I have not been to Lisbon since 1993. Therefore, I was full of expectation about my recent trip. During 24 years Lisbon has changed, which it is bound to. Euroland has seeped into the culture. It is not as 'Portuguese' as I remember, but it is still a great place.
The main difference is the amount of tourists that have discovered Lisbon. I certainly do not remember a long queue outside the Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos, the main church is still free to get in and there is no queue. Well worth a visit. Vasco da Gama and the poet Camoes are buried there. I remember the wonderful Sintra as being a quiet haven. Now it is full of tourists, some days they are overbearing. I had my traditional brandy and coffee in the Hotel Bristol. I struck up a conversation with a nice Portuguese lady behind the bar who spoke fluent English. I said I was shocked by the large numbers of tourists there. She said I should have come on a busy day !
Below I have created a mini guide, the traditional guides have a lot of information, but where does one start?
(1) Tram No. 28 this is a good way to have a cheap look at the city. It will take you to most places on its route. It will be covered by the Lisbon travel card. Pick the point where you get on it and the time, it can get busy in peak season.
(2) Sintra A maze of winding streets and things to see. Palacio Nacional de Sintra( looks like a couple of cooling towers). Museum of Sintra arts. Parque da Pena, a big park that surrounds the Palacio da Pena. Castello do Mouras(Moors Castle) great views from the castle walls. Quijadas da Sintra - cheese tarts spiced with cinnamon, famous. There is quite a bit to see in Sintra. Twenty-five years ago it was quiet, now it has suffered a tourist infestation. It is still worth a visit but be careful of restaurant touts.
(3) Stations: Rossio to Sintra(takes about 40 minutes) Rossio and the Metro Restauradores is your first hub. From there you can walk to the Praca do Comercio(watch your bag ! there is petty theft). Jump on a tram(Electrico) or walk to the Cais do Sodre. This is your second hub. From there you can get a tram(Electrico) or train to Belem. The Metro is the best way to get around.
(4) *Belem* one of my favourite places. The *Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos* is spectacular. The Botanical Gardens are also worth a visit. Not far from Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos is the *Monument to the Discoveries* and the *Torre do Belem*(Belem Tower) both are a must see. Belem is the home of the famous custard tart; Pastais da Nata. Return to hub 2 Cais do Sodre(train or tram).
(5) *Cais do Sodre* Trains to Cascais(seaside !) A ferry to *Almada* for the best and cheapest fish restaurants. Have a plate of Caracois(snails) with your beer. There are some good restaurants in and around Cais do Sodre. Especially the Churrasqueira, grilled chicken. Since about 2014 'Time Out' has taken over an old market and converted it into the 'Mercado da Ribeira'. A food hall with many restaurants, bars and cafes surrounding an open area of wooden tables and seats. Quite an eclectic variety of food is offered. It is a bit like Covent Garden in a way and attracts a similar amount of tourists. Modern International Lisboa.
(6) *Rua Garrett* I used take a tram up the hill(Rua do Alecrim), the trams no longer follow this route, I walked ! This this road then becomes Rua Miseracordia, there on the right is Rua Garrett. In this street is the 'A Brasileira' coffee shop. Outside on a bench is a bronze statue of Fernando Pessoa, the famous writer and poet. Go in for a coffee, that is where he wrote ! Be careful of the tourist prices. On the left is the Chiado area. Another tourist trap, interesting, but compare the food prices. Café Brasileira charged me 6 euros for a glass of Bagaco, it is cheaper than water !
(7) Elvador da Santa Justa From Rua Garrett it is a short walk to the Elvador da Santa Justa. Passing the Igreja(Church) do Carmo on the way. An interesting structure built by a student of Eiffel.
(8) *Castelo Sao Jorge* not far from the interesting lift is the castle on the hill, where great views of Lisbon can be seen. In the distance one can see the Cristo Rei, statue of Christ. Similar to the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. You will notice the statue on the way to Belem. Below and around Castelo Sao Jorge is the *Alfama*. Old narrow streets full of history.
(9) Gulbenkian Museum Further out, it can be got to by the Metro. Praca de Espanha station. An excellent museum.
I have tried to keep this travel direction as simple as possible. There is so much to see in Lisbon. If you focus on the two hubs of Rossio and Cais do Sodre, you will not go far wrong. The Metro and tram system are very useful. Cascais is a nice place to visit although a bit touristy, you will pass through the Casino resort of Estoril. If you don't want to walk, there is plenty of public transport. I haven't recommended any restaurants, as many of the small family run businesses are really very good. Just notice how popular they are.
I have put a star against the must see places.