Domingos. The church began construction in 1241 and is a National Monument. Since construction began in the 13th century, the church has large archways and, instead of ornate gold designs and artwork, the church is a little more simple with stone work, but quite beautiful.
We then went towards the waterfront and walked along the Rua da Augusta, a walking street to the Archo da Rua Augusta, a detailed archway.
After crossing under the archway, we reached the Praça do Comércio, a large plaza. The plaza is right along the waterfront, so we walked along the old port and just enjoyed the beautiful buildings and scenery.
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed another dinner right on the beachfront, then spent the evening walking along the beach and listening to the sound of the waves upon the shore.
The following day we headed back to downtown Lisbon and went to Padrão dos Descobrimentos, also known as the Monument to the Discoveries. Both sides are filled with different explorers.
We then wandered a bit further down the waterfront to the Belem Tower. The tower was a medieval fort that was constructed in the early 16th century, and visitors can still go to today.
Afterwards we headed to Jeronimos Monastery, a former monastery of the Saint Jerome order that began construction in 1495. The monastery is quite large so, unlike some of the other places we visited, we spent quite a bit of time roaming about and exploring the architecture. There is a church in the monastery as well that has an incredible stained glass window.
Next, we went to the National Coach Museum-a museum full of stage coaches. The museum is actually an old palace, making the building itself something to explore. The stagecoaches range from small, simple coaches pulled by a single horse, to elaborate stagecoaches that were covered with artwork and gold decoration. We spent a while in the museum and enjoyed exploring both the building and the history of the stagecoaches.
Then we went to the Lisbon Cathedral, a well-known cathedral that has quite stunning architecture. The cathedral has a variety of architecture, including Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque, since it began construction in 1147, but wasn’t completed until the 14th century. The church is primarily exquisite stonework and has two incredible towers that look similar to a medieval castle.
We then just walked the streets and made our way up to a phenomenal overlook.
The next day we hopped on a boat and went across the bay to Almada, Lisbon. Almada is where the Christ the King statue stands tall and overlooks the city of Lisbon. The statue was built because the city of Lisbon pleaded to God that Portugal would not be brought into World War II and, since they were spared, the statue was built. The statue faces the city of Lisbon and is similar to the Christ the King statue in Rio, with a chapel underneath the statue.
We both enjoyed the boat ride over, and it gave us the opportunity to see the city of Lisbon, as well as the 25th of April Bridge. The bridge resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, because it was in fact designed by the same architecture company.
After our venture to the Christ the King statue, we went to São Jorge Castle. The large structure stands atop a hill overlooking the city of Lisbon, making it obvious why this location was chosen as the site for the castle. Fortifications could be found on the hill since the first century BC, when the Romans ruled the Iberian Peninsula. Visitors at the castle can still see some of the remnants of this fortification. The large structure visible from the city, however, was a Moorish construction that dates to the 10th century. When Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula, they also utilized the castle. Visitors are able to wander around the grounds of the castle, learning about the different functions that the castle served and the layout of the castle. The castle also offers expansive views of Lisbon, the best views we found of the city.
Our last full day, we went to the Lisbon Zoo, also known as the Jardim Zoologico. The zoo is in north Lisbon, a bit further from the rest of the typical tourist attractions, but still easily accessible by train. Thus far, the Lisbon Zoo is one of our favorite zoos. The zoo has a nice variety of animals, and it has a free cable car that runs over the entire zoo. We enjoyed the cable car so much that we rode it several times. Also, the zoo was not very crowded, so we were able to leisurely make our way around the zoo.
After the zoo, we returned back to the hotel and enjoyed our last evening on the beach. We had an exquisite dinner, including some incredible local wine. The next day we headed back to the United States. Our location provided us with the perfect opportunity to enjoy some relaxation along a beautiful beach and the take a short train ride to explore an incredible city full of history and beauty.