Lisbon, PORTUGAL – a hidden European gem not to be missed. This marked the third visit since 2011, and every time we return it’s a unique experience. Below are the adventures from traveling via bus from Sevilla to Lisboa, vacation with Mom, and Dmitriy and my long layover back to the US for Christmas break.

Our Stay – 2 days/ 2 nights (long layover)


Airbnb – we loved our cozy studio apartment in Chiado  – the neighborhood between Bairro Alto and Baixa Pombalina.  Let’s be real, we really chose this place because of the rooftop patio.


lison aibnb
7:00 AM Winter Views
rooftop lisbon


A Padaria Portugesa – Portuguese Bakery –  a tasty place to grab a quick breakfast local pastry or sandwich.

Tip: Try the Pão de Deus (God’s Bread) – a delicious sweet fluffy coconut bread with powdered sugar on top.

Mini Bar Teatro – a modern take on tapas by local chef José Avillez. Open Monday-Saturday from 7.00 pm onward, we ate our last dinner here. The tapas are extra small, but the atmosphere and experience is worth the trip. Highly recommend – check out their cocktails!

mini bar sign

Cantinho do Avillez – Portuguese cuisine (again, José Avillez…there’s a theme here) with a romantic atmosphere. My favorite dinner!  Pictured below: mushroom risotto – salted caramel mousse and deconstructed cheesecake

Café Lisboa – local Portuguese cuisine, chef José Avillez. Best to have reservations – we tried to eat here for lunch, but there was no availability.

Xapuri Bistro – tried to dine here but it was closed due to the holiday, heard great things!

Pizzaria Lisboa – amazing pizza and pasta! A lunchtime favorite.

Belcanto – Two Michelin stars – local Portuguese cuisine inspired by Chiado district

Pasteis de Belem – this is a MUST! It is the original bakery where “nata cakes” are made. Check out the Jerónimos Monastery then head over for a sweet treat. Don’t be fooled by the nata cakes in town..they aren’t the same.

belem street

Check out Casa Nostra (Bairro Alto) and Esperanca da Se (next to Se Cathedral, candlelit ambiance) for amazing Italian restaurants = great for dinner! Head over to one of many Fado Houses after dinner and enjoy traditional Portuguese music and have a night cap.


São Jorge Castle – get a complete view of Lisbon from the top of the castle. I always recommend making this one of the first stops in your visit to help set your bearings.  The walk is quite lovely on the way up the hill. Stop into shops along the way to pick up some homemade souvenirs. My favorite are the trivets made from Portuguese ceramic tiles.

sao j view
View from the top!
sao jorge
Castle Walls

Se Cathedral  – worth a quick visit on the way to the castle. Tuk Tuk Tejo Tours are set up just outside the cathedral if you want to book a private ride around the city.

Tip: You can snap a great photo in front of the cathedral of the cable cars coming down the hill. It’ll look just like a post card.



Torre de Belem / Belem Tower – served as a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Check out the “dungeon” below where they used to keep prisoners.

torre de blem
Winter 2017
Summer 2011

Praca do Comercio – the gateway into Lisbon – here you will find shopping such as Zara and Mango. We enjoyed a beautiful stroll through the gate to walk off our lunches and dinners.

It is also the location where the Cable Car Tour departs. Grab tickets from the city center visitor’s booth. Tour = 1-2 hrs

Watch Out – stay away from restaurants in this area. Poor food quality and tourist traps.praca do comercio


 Santa Justa Lift– located just past the Praca do Comercio, you can ride this free standing elevator to the top for incredible sea views.

santa justa elevator

Jeronimos Monastery – they claim Christopher Columbus is buried here, however the Spanish insist that he is buried in Sevilla’s Cathedral. Make a day of visiting the Belem Tour, Jeronimos Monastery, and eating nata cakes at Pasteis de Belem as they are grouped in the same vicinity.


If you are visiting Lisbon for 3-4 days, I HIGHLY recommend taking a day trip into the town of Sintra, a 45 min train ride out of Rossio Train Station. Quick and easy to get to..I promise, you won’t be disappointed!


National Palace of Sintra – a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is it the most well- preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal.

Look for the two chimneys at the National Palace

Moors Castle – hilltop medieval castle worth the hike! Look for the tram outside the National Palace of Sintra that will take you up the hill to the entrance. Plan on spending at least 3 hours here. There is a photo opp everywhere you look. Don’t forget your tennis shoes!

moor castle 2moor castle

Pena Palace – after climbing the Moors Castle, stay in the Sintra hills and explore this romantic palace. You can’t take pictures inside because it is still used for government meetings, but I think the real beauty is in its exterior. Fun fact: Pena Palace is named one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

Pena Palace view from the Moors Castle



Monserrate Palace – if time permits, check out this summer resort for the Portuguese court and its extensive gardens.

Planning a trip to Europe? Discover Portugal on the way! TAP Portugal offers a free stopover for medium or long haul flights. Choose your long layover in Lisbon or Porto and stay for up to 5 nights. That’s two destinations (airfare only) for the price of one.

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