“What was your favorite place?” I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked this question since our most recent Europe trip.
Well, folks, Portugal was our favorite. (Paris was a very close second!)
Before I start explaining why, I want to share a little bit about our overnight train adventure. The last time I took an overnight train in Europe, it caught on fire. Yes, that’s right, fire.
I was with two friends heading from Italy to Vienna, and we were woken up at 3:00 am to flashing lights, a rancid smell, and train employees yelling at us in German. We frantically grabbed our passports and got off the train. While we sat on benches in an abandoned train station, the conductor inspected our car and determined that it was ok for us to grab our belongings and switch cars.
Thankfully, we made it safely without another problem the rest of the trip. But that experience was a bit traumatic, so I wasn’t looking forward to another night train.
Cardin, on the other hand, was so excited! (Although, I think he was just happy that our hostel experience was finally over.)
We splurged for a sleeper cabin, which was surprisingly great! The only problem was we didn’t realize they turn off the train’s heater during the night. So once again I was woken up at 3:00 am, but this time it was to Cardin climbing into the tiny bottom bunk with me because he was freezing. His heater search in the dark was unsuccessful, so we assumed there wasn’t one.
As we packed our bags the next morning, I noticed a giant blue button with the word “heater” on it. You can see it in the picture above over the window. We couldn’t help but laugh! At least this time we had to deal with ice instead of fire—I may not be the best person to travel with on an overnight train though.
After my hearing declined two years ago, my sense of smell strengthened. I have a very low tolerance for all things stinky. As much as we loved Lisbon, our first impression as we exited the train station was that it smells.
Thankfully after a few hours, the smell went away…or we may have gotten used to it, and in reality, it smelled that way the entire time. I prefer to think the garbage disappeared.
Once our noses recovered, we quickly became obsessed with the tiled walls! Or at least I did, which is how I ended up with several hundred pictures of them (don’t worry, I won’t make you look at them all). Seriously though, why don’t more cities look like this?!
Along with the delightful tiles, Lisbon is also known as the city of seven hills. The entire place is one hill after another, which adds to its charm and helped us work off all those pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tart pastry).
Below is the famous 28 tram for people wanting to avoid walking up and down so much.
We arrived in Lisbon early Easter morning, so after walking around for a bit, we went to the Igreja da Sao Vicente de Fora for mass. The entire service was in Portuguese, so we didn’t understand anything, but it definitely made for a unique Easter experience!
After church, our Airbnb was finally ready for check-in. The apartment was by far the cutest place we’ve stayed! Plus it was located in Alfama, the oldest and most charming district of Lisbon. The pink patio is officially on my wishlist for our future home.
Once we settled into our Airbnb, we explored the city for a while. We loved all of the wall art, which adds to this city’s colorful reputation!
Our hosts recommended a nearby lunch spot called Cruzes Credo. I ordered pork hock on fried polenta, and it was one of the best meals we had on our entire trip!
The next day we headed to Belém, another well-known area of Lisbon. We tried to visit the Jerónimos Monastery, but sadly it was closed for Easter Monday. The outside was beautiful though!
Next, we walked over to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (above) and Belém Tower (below). Both were massive, beautiful monuments! Belém Tower is also in the cover photo for my post “Coming Home,” which you can read HERE.
Belém is the home of Pastéis de Belém. Egg custards are everywhere in Portugal, but this place makes the BEST ones! They serve them with packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon, which tastes great, but we’re not quite sure how you’re supposed to pour it on without covering yourself with toppings. Cardin’s jacket now has a permanent layer of powdered sugar!
For lunch, we went to the Time Out Market. After going to so many markets in Spain, we weren’t eager to go to another one, but we’re glad we did! It felt a little touristy, but the food was gourmet compared to our other market experiences. Portugal is known for grilled octopus, which happened to be the daily special at the Marlene Vieira stand. It was delicious! Another stand was serving grilled octopus hot dogs, but we weren’t quite brave enough to try that one.
After lunch, we walked around the Praça do Comércio. A half-naked man dressed as a Native American was posing on the brown box in the picture above, so I waited for him to go on break before taking this picture.
Below is the most beautiful public elevator in the world! Elevador Santa Justa was created so people could quickly access the upper neighborhood without climbing the strenuous hill. It costs the same price as a subway ticket, but it had a long line. We decided to walk up the terrible hill to catch the view of the city rather than waiting in line. On our way back down, we noticed another normal looking elevator. We decided to try it, and it ended up taking us into a jewelry store right across from the Elevador Santa Justa! And it was free!
Portugal is also known for a cherry flavored liqueur called Ginja. We went to the famous A Ginjinha for the first shot, but we happened upon a market serving it in chocolate cups on our walk home, so of course, we had to get a second one! It was delicious, but I think my favorite edible shot glass is still the chocolate covered cone we had in Madrid (which you can read about HERE).
If you saw my post on Instagram, then you already know about the amazing time we had in Sintra celebrating our seven years (dating) anniversary! Based on the recommendation of a girl I met in the bathroom at our hostel in Madrid, we decided to tag it on last minute, but it was honestly the best day of our entire trip!
The city is full of palaces and ruins, which made the whole area feel like a beautiful playground. We started at the National Palace of Sintra, which is known for the two massive kitchen chimneys.
We took a lunch break and ended up at a cute Portuguese restaurant known for their wine selection. Our waiter was great and said we had to check out the Quinta da Regaleira. We had read about it online but had planned on skipping it, until our waiter convinced us to go.
I’m not sure if it was the entire bottle of wine we had at lunch or if this place is just that amazing, but the only thing I can compare it to is an enchanted garden. From hidden caves to moss covered wells, it’s simply magic! We had a map, but we just kept walking and happening upon another amazing spot. Our favorite thing was standing at the bottom of “The Initiation Well”—mostly because when else are we going to be able to stand at the bottom of an old well?
Our next stop was the Moorish Castle. After a few days of walking up hills, the stairs at these ruins ended up being a hilarious challenge (again, the wine may have played a part). It was also extremely windy, so almost every selfie we attempted ended up with us covered in my hair.
We haven’t visited the Great Wall of China yet, (don’t worry, it’s on our list), but this castle certainly reminded us of it!
The last stop of the day was Pena Palace. The colors alone are enough to make this place stand out! It felt like the castle of our childhood dreams!
Also, I had to share photographic evidence that I was able to touch the ceiling for the first time in my life!
Out of all the places we visited this trip, Portugal surprised us the most! Everything is so colorful and unique; it’s going to be hard to beat!
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