We didn’t spend much time in Lisbon except for a day and 2 nights in total there as we wanted to go to Sintra as well and were short on time. Nevertheless, we saw what we wanted to see so no complaints. Unlike Porto, Lisbon gets very hot so be prepared to carry plenty of water, hat, and sunscreen if traveling during Summer/early Fall.
We took the train from Porto to Lisbon and back. As with Italy and pretty much all of Europe, tickets are cheaper if booked early as opposed to buying them at the station. However, tickets between Porto and Lisbon are only available for purchase 60 days before your travel dates.
Departure Station in Porto: Campanhã
Arrival Station in Lisbon: Rossio or Santa Apolónia
Buy tickets: Comboios de Portugal
Train Operator: Alfa Pendular (AP) or Intercidades (IC)
Duration: 2hr 50min with the AP or 3hr 15min on the IC
If you’re staying in São Bento area in Porto, you need to catch a local train to get to Campanhã. Its less than 10 min ride and the cost of this segment (to and from) is included in the Porto <-> Lisbon ticket price so you don’t need to purchase an additional ticket or use your Andante card.
We took both the AP and IC trains between Porto and Lisbon based on availability for the dates and times we wanted and didn’t see a noticeable difference between the two other than the fact that the AP trains are 25min faster than the IC trains. Be prepared for the confusion on which train car to get into as the number on the outside of the cars did not match the ones printed on our tickets. Just make sure you ask the platform attendant (one with the uniform) as soon as you get there as the trains don’t stay on the platform for too long. There were actually several people almost half way into the journey still looking for their seats!
Buses and Trams are usually very crowded and don’t stop at the in-between stops if they’re full. Metro is also crowded, however, they do stop at all stations. Uber is very affordable compared to US prices so this is your best bet. Although with taking ground transportation, you’re at the mercy of traffic.
If you choose to use the public transit, you will need a Viva Viagem card (1 card per person) to get around. You can also get a 24hr pass that will cover your trip to Sintra (as long as you make it to Sintra and back within the 24hrs – otherwise, you need to purchase an additional return ticket). The Viva Viagem card is valid for travel on:
- Buses, trams and funiculars operated by Carris, including Tram 15 to Belém, Tram 28 (unlike the scammy Porto tram), and Lisbon’s three funiculars – Ascensor da Bica, Ascensor da Glória, and Ascensor do Lavra. You can also use it on the Elevador de Santa Justa street lift.
- All lines on the Metro.
Since we didn’t have much time in Lisbon except the 3/4 of the day we arrived, we found that Rossio station was close to some attractions we wanted to see and it also had luggage lockers. So we got off at Rossio station (on the train from Porto) and went in search of the said lockers. Unfortunately, the lockers in Rossio were full but there was a sign on the wall that said there were additional lockers at the Praça Martim Moniz. After what should’ve been a 10min walk turned into 30, looking for the elusive lockers (due to lack of signs anywhere on the streets or when you get to Martim Moniz), we found them in the underground parking lot and dumped our two carry on bags in a medium size locker for €6. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to store your bags at the Martim Moniz lockers, I’ve linked the approximate location. There are stairs next to what looks like an elevator that take you down to the underground parking. Once you get to the parking level, you’ll see signs to the luggage lockers.
We rented a fabulous 1Bed/1Ba thru BnBird on Avenida Dom Carlos I (right on the edge of Bairro Alto and Lapa neighborhoods) with gorgeous views of the Ponte 25 de Abril (the Golden Gate Bridge of Lisbon) from every window of the house! Like in Porto, one of the concierge met us in person, let us in and showed us where stuff was and how everything worked. For the two nights we stayed, we mostly ate home cooked meals at our apartment except for a few not-worth-mentioning lunch places. Unfortunately, the Largo Conde Barão (which was like 2 min walk from our apartment) was closed to traffic for construction so our public transit was lots of painful walking (wish we’d figured out Uber sooner!)
Things to Do
- Castelo de S. Jorge: These are ruins of the Moorish castle. It also has a museum and a cafe. We bought our tickets at the entrance although you can buy them online as well. You get gorgeous views of Lisbon and can see as far as the Ponte 25 de Abril on a clear day. We walked up from Martim Moniz (after dropping off our bags) and waiting almost 30min for the infamous yellow tram to take us up there. We never did see a tram pass us the entire time so it was a good thing we didn’t waste more time.
- Praça Dom Pedro IV: This is an open plaza. Not much to see except for the statue of Pedro IV and fountains. Also the famous Confeitaria Nacional bakery is right there. Ride the famous yellow tram 28 or the tram 22 like we did from stops across the plaza. Unlike Porto, tram tickets are covered on the Viva Viagem. Be prepared for long lines to get into the tram!
- Torre de Belém: The famous Belém tower was the last place we wanted to see in Lisbon. Our rental was on the way to Belém so it worked out perfectly (definitely not a coincidence!). Word of caution, the trams don’t stop at subsequent stops if its already full. So in our case, we had to take the tram line 15E to get us to the Tower from Santos tram stop. However, two trams went past without stopping as they were full. Fortunately for us, we were able to take the bus (728 or 729) there. Once you get to Belém, you need to take the footbridge to cross Av. Brasília to get to the Tower. The Belém tower is a military fortress with Moorish watch towers that was built to defend the port along the Tagus river. You can visit the artillery and go into the watch towers. Once you’re inside, the steps to get to the watch towers are very narrow so it’s one-way entry timed by a terrible UI stop clock. So be prepared to encounter more chaos while each person tries to interpret the countdown clock in different ways. On the way back, don’t forget to stop at Pasteis de Belém where you can find the best Pasteis de Nata in Lisbon.
Stuff to Avoid
Public transit is a mess in Lisbon. Uber was really cheap (like €5 from Time Out market to Santa Apolonia train station) so you’re better off taking those instead of waiting for buses/trams/metro which are always packed!
Anecdotally while we were buying the Viva Viagem at the Rossio Metro station, most of the ticket machines were broken – there were no ‘out of order’ signs or anything, it just wouldn’t process the transaction after you went thru the whole thing. And also the lines were long. So everyone in the previous ticket line had to go to the back of the other machine line. One of the locals tried to jump the new line and when someone told her to go back to the end of the line in English, she got super aggressive and started yelling at everyone in English saying all the tourists were ruining her country by going there referring to the over crowded public transportation, lack of infrastructure and such.