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Tips for Lisbon and day-trips in April?

Hello folks,
My husband and I will be spending a week in Portugal this coming April. We have never been to mainland Portugal (apart from a very short time in the Algarve), and would very much appreciate your ideas on what you have found especially interesting to see and do. We have traveled a lot all over Europe, and, at this point, are most interested in getting a feel for the country itself - the land and the people - and going for depth rather than quantity when it comes to seeing sights, visiting museums, and so on. What do you suggest?
Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have to offer!

Posted by
2023 posts

The Gulbenkian Museum is a must see and there is the tile museum which we missed due to it being closed on the day we planned to see it. You can take the train to Sintra ( a UNESCO site) and visit Pena Palace and the gardens there --takes about an hour to get there from Lisbon. Also plan to visit Belem to see St Jerimono Monastery. Looking back at my notes to see where we had lunch the restaurant was Os Jeronimos which was recommended by RS at that time. It was very good and there is the famous custard pastry place which is not to be missed. In the Biaxa area of Lisbon there are lots of restaurants and Bonjardim is well known for roasted chicken--very popular and not sure if we had to reserve.

Posted by
2235 posts

Patricia, I spent 3 weeks in Portugal this past May, including over a week in Lisbon/Sintra. The Rick Steves Portugal Guidebook is very good concerning sites, neighborhoods, logistics, etc. All the guidebooks are currently on sale for 30% off via this web site. I enjoyed wandering around the two oldest neighborhoods of Lisbon, Alfama and Mouraria. These were not destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of central Lisbon, leading to re-construction of the city. At the edge of the Alfama, you will find the unique Fado Museum. There are beautiful ceramic tiles all over Lisbon and Portugal, and I really enjoyed the Tile Museum, including a nice lunch in their garden cafe. On my first day in Lisbon I took and very much enjoyed a “Food and Culture” tour with a great guide. The guide focused on some less touristed places and experiences downtown and then across the river by ferry, with great food along the way. I told him he should become a Rick Steves guide. As for Sintra, it really merits more than a day trip, as there are about five major palaces with estates and gardens, each worth half a day or more. Some great restaurants, bakeries and shops too. I have heard that Monday is the most crowded day in Sintra, since so many people make the day trip on that day when museums tend to be closed in Lisbon.

Posted by
1878 posts

I agree with the Gulbenkian in Lisbon. Also Belem including the monastery with its incredible cloister, the waterfront in that area and perhaps the carriage museum. Get a transit pass and take the Elevador de Santa Justa, there is a plaza near the top with amazing views. Ride the trams too, go up to the castle for more great views. Cascais is a good day trip, as a beach town we found the hotels were over-priced and the one we stayed in was so grungy it almost ruined our visit. I strongly recommend staying overnight for a couple of nights in Sintra, don't just visit on a day trip. Obidos is perfect for a day trip--you can have a great visit in just a few hours--but it might take too long to reach. Rick's book on Portugal was very helpful on our 2008 trip and the current edition would be very useful to you as well.

Posted by
1271 posts

Third vote for the Gulbenkian. Also, it's right close to the Parque Eduardo VII, which is full of Botero statues and fun to wander around in. My favorite way to get around the city was walking (and enjoying the views), but the trams are also fun, and the subway excellent.

Posted by
110 posts

Given your interests and desire to go deeper rather than skim the surface, I recommend spending all your time in Lisbon. I suggest renting an apartment in a residential area where you are more likely to meet locals. Central Lisbon would be OK, as would most of the communities along the Lisbon-Cascais commuter train line. Public transportation is good throughout the Lisbon area. April is a good time to visit, but be prepared for occasional rain and some windy days.
Note that Lisbon has a large number of good quality, small museums where you can see most of the collection in an hour or two. Try an internet search on Lisbon museums - you will find an amazing variety. I highly recommend taking in a fado dinner show in a small restaurant.