This is a big and busy day – hope you’re ready! After breakfast at our hotel (it seems a Portuguese breakfast consists of fruit, yogurt, watered-down juice, tons of different cakes and pastries and ‘bacon’ that looks like ham), we took the metro downtown to our tour group meeting point. We had booked to go on a We Hate Tourism tour called ‘X-Day Trip’ which takes you out of the city to the surrounding areas. Originally we were thinking of attempting this on our own but after researching they seemed like a pretty fun company to do it with. Briefly – We Hate Tourism offers tours around Portugal (most being day excursions) and they are more of a querky/eclectic company which appealed to us over a traditional coach company. If you check out their site (I linked it above), you can see how it has doodle-esque graphics and lots of word puns/sarcasm which I personally love.
Our guide was called Marcos and we were going round with him and three other couples of people. Right away it was a very relaxed atmosphere and everyone was talking in the truck and it felt friendly and open. We drove out of Lisbon to the hills of Sintra (which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and right away it felt like we were entering a fairy-tale town with mountains of trees and buildings that looked like rural castles. Our first stop was at a cafe to try a ‘queijada’ aka a Portuguese milky tart thing haha. Bar that hideous description it was delicious and a nice morning treat. From there we walked up a beautiful path to the National Palace which is pretty much in the centre of Sintra. Around it are cute, cobble streets with little shops and classic Romantic buildings. We were free to walk around for half an hour and explore! (FYI – The photo of our van below is to just show some of their humour and the stickers/mottos on it).
From Sintra we drove a little outside to Quinta de Regaleira which is a romantic palace with an insane estate/garden. There are several acres of stunning architecture on the grounds with winding cobbled paths, underground tunnels, waterfalls, lakes, bizarre tropical plants and trees galore! Wandering around it feels like you’re on a sci-fi/fantasy movie set and it really was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The inside the palace is very beautiful as well and pretty traditional compared to the wilder outside. On the tour we were free to roam around for a good hour or so and get truly lost in the paradise.
This here might look like a cave but it actually is where the spiral stairs are which lead down to an underground tunnel. In order to get in there you have to pull a door aside and it felt very Indiana Jonesy/detective. The tunnels then lead to different points but we opted towards the waterfall and stepping stones. Visiting this place was a true highlight and our favourite part of the tour. When we did our initial research we didn’t come across this place so I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem – now you know though!
From there we went to a nearby park for a picnic style lunch prepared by the driver. It consisted of red wine, cheese, bread, olives and chorzio – yum indeed. Not a very heavy lunch but I guess that’s due to all the snacking you do along the way!
Boy this is a long post! Then we headed to the most western point of mainland Europe – Cabo de Roca. It was a brief stop here just for photos and to say ‘I’ve now been to the most western point’ haha. The cliffs were steep but seeing the aqua water lap up against the side was really cool. It was a full on sensory experience and overall very peaceful. If you look out at the ocean and point then you’re basically pointing at Richmond, VA.
After that was an ice-cream stop and we ate it by the beach in Cascais (which was a big tease as the water and sand there looked amazing). By now it was late afternoon and we had a ‘longish’ drive back to Lisbon (where most of us fell asleep in the van) but first we stopped off in the Belem area. It is in the western part of Lisbon about fifteen/twenty minutes from downtown and is the location of the famous Belem Tower. How Paris has the Eiffel Tower and NYC the Statue of Liberty, the Belem Tower is the ‘symbol’ of Lisbon (minus their famous rooster). We got to see the Belem Tower and then walk along the promenade to Padrao dos Descobrimentos (which is a large monument for the Age of Discovery). From there we crossed the road through the Belem Gardens to the Jeronimos Monastery. It is of late gothic architecture and insanely busy! Along with the Belem Tower, they are both World Heritage Sites and definitely worth checking out. It all probably just sounds like names of places but there are pictures below which definitely help haha.
Our tour ended with Marcos giving us all a pastel de belèm – aka the most famous pastry in all of Lisbon. It’s an egg/custard tart that you can find in any store (even the airport) but apparently this particular one from this particular shop is the crème de la crème. It was crunchy on the outside with a cinnamon and sugary topping and the inside was very creamy and sweet – without a doubt the best treat of the day.
It was now around four in the afternoon and we got dropped off downtown so decided to wander around. Lisbon is the perfect city to walk around in and get lost for hours – there’s something to see around every corner. We ended up walking along the water and arrived at Praça do Comércio aka a beautiful square that had set up a big screen for the world cup.
Our day ended by heading to the Eduardo VII Park to watch an England world cup game. Typically we lost but the atmosphere was really positive and everyone was up for a good time. It was a relaxing way to end an already long and tiring day. Writing this post and realising how much we did on this day has blown my mind haha. The next day was definitely less full on but still a great one – coming Wednesday!
PS – I’d 100% recommend We Hate Tourism as everything was super relaxed and enjoyable. It was nice not having to think about planning or transportation and without them we definitely wouldn’t of been able to experience a majority of those things. If you want to know more just let me know!