In mid-June, I went to Lisbon, Portugal to use up the three days of holiday allowances that would expire before the end of the month; for a mini vacation that I had really needed anyway by that point. This was only my second visit to Lisbon, with the first being … more than a decade ago!
Ten years later, Lisbon has definitely evolved for the better. One metro line has been extended to the airport from Oriente Station, whereas I remember in 2010 I had to take a shuttle bus from the airport to Oriente to catch the metro. Speaking of public transportation, Lisbon’s metro and tram network is more than sufficient for visitors to get around. Only that the trams aren’t equipped with air-conditioner though so on warm summer days (like during this trip of mine), it could get really hot inside.
Lisbon Old Town
That said, Lisbon’s Old Town hasn’t changed much since 2010. For the better, I think, as that means this historical part of the city is well maintained. Perhaps the most important square in the city, Praça do Comércio, is still as nice as it was in 2010. Well, perhaps it is less crowded this time around because of … well, as we are all aware, the pandemic.
Lisbon is also famous for its tram, and I still find the Gloria funicular as cool as I did 10.5 years ago! Haha. The less crowdedness this time around is really nice, though, as I can take a good picture with this cool-looking funicular freely! 😀
Just like in 2010, I decide to visit Belem, a district in Lisbon on the banks of the Rio Tejo, this time around because I did find this area really beautiful back then. I take tram 15 from Praça do Comércio to get there. As it takes about 30 minutes and it is a hot summer day when I go, I feel … toasted in the tram! Haha.
Anyway, I get off at a stop that is the closest to the historical Belem Tower, a historical tower that used to serve as a point of (dis)embarkation for the many Portuguese explorers in the Age of Discovery. I still find this tower really cool, even though, understandable, the size is more on the smaller scale, haha. But it’s understandable considering how old the structure is.
Today is a nice day to stroll along the Rio Tejo in Belem. It is sunny, but not too warm as there is also breeze. Belem is a beautiful district as well, with a lot of beautiful buildings and a nice boulevard by the river. I then reach another landmark of Belem, that is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or the Monument of the Discoveries. As its name suggests, it celebrates the Age of Discovery, which is one of my favorite chapters of World History (Well, no wonder I like to travel, I suppose, haha 😛 ).
Portugal is famous for its pastel de nata, and arguably the most famous one is made by Pastéis de Belém in … Belem, of course! 😀 I actually think about paying a visit after having my lunch, but I then change my mind because I am too full from my lunch, and the bakery is actually quite crowded. Though, I regret this decision a little bit now, to be honest …
One thing I “regret” from my ten years anniversary trip to Porto late last year is that I think I stuck too much to my 2010 itinerary there, where I could have spent some of my time to explore a new area/destination around Porto. And so this time around, I don’t want to make the same “mistake”, and so I allocate one day of my time in Lisbon to go to a new place. Luckily, Lisbon is surrounded by many destinations within reach for a day trip.
And for today, I choose Sintra, a resort town located in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains. The town is easily reachable from Lisbon, with a direct hourly local train there taking roughly 40 minutes one way from Lisbon’s Rossio Station.
Sintra is, indeed, really cool! The small town is really beautiful with many cool-looking buildings and a cute old town. However, the cool thing about Sintra, in my opinion, is actually the many castles/palaces surrounding this resort town. Because I only go for a day trip today, I choose to make my way to one of them, that is the Pena Palace. I ask for information on how to get there at the tourist information center, and I am told that I can either hike for one hour to get to the palace, or take a public bus. Of course I make the sensible decision to go with the bus! Haha 🙂 .
And this turns out to be a good decision because … the Pena Palace is located atop a hill, so a hike there does mean a real hike! Haha 😛 . Btw, the Pena Palace is indeed really beautiful! Not only the castle looks really great, they paint it with different, contrasting colors which makes the castle … super Instagrammable! Hahaha 😛 . Again, I’m lucky that the palace isn’t that crowded this time around so it is easy to take
some many pictures 😛 .
I also buy a ticket to enter the palace (it is a separate ticket from the access/garden ticket). The inside is quite cool, though to be honest it feels typical to the interiors of many other European palaces/castles, haha.
So yeah, it is nice to be able to travel again! And I’m lucky that I get to visit Lisbon this time around, as it has been such a long time since I last visited this city! I’m actually double lucky because about a couple of weeks after my trip, due to the increasing COVID cases there, the Dutch government downgrades Lisbon from yellow to orange! I’m fine, though, as I test myself after the trip twice, and both times I got negative results 😀 .