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Europe – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com A Travel Blog by Tara & Michael Wed, 20 Nov 2019 21:25:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://passporttherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-PT_logo_alt-blue-e1499713657443-1-150x150.png Europe – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com 32 32 128707636 2 Week Iceland Road Trip https://passporttherapy.com/2-week-iceland-road-trip/ https://passporttherapy.com/2-week-iceland-road-trip/#respond Wed, 20 Nov 2019 21:25:01 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3654 It’s hard to articulate what Iceland really feels like.  Everything is alive. There are bubbling springs, colorful rainbows, endless waterfalls, active geysers, and a landscape so vast within minutes of starting your road trip you will feel like you have been transported to another world. A lot of people visit Iceland during winter months to catch the elusive Northern Lights but we …

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It’s hard to articulate what Iceland really feels like.  Everything is alive. There are bubbling springs, colorful rainbows, endless waterfalls, active geysers, and a landscape so vast within minutes of starting your road trip you will feel like you have been transported to another world.

A lot of people visit Iceland during winter months to catch the elusive Northern Lights but we opted for the fringe month of October (and we STILL got to see the Northern Lights!) But of course, you can also visit during the summer when the sun almost never sets.  Having access to the “midnight sun” can be a perfect companion for driving the 830-mile Ring Road that circles Iceland.

The adage ‘the journey matters more than the destination’ is nowhere truer than in Iceland. We spent long days driving around the country and slept side-by-side in a campervan. It wasn’t always glamorous, but hey, that’s what makes it an adventure!

Day 1: Renting a Car for Your Iceland Roadtrip

As soon as our flight landed at Keflavik Airport, we headed straight to pick up our bags and then to get our pre-booked campervan with Go Campers. We also made sure to include the necessary camping add-ons (cooking tools, sleeping bags, etc).

Sleep: We recommend either spending your first night in/around the Keflavik Airport or get a head start and drive towards Reykjavik. Make sure you stock up on groceries at one of the large supermarkets in this area because there aren’t too many of them once you set out on your drive.

Day 2: The Golden Circle

Our road trip began by exploring the famed Golden Circle.  The Thingvellir National Park, the site of the ancient Icelandic Parliament, is the first stop on this day. But what fascinated us more was the fact that the tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet at the Thingvellir National Park. The rift is clearly visible and you can actually cross over from one continent to the other.

Next up, the hot-springs area of Iceland. The original Geysir, after which all other geysers of the world are named, is dormant but there are a number of hot springs and geysers in the area. Make sure you wait for Strokkur, the highest Geysir in the area, to erupt while you are there.

The third attraction on the Golden Circle Tour is the Gullfoss Waterfall.  There are no shortages of waterfalls in Iceland and each is more beautiful than the next. Wrap up today’s drive with stops at a couple of other waterfalls – Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss. It’s even possible to take a walk behind Seljalandsfoss really take in its beauty.

Sleep – Sleep at the base of Skógafoss.  Though it was a chilly (and windy) night, there was nothing cooler than waking up to a view of this gigantic waterfall.

Day 3: Glacier Hike and Plane Wreck

We spent this day pursuing something straight out of our wildest dreams. We went hiking on the Sólheimajökull Glacier with Arctic Adventures.
The guides got us prepared with all the necessary gear (helmets, crampons, etc). The next four hours were spent hiking on the gorgeous blue ice of the glacier. We think that this is a must-do for everyone’s trip to Iceland. Make sure you’re wearing warm waterproof clothes because it rains over 200 days/year in this area!

After the glacier hike, drive about 5 minutes down the Ring Road and park because it’s time for another hike (this time on flat land). Though you might be tired, the sight you will see will be worth it. Here you will find the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. It is an abandoned plane that crashed back in 1973 and you’ll definitely get your Instagram fix.

Sleep – Drive about another 2 hours and camp at the Skaftafell Campgrounds at Vatnajokull National Park.

Day 4: Vatnajokull National Park, Jökulsárlón, and the Eastern Fjords

We started our day at the campground and got our blood circulating by hiking up to another gorgeous waterfall named Svartifoss. The hiking trail to the waterfall is a quick, about 2 miles, and starts at the visitor center. Make sure to stop along the way because you’ll see many opportunities to snap some photos.

Pack up the van and start heading towards 2 glacier lagoons. The first, Fjallsárlón, is smaller but had some pretty amazing panoramic views.  But for us, the highlight of the drive on Day 4 was the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. It is one of Iceland’s most visited landmarks and a necessary stop on this road trip. There are a number of floating icebergs at this huge lagoon that is surrounded by black volcanic sand. Here is where you can truly understand why Iceland is called “The Land of Fire and Ice.”

Hop back on the road and hit up the little fishing town known as, Hófn.  They’re known for their langoustine (lobster) so treat yourselves and devour it along with some local beer made with glacier ice and Arctic thyme. Delicious.

Now prepare to wrap they say with a 4+ hour drive through the Eastern Fjörds.  For us, the end of this drive got a little sketchy when we hit gravel roads winding around cliffs and sheep crossing the road at every turn.  But we survived! (Note from Michael: Huge potholes, sheep darting across the road in complete darkness, and me at the helm. Good practice on the stick shift. Tara has eagle eyes and yelled out “sheep!!!” As I slammed on the brakes barely missing 2 sheep and a black ewe.) The adventure never ends!

Sleep: After a long day, set up camp in Egilsstadir (known as the capital of East Iceland). Make sure to bundle up because this was easily the coldest night of our trip.

Day 5: North Iceland and Myvatn

Wake up early and hit the road to start the long drive from East Iceland to the North and as one friend put it, the “Lake Tahoe of Iceland.” Fill up your gas tank before heading out (trust us).

Trying to hide how cold we are in this photo!

Lake Myvatn is the 4th largest lake in Iceland, it is said to have more species of ducks than anywhere else in the world. It was about a 140 km drive from the last gas station in Egilsstadir to Myvatn, and we only had a half tank of gas. We also took a detour to Detifoss, the largest waterfall in Europe (although not as visually stunning as Gullfoss in our opinion). When we visited, a storm rolled in. This will likely be a recurring theme for your time in Northern Iceland, as well. Because of the crazy weather, we hoofed it 10 minutes to the waterfall, took our selfies, and attempted to absorb the natural beauty in the least amount of time possible. And then we hightailed it back to the car!

At this point, you will start a whirlwind tour of stops around the Myvatn area. Hit up the geothermal plant and visit the Viti volcano that has a lake in the middle. Walk around boiling mud pots, sulfur springs, and fumaroles that featured turquoise mud and an intense smell of millions of rotten eggs called Hverir. 

Finish off your evening at the Myvatn Nature Baths. This luxury geothermal spa has panoramic views of the lake and surrounding area. Plus, it’s much less touristy than the famed Blue Lagoon. We spent about two hours here relaxing and soaking in the hot springs while indulging in some craft Icelandic beer.

Sleep – Camp in the Myvatn area. 

Day 6: Dimmuborgir

After camping on the lake for the night, wake early for a day of hiking. Spend the morning hiking around Dimmuborgir. Dimmuborgir is home to the Yule Lads (13 mischievous trolls who torment children for 13 days before Christmas). Thousands of years ago it was a lake that was covered in lava from the nearby volcano. As air pockets escaped, spires of lava were formed, leaving a really dramatic hiking experience through 20-foot high lava towers. It felt like Grendel’s home from Beowulf.

After Dimmuborgir, visit the geothermal hot spring where they filmed a scene from Game of Thrones. It was the location where Ygritte deflowers Jon Snow. Then get those legs ready to hike about 90 minutes to the top of a nearby volcano. Once you’re at the top, you can also walk the rim.

Once it’s time to rest your legs, hop back in the van and head to Husavik, a famous whaling town in Iceland (about 45 minutes north of Myvatn). Grab some food at a local restaurant and book a whale watching tour for the following day.

Sleep: In Husavik

Days 7 & 8: Husavik and Akureyri

Get up early for a morning of whale watching. Unfortunately, we had such bad weather and our whale watching tour was canceled. But we have heard this is not to be missed so book if you can!

After the whale watching tour, it’s time to head towards Akureyri. We decided to treat ourselves and book a cabin for a couple of days after a week of living in a camper van. And boy was it worth it! On our first night, it was storming, but our cabin had its own personal geothermal spa on the deck, shielded from wind and rain. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine from our spa as we looked out on the rocky bluffs and snow-capped mountains. This area is so picturesque, with open green fields and a white farmhouse with red roofing. We have one more night here before hitting the road for the final 2 nights of our driving tour.

Sleep: Sleep in the Akureyri area. We slept at Ytri Vik cottages (heaven on Earth). This is a good place to stock up on groceries for the remaining duration of your road trip because Akureyri has quite a few large supermarkets and restaurants.

Days 9 & 10: West Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a fairly long drive away from Akureyri. A majority of our ninth day was spent driving through snow-clad roads, gurgling streams, and woodlands. This route is lined with idyllic fjords – Grundarfjörður (a small town that even the orcas love to visit in winters) is so peaceful that it deserves a mention on any itinerary of Iceland.

We spent Day 10 driving around the  Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  Make a stop and go for a short hike up the Saxholl Crater.  This is a fun walk but it can get pretty windy, so be extremely careful.  Next up, visit the Hellnar Arch, a natural rock formation comprised of basalt sheets. The rock arches over a lagoon and it is populated with dozens of screeching birds. Have a meal/coffee/beer at the cafe right opposite the Hellnar Arch as you soak in the beautiful views.

Kirkjufell Mountain

Another option for food is the Kirkjufell mountain. This famous mountain is the highlight of a drive around the Snaefellsnes area. Pack a picnic and enjoy it next to the waterfall by the Kirkjufell mountain. So idyllic!

Sleep – Sleep in the Snaefellsnes/Grundarfjörður area. 

Days 11 – 14: Reykjavik

Now it’s time to head back to Reykjavik. This can be bittersweet at the end of your long Icelandic road trip.  While you have access to more restaurants and overall civilization, there is something to be missed about the adventure of the open road.

Our favorite coffee shop!

We made the most of our time in the capital by going out to dinners (we recommend treating yourself to a meal at Kopar), reading at coffee shops (we love Reykjavik Roasters) and of course, visiting the famed Blue Lagoon. But the most memorable part of this trip was getting Dry Suit (scuba) certified!

We have been scuba certified for some time now and absolutely love doing it whenever we travel. So Iceland was not any different (except for how FREEZING the water is). So we decided to get Dry Suit certified with DIVE.IS. The course consisted of a pool dive and two open water dives in Silfra, meaning you get to dive between the tectonic plates that separate Europe and America! This was a truly memorable experience and we are happy we did it, but man, I don’t think we’ve ever been so cold in our lives! So remember to keep that in mind if you’re thinking about giving it a shot!

Sleep: We stayed at a local Airbnb while we were in Reykjavik but we noticed quite a few hotels being built while we were here. So be sure to check out what makes the most sense for your budget.

As you can tell by the length of this post, we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent in Iceland. As seasoned travelers, we often get asked what our favorite country is and truthfully he dread that question because we have been to so many amazing places.  But if we are being honest, this has to be one of the best trips we have ever taken. Even though it is getting more and more touristy,  if you’re contemplating a trip to Iceland – go for it!.

For another fun road trip idea, check out our post on Croatia!

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From Zagreb to Dubrovnik: A Road Trip Through Croatia https://passporttherapy.com/from-zagreb-to-dubrovnik-a-road-trip-through-croatia/ https://passporttherapy.com/from-zagreb-to-dubrovnik-a-road-trip-through-croatia/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 15:51:29 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2480 With gorgeous sea views, tasty wines, lush national parks, and castles featured in Game of Thrones there is no shortage of reasons to visit Croatia.  To experience everything Croatia has to offer we highly recommend taking a good old-fashioned road trip. Croatia is a small country with really well-paved roads which makes this type of trip super easy.  In fact, …

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With gorgeous sea views, tasty wines, lush national parks, and castles featured in Game of Thrones there is no shortage of reasons to visit Croatia.  To experience everything Croatia has to offer we highly recommend taking a good old-fashioned road trip.

Croatia is a small country with really well-paved roads which makes this type of trip super easy.  In fact, you could drive the coast in a day if you wanted, but that’s no fun.  So, below we have laid out the spots we hit on our own Croatian Coast adventure.

Zagreb

The capital city of Croatia is an easy place to start your trip, especially if you are flying because Zagreb has an international airport.  We used rentalcars.com to book our car, but check the fine print as each rental company has different fees for one-way trips, ranging from 20 euros a day to a $180 one-time fee.

We did not stay more than a day in Zagreb as we were eager to hit the road, but there are a few cool things to check out if you have time. One such place is St. Mark’s Church with its colorful tile roof.  There are also some lively restaurants on Tkaliceva street where you can grab a beer and sample the local fare.  Mike recommends the Cevapi, which is a grilled plate of minced meat sausages served with onion or potato.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice scenic beautyPlitvice National Park from afar

A two-hour drive from Zagreb, this place is a must.  Made up of 16 lakes connected by multiple waterfalls, it is a UNESCO site that seems straight out of a postcard.  Fair warning, however, as this place does get packed with tourists.  After leaving Zagreb, we stayed a night in a guesthouse close to the park so that we could get up early and beat the day-trip crowds coming from neighboring cities.

Check the park website for detailed information on hours and pricing as it varies depending on the time of year.  But don’t worry, there is plenty of parking right by the entrances so you will be fine to bring your car.

The park has multiple walking trails, varying in length. Expect to spend about 4-5 hours to really immerse yourself.  If you go in the summer, make sure to bring a water bottle to combat the heat, but leave your bathing suit behind because there is no swimming in these lakes.

Lastly, we recommend packing yourself lunch. There are a few restaurants scattered throughout the park, but nothing beats a picnic under the shade of a tree with views of a waterfall, right?

Zadar

Port of ZadarThe seafront steps of Zadar CroatiaChurch of Zadar

According to Alfred Hitchcock, Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, so who are we to argue?  We awaited the sunset by relaxing on the steps of the Sea Organ, which creates music from the sea waves and wind.  A stone’s throw from the Sea Organ is the Sun Salutation, another creation by Croatian artist Nikola Bašić.  A 22m-wide circle set at the far edge of Zadar’s old town, from sunset to sunrise it uses solar and waves energy collected throughout the day to create a light show meant to simulate the solar system. Incredible!

We found the prices in Old Town expensive, and after high season, many restaurants close down.  However, we managed to have an enjoyable meal at Taverna Bonaca.  Bonaca is solid, homestyle cooking, but the real star is its high-energy owner who brings a flair for life that is infectious. 

Sibenik

Sibenik Old Town alley wayHarbor of SibenikSibenik Game of Thrones Iron Bank

We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Šibenik. We selected it primarily due to its proximity to Krka National Park. However, we ended up enjoying our day in the sleepy old town.

A hilly and small old town, Šibenik has some amazing historic forts with great panoramic views. St. Michael’s Fortress, at the top of old town, is now an outdoor theater for summer concerts. From the top of St. Michael’s, you can see Barone Fortress on an opposite hilltop, overlooking the city. If you turn your gaze to the entrance to the Šibenik Channel, fans of Game of Thrones may recognize a familiar scene. Šibenik’s skyline and Old Town were exterior shots in season 5, and the channel entrance is where the Titan of Braavos was placed. 

We only spent one night in Šibenik, but if you want to see Krka and Kornati National Park, you will need at least two nights. We, unfortunately, didn’t have time to visit Kornati, but it came highly recommended by our Airbnb host. Kornati is a dense archipelago of 140 islands that are only navigable by small boats, making Šibenik one of the best towns to reach it.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park Skradisnki BukIf you were not able to stop off at Plitvice, or you just need another dose of nature, then add Krka National Park to your list.  The main attraction is the great waterfall Skradisnki Buk. During the summer months, visitors can even jump in the water at the base of the waterfall to cool off.

You can enter Krka from two locations, one in Lozovac and one in Skradin.  Lozovac is located 10 km from Šibenik.  It is the more common entrance, but you will need to park your car and take a bus to the park.  If you continue driving a bit further, you can visit the small, picturesque village of Skradin, 20 km from Šibenik. From Skradin, you can take a boat to the park, or walk a 3 km path along the river.

Entrance to the park is dependent on the month, but expect it to run anywhere from 110.00 – 180.00 kn.

Split

Harbor of Split

Split is the 2nd largest city in Croatia and the largest in Dalmatia. Its history is complex and varied. Founded as a Greek settlement, it gained historical significance when Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in the city. It has since spent time under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, the Hapsburgs, and the Republic of Venice. This diverse history may have been the reason Split felt unique compared to all our stops on this road trip. 

Our favorite bar was Marcvs Marvlvs Spalatensis Library Bar, a perfect representation of this cities modern life and ancient history. The building is the birthplace of Marko Marulić, the revered father of Croatian Literature, and located within Diocletian’s palace. The renovation was overseen by conservationists, so much of the interior architecture dates back to the 15th century. And while the building is ancient, the mood inside is definitely not.

If you want to get away from the crowds, head over to Park Marjan. A little hillside forest with amazing views, it is a great area to spend a morning walking around. There are jogging trails and a few beaches you can walk down to as well. We’d recommend bringing water, as there weren’t any shops in the park, and was quite warm, even in October.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik King's Landing Shame StepsDubrovnik Beach

No trip to Croatia is complete without a jaunt to King’s Landing.  We were so excited to see where Game of Thrones was filmed that we even went on a Game of Thrones tour throughout the city.  But even if you are not a GoT buff, like we are, the city has an undeniable magic with so much to offer.

A walk around the ancient walls is a must.  Best to do it early in the morning not only to beat the heat but also to avoid the crowds of tourists coming from the cruise ships.  And for the best view of the city, take the cable car ride up to the top of Mount Srd. We went during the day but we heard that the sunset from up there is pure magic.

We also attempted to avoid the throngs of incoming cruisers by taking a day trip to Lokrum Island. It is an easy 15-minute ferry ride just off the coast of Dubrovnik.  The island has walking trails, a botanical garden, and rock beaches to enjoy.  Not to mention, there are wild peacocks and rabbits everywhere! Believe us, you will want to take one with you.

And for those that want to do something active, we had an amazing time kayaking in the Adriatic Sea.  You can find many tour groups to go with and most will supply a lunch.  This was one of the highlights of our trip so we would highly recommend it!

This is where our road trip in Croatia ended, but you could easily continue to Montenegro from Dubrovnik. Kotor, Montenegro is another UNESCO world heritage site and is only a scenic two-hour drive south from Dubrovnik.

 

Considering the French Riviera? Check out: How to Spend 3 Days in Nice

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How to Spend 3 Days in Nice https://passporttherapy.com/spend-3-days-nice/ https://passporttherapy.com/spend-3-days-nice/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 12:10:45 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2421 So you want to visit the French Riviera?  Well if you’re like us (meaning you don’t own a mega-yacht) you might be thinking this area is out of your price range. Well lucky for you, our short weekend travel guide details a way to visit without completely destroying your bank account.  Head to Nice, and either use it as your …

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So you want to visit the French Riviera?  Well if you’re like us (meaning you don’t own a mega-yacht) you might be thinking this area is out of your price range. Well lucky for you, our short weekend travel guide details a way to visit without completely destroying your bank account.  Head to Nice, and either use it as your base to explore the surrounding area or just relax and see what this charming city has to offer.

Day 1: Old Town

Back alleys of Nice, FranceWe stayed in an Airbnb in Vieux Nice, better known to English-speakers as Old Town. This area is winding maze of shops, restaurants, bars, and ice-cream parlors. We definitely recommend staying in this neighborhood.  It has an old world charm that you won’t find outside its walls.  In fact, it is more reminiscent of old Italy due to the history of this city.

Speaking of Italy, there is no shortage of pizza joints in this town.  If you get hungry, check out Pizza Pili.  With a large menu of pizza options, all at 7 Euros each, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  Another must-try while in Nice is socca.  Made from chickpea flour, olive oil, and water, this batter is then put into a tray and baked in an oven until nice and crispy.  To taste this local delight, head to Lou Pilha Leva and order it with a bottle of rosé.

If you are looking for nightlife, Old Town is teeming with bars. Most of the restaurants stay open until midnight, the bars serve until 2 am, and for the real night owls, the clubs stay open until after 5 am!  Michael and I have recently realized that we can no longer handle those super late nights (shit, we’re old) but we do love listening to live music.  If you’re also into that scene, check out Wayne’s, but be forewarned, it will get crowded!

Day 2: Beach Day

 

Nice, a lovely city on the French RivieraBeach club with wonderful day beds

It would seem crazy to be in the French Riviera and not enjoy the beach, right?  We opted to splurge on daybeds at one of the local beach clubs.  You’ll quickly realize that the beaches in Nice are not sandy, they are rocky.  As you can imagine, this is not super comfortable to lay on so it was worth it for us to have a bed to lay on.

If you do decide to go this route, take a walk along the promenade and decide which club to go with.  We landed on Beau Rivage, which cost us about 20 Euros each for the beds along with a sun umbrella.  We heard that the food there is quite tasty, but we opted to just sip rosé and sneak in our own snacks to keep our budgets somewhat intact.   

Day 3: Day Trips

Mountain views from French RivieraPanorama of Nice, FrancePathways of Exe, FranceHidden alleyways of Exe France

We lucked out by staying with one of the coolest Airbnb hosts.  He offered to drive us around the surrounding area and give us a little tour.  All he asked was that we help cover the cost of gas.  Amazing!  No chauffeur, no problem. You can hop on a train or take the Bus 100 to Monaco, where you can ogle at the glitz and glamour of casinos, Bentley’s and mega-yachts. Noteworthy places are the Palace, the Oceanographic Museum, and the cathedral where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier rest.

On the way back, check out the medieval village of Eze, which appears to have grown out of the rocky mountainside. It is unbelievably charming while also offering up some unbelievable views. 

Alternative options include visiting Cannes (where the famous film festival is held), taking a boat ride to one of the islands off the coast, or even heading over the border into Italy!

If I’m being completely honest, I really do not think three days is long enough to spend in the French Riviera.  I left feeling like I only got a taste. But the reality was that our timeline was too tight.  I guess that means we will have to back again someday!  Until then, I will continue to drink copious bottles of rosé while figuring out how to make socca at home.

 

Love the open road? Learn about our Croatian road trip here

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8 Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss in Lisbon https://passporttherapy.com/8-experiences-you-shouldnt-miss-in-lisbon/ https://passporttherapy.com/8-experiences-you-shouldnt-miss-in-lisbon/#comments Mon, 16 Oct 2017 07:41:33 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2382   As you’ve probably noticed, Portugal is having a moment. Tourism is booming and it is easy to see why given its beautiful beaches, historical architecture, and delicious food. Its capital, Lisbon, is no exception and is now experiencing a wave of new hotels, restaurants, and museums, making it the perfect place to visit on your next trip to Europe. …

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As you’ve probably noticed, Portugal is having a moment. Tourism is booming and it is easy to see why given its beautiful beaches, historical architecture, and delicious food. Its capital, Lisbon, is no exception and is now experiencing a wave of new hotels, restaurants, and museums, making it the perfect place to visit on your next trip to Europe. Below is a list of 8 things we recommend to guide your perfect Lisboa getaway!

Ride Tram 28

If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, then no doubt you have seen photos of the iconic yellow tram. While it is touristy, the 28 line takes you past some of the most notable areas in the city including Graca, Baixa, Alfama, and Bairro Alto making it a great way to get your bearings upon arrival.

Given that Lisbon is full of hills, we recommend taking the tram up to the top of Alfama and then walking down its hill in order to explore that neighborhood further. But remember to get on earlier rather than later before the tram gets packed. It usually starts running about 7:30 am and should cost you less than $4 for a ticket.

Eat a Pastéis de Nata

While seafood may come to mind as a national dish for Portugal, the true icon is the pastéis de nada which is a small custard tart. These babies are delicious and can be found practically everywhere in Lisbon. But be warned, not all are created equal. The original ones are found in the Belém district at Pastéis de Belém. Expect to stand in a long line, but know that the prize at the end is definitely worth it. Another great choice, with a much shorter line, can be found inside the Mercado da Ribeira at Manteigaria. This version is a bit creamier and is usually fresh out of the oven, making it hard to eat just one!

Spend a day in Belém

Belém is about 6 miles west of central Lisbon and is accessible via a metro stop of the same name. After arriving, start your morning at Pastéis de Belém so you are fueled to explore the many notable monuments in this neighborhood.

Close by the pastry shop, you can stroll by the Belém Palace, which is the official residence of Portugal’s President, before continuing onto the Jerónimos Monastery. This church, built in the 1500s, is the resting place of explorer Vasco de Gama and is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Next up is the Belém Tower, which is situated along the Tagus riverfront. Built in the 1500s to guard the entrance to the harbor, it has become the city’s icon and is also a UNESCO heritage site. Continuing along the river, you will also notice the Discoveries Monument. Built in 1960, this site celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.

You may notice that these sites draw many tourists and as a result have very long lines. If you’re like us, you aren’t willing to stand in the heat with hundreds of people. Fortunately, we were able to enjoy most of these sites from the outside, while also taking a lovely stroll along the Tagus riverfront but decide for yourself how you wish to explore this area!

Eat a Meal (or Two) at the Mercado da Ribeira

I should start off by saying that this place is a culinary mecca, so come hungry. This market is

full of food stalls, which have all been carefully curated by an independent panel of city experts in order to bring its customers the best of the best in Lisbon. There is a mix of quirky food fusions along with classic Portuguese dishes so there is something for everyone. And of course, you can find plenty of libations to wash it all down with!

 

Spend the Night out in Bairro Alto

While the cobblestone streets may seem quiet by day, at nighttime they come alive. Bairro Alto is packed full of funky cafes and bohemian watering holes and a night out here is not complete without witnessing a Fado performance. Fado is traditional Portuguese folk music and is melancholy by nature. Their performances are always very passionate and are made even more emotional by the intimate environment of a small bar completely fixated not the singer.

A couple of spots to check out one of these performances are A Tasca do Chico and Adega Machado.

Take a Day Trip to Sintra

If you want to step outside the city and experience something that can only be compared to a fairytale, then make Sintra a must on your itinerary. This village hosts huge castles and ancient palaces set amongst a backdrop of lush greenery, which is no doubt what helped it gain a UNESCO site certification.

To reach Sintra, you need to take a train from the Rossio station and we recommend getting on the first one out because this place will get packed quickly. On that same note, avoid going on weekends if you can.

The star of the show is the colorful Pena Palace, which was built to be a romantic getaway for Queen Maria II and her husband. With its location atop a hill, you can take in the breathtaking views of the region. Other notable sites include the National Sintra Palace, the Monserrate Palace, Castle of the Moors, and the Quinta da Regaleira.

 

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Visit the LX Factory on a Sunday morning

One of the coolest spots in Lisbon has to be the LX Factory. Originally an industrial site for a fabric company back in 1846, it has been converted into a venue for creative businesses.

On Sundays, this area hosts a flea market where you can find vintage and local designer clothes, handmade crafts, and plenty of food.

While there, you should not miss the Livraria Ler Devagar. Hailed as one the most beautiful bookshops in Portugal, it is an Instagrammer’s dream. Not only beautiful, it does also sell books (who knew?!) so it can be a wonderful spot to take a break and sip some coffee.

Watch the Sunset from a Miradouro

At least one of your days in Lisbon should end at one of the many viewpoints (or miradouros) in the city.

Two notable options are the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte (Graça district) and the Miradouro do Adamastor (in the center of the city). Complete this setting with a glass of wine and you have the makings of a perfect evening.

 

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