Back from 10 wonderful days in Lisbon. We rented an apartment in the Alfama area and explored the city and surrounding area.
Here are some observations:
We used taxis several times and found them to be very professional and honest. When arriving at the airport we found a line of about 30 people waiting for taxis at the arrivals area, so we went upstairs to the departures area (as many suggest), crossed the roadway and was directed to the next taxi waiting there.
We found Lisbon to be very safe. As with many large cities, there may be a few people that ask one for money, but they are easily ignored (I live in a large U.S. city and am approached by people asking for money daily on my way to and from work, so I may be more immune to this than others). The eastern side of Praça da Figueira and a few surrounding streets was the only place I saw that travelers might want to avoid at night – it’s a bit heavy with people doing nothing and extra graffiti, but didn’t seem unsafe. At one point one of us left a cell phone on a public outdoor staircase. By the time we noticed it gone and went back a half hour later, we found it still lying there, untouched, even though other people were sitting around and coming and going. The only time anyone was too pushy or rude was when encountering over-zealous restaurant barkers trying to get you to eat at their restaurants. Fortunately, this practice seems mostly limited to restaurants on the eastern streets of the Baixa area and are easily avoided.
I highly recommend the use of the Via Viagem card with zapping. It’s easy to buy from a machine in the metro (follow all directions) and easy to re-fill with more money. The card can be used on trams, subway, buses and suburban trains, so it’s very convenient to hop on one of those when you are tired. You don’t even need to take it out of your wallet to use – just hold your wallet (or card) over the box and a green light will indicate is has the valid fare. We found the subway and trams very clean and nearly free from graffiti. It’s also valid for the ferry from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas and back (a very easy pleasant trip).
We some very nice meals at Restaurante Alpendre in the Alfama area and Real Fábricamore near the Rato metro stop - very friendly helpful service. I would suggest avoiding restaurants with large picture books of their food. You’ll get fed, but that’s about it. There are plenty of options everywhere. We found the practice of having waitstaff bring starters to the table (bread, olives, some spread, etc.) quite nice. The price for these was usually very reasonable and often they were what one would want anyway.
Places to visit:
Aside from the main attractions, we had great visits to:
Tile Museum (great place for lunch) (easy to take a taxi there) http://www.museudoazulejo.pt/
Decorative arts museum (in Alfama area, no English language website)
Aqueduct museum (Mãe D’Água Amoreiras Reservoir – The Water Temple) (found in blog: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/lisbon/mae-dagua-amoreiras-reservoir/) – very beautiful
Cemetery of Pleasures (Cemitério dos Prazeres) - end of line of tram 28
Coaches museum – beautiful setting - http://en.museudoscoches.pt/
Electricity museum (great chance to see all of a former power plant if that interests you) - www.fundacaoedp.pt/museu-da-eletricidade/
Maritime museum – has a great hall with full size boats/ships - museu.marinha.pt/pt/Paginas/default.aspx
We took the train to Sintra, which was very easy and fast. It travels through seemingly middle class neighborhoods the entire way, so I’m not sure why others on Tripadvisor might have had issues with this. In Sintra the 434 bus will take you to the main sites and back. You can buy a single round trip ticket from the bus driver for 5 euros or spend 10 euros on an all-day pass that includes other buses. Be sure to spend the 2 euros for the round trip shuttle at Pena Palace, it’s worth it. We ended up walking from Pena to Moors Castle and then back to Sintra – not very difficult since it’s mostly downhill. If not up for public transit, there are many tour options that leave from Lisbon. Almost no sign that there had been a storm that downed trees last January.
Cascais and Estoril:
We took the train to Cascais, walked to Estoril and then train back to Lisbon. This trip is very easy and pleasant. Lots of nice eating in Cascais. Easy walking along the water was very pleasant after days of hills in Lisbon.