Arriving for our Lisbon Tour
Our Lisbon Tour began with a late morning flight to Portugal from our Amsterdam Layover and purchased a transfer from Gate 1 Travel to the Hotel Mundial downtown. The hotel is located on Prada (Plaza) Martim Mortiz. The local bus system would a better choice the next time around, because it’s inexpensive and very efficient too. With the next day and a half free we began our own personal tour.
The first afternoon we walked to the Lisbon Cathedral and we walked down the Rua Augusta pedestrian street, through the Triumphal Arch into Commerce Square. We had dinner on Rua Augusta, but I recommend trying the restaurants off the main tourist routes for a more authentic experience. As a pastry lover, I soon realized the any time of day is the best time to buy baked desserts in Lisbon.
Full Day Independent Lisbon Tour
For our full pre-tour day, we joined friends and covered the classic locations of Lisbon. We bought an inexpensive day pass at the subway station at Plaza Martim Mortiz. It covered the buses, the trams, most funiculars and the Justa Elevator. We started on the 28 tram and rode it through the Alfama district and across town to the opposite end of its circuit. Then we caught a bus and rode it to Restauradores Square. Next we walked to the nearby Lavra funicular and rode it up and back down the hillside.
Then we crossed to the opposite side of Restauradores Square and took the Gloria funicular up to the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint. From there we wandered the hill top area known as Barrio Alto. We visited the Church of Sao Roque. When we reached the Santa Justa Elevator, we rode it back to the bottom. What a fun way to see the town of Lisbon and it costs less than $10 a person for all the rides.
Gate 1 Travel Bus
Our first day of the Gate 1 Travel tour, we boarded the Gate 1 Travel bus. I can’t rave enough about how nice this bus was. The smooth ride and comfortable temperatures were above expectation, but the free wifi on board was a luxury. During long drives, you could post pictures, chat with friends back home and watch news and sports on YouTube. It’s a new and exciting twist to bus travel. Gate 1 Travel rotated seating daily, so there was no competition for seats each morning.
Gate 1 Travel Lisbon Tour
First we visited the Cathedral Lisbon. Then we walked down the narrow streets of Alfama, through the narrowest street in town. After re-boarding the bus, we passed Commerce Square. Then we visited the Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries. We also stopped at the Jerónimos Monastery to quickly view the building and the gardens.
Half Day Sintra Tour
In the afternoon we took the optional tour to Sintra. We stopped in the picturesque seaside town of Cascais for lunch. Most of us in the group immediately started thinking about returning to this spot some day for an extended retreat from winter. At the local restaurant I feasted on large sardines that were served whole and eaten like the locals do, without utensils. Next it was on to Sintra National Palace. The tour of the palace, though it was interesting, lasted far too long for me. In hind site, I should have abandoned the guide tour and taken one of the open top taxis to quickly also visit the remains of the Moorish Mouros Castle on the hill top and nearby Pena National Palace. Our bus was too large to also use the roads to these two areas.
That evening we hiked the steep streets of Lisbon from our hotel up to the St George’s Castle. The views over the city as the sunset and the lights came on made for an unforgettable experience. It was one of the highlights of Madrid.