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How to visit Lisbon in one day?

Commerce Square, Lisbon
Commerce Square, Lisbon

Are you planning to visit Lisbon in one day?

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to Lisbon and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

You know the answer: that is impossible. However, what to do when a day is all the time we have to get to know Lisbon? Of course, we will have to make the most of the available time.

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to the city and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

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In this post, I will not include meals or lodgings because I will write about hotels and restaurants later.

Morning

– One monument visit: Jerónimos Monastery – this monastery is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built by King Manuel I in 1502 and it took about 100 years to be built. Is the maximum exponent of Manueline architecture, also known as the Portuguese Baroque.

– One tasting: Pastéis de Belém – as a result of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, in 1834 the convents and monasteries were closed. Was in this context that someone went to a sugar refinery close to the Jerónimos Monastery and put a few cookies on sale, these cookies are today known as the “Pastéis de Belém” and they must be the better worldwide known Portuguese sweets.

– The first walk: Baixa and Chiado – are two typical neighborhoods of the city and good representatives of the society of 18th and 19th centuries. Start by the view from the Viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara and walk downhill until the Camões Square and after this walk along the Garrett Street and end at Rossio. It is certainly a beautiful journey through Portuguese Romanticism and also a good opportunity to visit Baixa (downtown), the neighborhood that was built after the great earthquake of 1755.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 1 of 2

– The second walk: Alfama and São Jorge Castle – Alfama is a medieval district and has been inhabited since the foundation of the city so it is here that we can find the oldest buildings in the city. Walking through the narrow streets of Alfama and observing its inhabitants is to know the typical Lisbon. Start your walk at the São Jorge castle and hence find the Miradouro das Portas do Sol from where we can see the roofs of Alfama, the quarter where we will walk until Terreiro do Paço.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 2 of 2

Note: using a city map will help you making sense of all these names I’m mentioning.

Afternoon

Having walked in the morning, for the afternoon I will suggest more cultural moments for the afternoon, so I will propose a Museum and the Oceanarium visits.

– Museum of the City: it was easy to propose a visit to the Museum of Ancient Art (Museu de Arte Antiga), which is the most common suggestion you will find in terms of visits to museums. However, I believe this Museum, being an excellent Museum, does not offer something unique to those visiting Lisbon, here you will find excellent pieces that could be in any major European Museum but not necessarily Portuguese pieces. So I will propose a visit to the City Museum, a small museum, whose collection is not something extraordinary but has the particularity of being a very nice space and the collection is Portuguese, this is a truly Portuguese space.

– Oceanarium: is the second largest aquarium in the world which is by itself a sign of being something that you can hardly see elsewhere and has an extensive collection of marine creatures. It is located at Parque das Nações, which is an ideal area for a late afternoon beer and to end the active day.

After dinner

The visit to the city will not be complete without a stroll through the area of nightlife where you can have a drink and hear some music.

Of course, there are several areas in the city where this may happen but without complicating too much the explanation I would say that is in the Bairro Alto where you can find more diversity of bars.

Personally, I love bar “Pavilhão Chinês” (Chinese Pavilion), one of the most beautiful bars I know.

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Have fun in Lisbon.

David Monteiro

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Accessing to the right photo spots for photography in Lisbon

Almada is located on the south bank of theriver Tagus in front of Lisbon, Portugal

Accessing the right photo spots for photography in Lisbon

For a travel photographer, accessing the right spots for photography is often a problem for many reasons, and in Lisbon it is not different.

It starts by needing to know where are the best spots for your photography style and how to get there but is it doesn’t end here.

Depending on your photography style you might want to access areas where it can be more fruitful to be accompanied by a local.

Being for safety reasons or just because a guide can take you to where you will be mingling with the local folks away from the touristic areas, using this kind of services is a possibility to consider.

Situations that one takes for granted at home can be very different in another town or country.

A simple example is considering Lisbon to be an interesting city to photograph fishing boast just because it stands by the sea. Perhaps it is but where to do it and when are questions to consider.

Also, there is the “time” constraint factor to think about. So many places to go and so little time available.

As a local photographer, I’m offering tours for photographers depending on their specific or general interests.

If you are spending a couple of days in Lisbon or in the surroundings as you may well know, that is not too much time to photograph so you better take the most of it.

Give me a call and let me know what kind of assistance you might need.

Check my photography tour here.

David Monteiro

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Bicycle ride near Lisbon – Portugal

bikes001

Bicycle ride near Lisbon – Portugal

A wonderful bicycle ride always looking at Lisbon on the other side of the river Tejo (the Tagus).

Lisbon is crossed by the river Tagus. One can’t imagine the city without thinking about the river as well.

But, like being part of the city it acts also like a barrier, not very often we think about the other side, with the exception of those that live there and have to cross the river to Lisbon to work.

For those who live in Lisbon, like myself, we look to the river and what do we see? “The other side” … well not just the other side of the river, you have to say it like with Darth Vader voice … yes you get it right.

In fact, for most of us, we just don’t think much about it.

But … I started to wonder what if I design a bike trail connecting two of the several ferries that crosses the river to the “other side”?

Well, one of the ferry goes to a place called Montijo and another ferry connects Lisbon to Barreiro.

So I did it.

I started to investigate single dirt trails, way from the roads as much as possible and closer to the river banks.

The result was a 38 Km trail, very beautiful, pretty flat and with a lot of interesting and unexpected nice views over Lisbon.

After doing it with customers I also did a small video to share here.

Enjoy the ride.

David Monteiro

Location: Montijo, Portugal

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Visiting Sintra – what to do/visit?

sintra-006-portugal

What to do and where to go when visiting Sintra.

Facing the dilemma of having too many options when having only one day to visit Sintra? Let me give you a hand.

Sintra is internationally known for its deeply romantic environment by its palaces that seem to have come out from a Walt Disney fairy tale. Actually, they tell very real stories and they are also carriers of our past until present days.

Please check: Romanticism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism

Every time I go to Sintra I have the fantasy of imagining elegant 19th-century gentlemen strolling along the streets of Sintra with their mistresses (yes, mistresses) carrying small umbrellas that one can never know if they were meant to protect their holders from the sun or from some indiscreet looks. At the evening, for tea or for dinner, the secret couple receives at their chalet the gentleman’s best friend and his adorable lover.

I believe that this lover’s net is part of the Portuguese who soon learned to enjoy the works of Eça de Queirós, a Portuguese writer of the 19th century that wrote a famous novel called “Os Maias”, among many others, and we had to learn about it during high school. Also, Sintra’s warm summer together with the haze that often hangs on these surroundings, are elements that help to create this mystical and romantic environment.

Walking in Sintra is effectively immersing yourself into the romantic atmosphere of the 19th century. This century was so important to Sintra that I cannot imagine how this place would be like without the events that happened during the 19thcentury, to better explain myself I list some important events occurred during that period of time:

– 1808: the signing of the Convention of Sintra which put terms to the first French invasion

– 1808: Lord Byron stayed in Sintra

– 1838: Ferdinand II acquired the convent of Nossa Senhora da Pena (actual Pena Palace) and the Moorish Castle

– 1858: Major rebuilding works on Monserrate

– 1887: Lisbon-Sintra train line was inaugurated

– 1892: barons of Regaleira sold Quinta (farm) to António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro.

In this very synthetic list we can see important references to buildings/monuments considered today as great monuments of Sintra and events that are closely linked with the romantic image we have today of this village, as an example please notice the time spent in Sintra by Lord Byron the author of a famous version of Don Juan and many other works that promoted Sintra as a romantic village.

In 1992 the cultural landscape of Sintra was classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO and this was also another crucial step to Sintra’s promotion. Nowadays Sintra is a “must see” place when considering a travel to Portugal.

Sintra is not far from Lisbon. Is less than one hour by train from Lisbon, taking the train at Rossio train station, right in the Centre of the city. The train is a very simple, fast and economical way to reach this village as opposed to driving that can turn to be annoying because sometimes is difficult to park or even to arrive at the historical center of Sintra.

When in Sintra, please go to the Tourist Office, the employees are incredibly friendly and very professional. They will show you many options for your day.

The great difficulty will be: what to select considering to have an only half day or one day?

Well, being this a blog of walking is also a blog of cultural options as well. Anyway, is probably expected to find here some information’s about walks in Sintra. I am sorry, but the walks in Sintra hills and woods do not fascinate me as much as the monuments that are a must see of beauty and diversity as also I love the walks in Sintra village as well.

I know that most of the Portuguese people you will talk they will refer the walks in Serra de Sintra (Sintra’s hills) but, believe me, Sintra’s monuments or village you won’t find them anywhere else.

There are so many to see and not having all the time in the world, what to select?

I do not know what to answer because it depends on what each one loves to see but I will try to summarize the most important things of each place for those who have between half a day to one day to spend here.

The focus will be on the following monuments/places: Pena National Palace, Sintra National Palace, Moorish Castle, Quinta da Regaleira and the village Sintra itself.

Please forgive me for leaving out other spectacular monuments but a selection had to be done.

The time it takes to visit a monument will depend on the interest for detail, the background history, and many other elements. One photographer can take easily half an hour in a place where a relaxed walker will stay only for a few seconds.

However, there is a general idea of the time it can take visiting each site and is what I will refer to during this post.

I am not going to detail what we can see in the monuments because you can find plenty of good information on the internet. I will give you a general idea of you can expect to visit each place and the time it will take to visit so you can better organize your time.

Pena National Palace

We can divide the space in two: the Palace and the Park.

The Palace takes between an hour and a half to two hours to visit and another hour to the Park.

The Palace, despite its existence, while chapel that contradictory sources point to the end of the 14TH century and others for the 16th century, is in the 19th century that begins the construction of the spectacular monument we see today. The interior is like a fairy tale, full of color, full of nooks and a fabulous example of a moment built in a certain time in History when wealthy families began to receive guests at their home and give more value to socialization. Also, major changes were happening in the intimate dynamics of the family life – the architecture of the palace was quite innovative at the time in what family dynamics were concerned.

D. Fernando II bought a former convent and built the Palace from the convents structure. He was the regent king, married with queen D. Maria II. We were born in Vienna, Austria.

The Palace is the vision of a foreigner perfectly fitted to this country with both modern and classic concepts brought from Northern Europe.

The Park is quite nice for a relaxed walk. You will see some lakes, high points that serve as a lookout and a collection of very interesting trees and plants.

Walking in the Park, there is a point not to be missed is the Giant, a statue from where you have a fabulous view of the Pena Palace and the surrounding area.

Sintra National Palace

Is one of the ex-libris of Sintra appearing in many photo brochures, is very easy to recognize by its two huge chimneys. It is located in the center of the most touristy part of the village and therefore, maybe because of that, is also known as “Palácio da Vila” (Village’s Palace).

In addition to being a spectacular place and all its merits, you may want to choose it for more practical reasons: it’s right in the Centre of the village, it is very accessible.

The visit takes about an hour and a half and what I find most amazing in this monument is that during the visit we feel we are in a space that brought to the present days bit of every moment of its existence and, considering that it exists since the 14TH century, with major renovations in the 15th century, we have the sensation of walking through history.

Also important is the fact that it was a Royal Palace, it has sumptuous spaces and full of meaning, as the room of the coat of arms.

Despite the immense beauty of many of its rooms, the kitchen is a fantastic place and maybe one of the funniest sites because we can see inside these chimneys that mark the landscape of the village. At the top of this post, you can see an outside photo of this palace.

 

Moorish Castle

As the name implies, is a castle built during the Moorish occupation period. However, although with not very strong evidence, some people believe that before the Moorish period this place would have initially been holding some Visigoth’s constructions.

With a military objective, is located in the highest area of the outskirts of the town and, as such, we can have a great view from the top of the Castle, providing excellent photos being the Pena Palace, perhaps, one of the most photographed spots from here.

Is a medieval castle and so a Spartan environment and their wall and towers are what is there to see. A visit to the Castle takes about one hour and a half.

Quinta da Regaleira

 I must say that I love Quinta da Regaleira for a good number of reasons. In addition to being an extraordinary monument represents also a dream made reality, a dream of someone who was neither King nor Aristocrat, was a merchant, a living proof that personal fortune can be used to make long-lasting works.

With a ten-minute walk from the historic center of Sintra, you will arrive at this place and the visit takes between two to three hours.

At the end of the 19TH century Quinta da Regaleira was bought by Carvalho Monteiro from the barons of Regaleira and after that, he built this magnificent palace with the technical support of the Italian stage designer/architect Luigi Manini.

For the monuments visits, I strongly advise that the visitors are accompanied by a guide or some information that will guide them. This visit is undoubtedly one monument where guidance will make a huge difference, without it you will not enjoy the charm of a story that seems to have come out from a fairy tale.

Within the Quinta da Regaleira there are many points of interest such as the Regaleira Tower, the Palace, the chapel of the Holy Trinity, the Initiatic Well and the wood.

Is, without doubt, one of my favorite places.

Sintra

 This village presents itself as an exponent of romanticism while urban cluster and is, by itself, an excellent reason to visit. Reserve about two hours to walk in the village. For your guidance and better time management, at the tourist office, you can collect some urban walks leaflet.

Whatever the route you will take, there are some points you should not miss, they are:- Taste the traditional small cakes: “Queijadas de Sintra” (Sintra’s cheesecakes) and the “Travesseiros” (Pillows) – traditionally are sold at the Periquita coffee shop;- Other traditional cakes but less known: “Fofos de Belas”, “Agualvas” and ” Nozes Douradas”

If you are going to have lunch or dinner then look for some restaurant where you can ask the local dishes: “Leitão de Negrais”, Roasted Lamb, Southampton of pork “Mercês” style, Sintra’s Veal or one of the many grilled fish.

Please be aware that the purpose of this post is not to do an exhaustive description of the monuments or places but help you, giving information to help you decide about what to see/do during a visit to Sintra.

About every monument, you will find a lot of literature on the internet.

Enjoy your day.

David Monteiro

Location: Sintra, Portugal