3 best things about Lisbon: pastries, parties and castles

So if I were to sum up my trip to Lisbon in three words, they would be pastries, parties and castles. Of course there was much more to my long weekend in the capital of Portugal. But these are the three things that stuck out the most during my time in the yellow and pink city. I had an absolute blast and have to return one day. Lisbon is one of those cities where a weekend simply is not enough. It’s also one of those capital cities that’s very easy to get around in. While I also love Madrid, Madrid to me feels like New York city. It’s big and you have to take public transportation everywhere. Lisbon, however, is different. You can easily walk from one place to another.

And so …

1. The pastries

I was so pleasantly surprised with the pastries in Portugal. I mean Spain has the typical stuff. Portugal, however, has some unique pastries. I tried two during my weekend in Lisbon.

Pasteis de Belem

best things in Lisbon

Think baclava but better and without that burnt taste. These were so amazing that I went and bought three more to-go. Mmmmmmmmm.

Travesseiro de Sintra

travesseiro de Sintra

We stopped in this little coffeeshop called Casa Piriquita and enjoyed this lovely pastry. It has a sugary-almond filling. It was also amazing.

Confession: I kind of want to go back to Portugal just for the pastries. And I’d take like 20 back to Spain with me.

2. The castles

You may already know this, but I love castles. Perhaps it’s because I’m an American and we just don’t have many or any in my country. I love exploring old ruins and castles. Fortunately, Europe is full of many. During my stay, I explored two.

São Jorge Castle

best things in Lisbon

My favorite thing about this castle is the view. It sits up above the entire city. And I swear, Lisbon perhaps has one of the best city views I’ve ever seen. I love how all the colors sort of intertwine together. And also the waterfront is not a bad addition to the city view.

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It is amazing to me how far back this castle dates. The first fortification was built in the year 48 B.C. Like what? That is crazy long ago. It stands up on a hill that has historically been inhabited by all sorts of people groups: Celtic tribes, Greeks and many more. It was most recently a Moorish castle. The Moors were a people group from Northern Africa who has inhabited parts of Southern Spain such as Granada, the city that I live in.

It was a Moorish castle until Portugal’s first king captured it in 1147. Much of the interior has been destroyed over the years. Now it is a place you can visit and enjoy some wine in. And the streets surrounding the castle have all kinds of shops and restaurants. It reminds me of the streets leading up to the Alhambra in Granada.

I loved all the big, open spaces. It was crazy the amount of space that the castle had.

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And a few more shots ..

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I loved walking around the top of the castles. The views were awesome!

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Sintra

This is a must-see part of any Lisbon trip. In fact, if I were to do it over again, I would even stay in a hostel or hostel in Sintra for one night.

What is Sintra? Well it’s this little town next to Lisbon with all these old castles. It used to be like a little escape from Lisbon as the climate up in Sintra is cooler and more green than Lisbon, which can get rather hot during the summer months.

best things in Lisbon

best things in Lisbon

The tour

My hostel, Destination Hostel, actually offers tours out to Sintra. You can check out all of their tours here (there are other ones too). They take you out there in a van, show you around the little village and take you to one of the castles. On the way back, they take the long route, stopping at Cabo de Roca (the Western most point in all of Europe) and then along the coast back into Lisbon. It’s definitely quite the day. You can also take a train out to Sintra from Lisbon city center.

First, we took a little stroll through Parque da Liberdade. Portuguese is so similar to Spanish when read and yet different when spoken. And this is just one of many examples of that. All during my trip, I’d just listen to people in my hostel speak in Portuguese and try to see if I could understand. That also can be very frustrating as a Spanish-speaker. You’re like “I can kind of understand but I cannot form the words!”

Anyway, so the park …

best things in Lisbon

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Next we wandered through the town stopping at various points of interest, eating pastries, drinking coffee, tasting wine and tasting different meats and cheeses. Apparently if you look at this long enough, you see the wheels turning. At least that’s what our tour guide told us. And if you can’t see them turn, you apparently need glasses. Apparently I have better vision in one eye than the other, according to my eye doctor I went to as a kid. I HATED wearing glasses and I remember telling my mom “well I’m just going to try really hard out of my good eye!” And I guess that became my life because I don’t wear glasses …

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best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon

Quinta da Regaleria

This was an amazing castle and gardens to visit. It was full of little surprises here and there. There will little pathways leading to this or that. You’d walk through a cave and end up next to a waterfall.

The castle was originally owned by a wealthy Portuguese family from Porto, a large Portuguese city only a few hours from Lisbon. The owners changed hands throughout the years. In 1997, it was acquired by the Sintra town council and now it is what it is today. You can tour it for 6 euros.

best things in Lisbon

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best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon best things in Lisbon

If you would like to read more about all things Sintra, click here.

3. The parties

My hostel organizes two pub crawls: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. They take you up to Barrio Alto where you roam from bar to bar. My favorite thing is that people just congregate in the street. You can totally just carry your drink with you. But you have to drink it before going into the next place.

Those of you who follow my Instagram story got a good run-down of both pub crawls. Let’s just say there’s one of me singing “Wonderwall” very very badly. At the time, I was excited. “I said maybe …. you’re gonna be the one that saves me …”

So instead  will leave you with some photos of Barrio Alto in the early morning.

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29 Comments

  1. The castles are one of the biggest reasons why I want to visit Lisbon because I am obsessed with history. Oh and the custard tarts? Your right they are delicious x

  2. Lisbon has been on our list of places we’d like to travel to for a while now. How much fun would it be to visit a castle? Oh if only the walls could talk .. they’d have amazing stories to tell!

    1. Yes they all do have amazing stories to tell and there are so many over here to visit.

  3. i’m going Lisbon this summer so thanks for all the info – It looks beautiful – i love the look of the old Castle. And the portuguese custard tarts look amazing!

  4. Lisbon is on my bucket travel list, such a beautiful town with a rich history! The castles look simply magical and the pastries are simply finger licken!

  5. I’ve never been to Portugal before but this looks great, I did not even know they had a castle. The villages look wonderful as well as those delightful pastries

  6. pastries and villages everything looks so cozy and homely. need to visit this place. great post and amazing pictures, cheers

  7. Thank you so much for this great article. I am going in November and cannot wait to see and eat everything listed here. The pastries look insanely amazing. Thanks for getting me soo excited!!!

  8. I honestly had no idea that Lisbon was that stunning! The castle looks amazing. I am going there at the end of June this year to see a friend. Your post has made me even more excited about going 🙂

    1. Yeah I had no idea either! But it for sure is not to be missed! You have to make sure you save a day just to go out to Sintra.

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