Green Travel in Portugal using Train, Metro, Tram, and your Feet

Ok, we did start by flying from Amsterdam to Lisbon. So technically we did not just do it by train, metro, tram and foot. The flight has a definite impact on our environment (a CO2 amount of 0.677t). Visit MyClimate to calculate and understand your travel impact, and choose an offset.

Since our trip to Portugal was mainly in two major cities, we learned that you don't want a car. Combined with trying to not pollute even more, train, metro, tram and our feet became our designated modes of transport.

This post focuses on how we did travel by public transport, intermingled with sights and other tips.

Travel like Just Been There

Two weeks in Portugal can look like this:

  • Day 1 - Travel Day, train to Schiphol (AMS), flight to Lisbon, Metro, High-Speed to Porto, Metro
  • Day 2 through 5 - Porto
  • Day 6 - Travel to Lisbon by Intercity train and metro (+ some feet)
  • Day 7 through 8 - Lisbon part I
  • Day 9 through 13 - Train to Estoril, Cintra, and Beaches 
  • Day 13 through 15 - Lisbon  part II

Just Been There Art

Look at or buy art inspired by this trip. If you like this trip, but can't go, or you too have just been there, this unique art may rekindle fond memories of your own trip. Click the image for a link to the online store and browse the site for more. Note: you will be leaving this site and connect to the artists site.


Porto in Watercolor by Christine Ong-Dijcks
Porto

Lighthouse at Porto by Christine Ong-Dijcks
Lighthouse at Porto

All art copyright by: Christine Ong-Dijcks

Lisbon Airport - Metro - Train - Porto

Lisbon, and all of Portugal, is easily traveled by public transport. Our KL flight had a scheduled landing at 14:35 at LIS and we did have checked bags! So, we booked the Alpha Pendular for 17:09 from Lisboa Oriente. Assuming your flight lands on time, this is a spacious allotment of time, even when it takes the usual (forever!) amount of time to get your bags. 

That is mainly because the metro is super easy. Leave arrivals, look for the [M] signs or the car rental agencies. They are at the south end of the terminal. Pay your fare and ride for 3 stops to Oriente. This whole thing takes less than 20 minutes during regular hours.

Tip: keep the ticket, while it is paper, it is reloadable. So if you keep them you will save some money. Simply use the ticket machines to reload fares.

Now, once you get to Oriente, it gets somewhat more exciting. Somehow signs at the station are non-existent... which is very strange for a station which has Metro, lots of trains, buses, etc.

Oriente - The Alpha will leave from this location

If you booked tickets for the Alpha or other trains, check out of the metro and then the trick is to go up! On our travel day (Tuesday), most of the little shops were closed (there were some strikes ongoing), so buy some drinks or food before leaving the airport. There are waiting rooms, with benches, and the train schedules are on monitors. They just don't list trains well in advance, but you should see Intercidades and Alpha Pendulars noted.

We hopped the train, settled in, took a nap and enjoyed the Alpha, which is nice and comfortable. If you have traveled on the German ICE a word on food and drinks... the ICE is a lot better stocked. Again, there is food and drinks, but nothing gourmet. We settled on snickers and a "coffee".

First class in the Alpha

The 17:09 train arrives in Porto at 19:58 at Campanha Station. If you are football fan, from the platform look North, you'll see Estadio Dragao, home of FC Porto. Campanha is surprisingly small..., from the trains (again, signs are not a thing in Portugal), head in the direction of the NOS building - a somewhat north western heading... The metro is just outside - Google Maps will be your friend!

Take the Metro - buy and keep them tickets... and travel into town, likely to Sao Bento. From here we walked to our VRBO rental, which was excellent!

Sao Bento - Porto

Porto

For us, after all the tv hype (Somebody Feed Phil?) on Lisbon, Porto was it. The old city is beautiful and relatively small compared to Lisbon, which feels like a much bigger city. Our VRBO was just on the north side of the old city on the Rua de Trás, surrounded by some really good restaurants:
  • Local, fresh, Flor de Bragança on R. Arquitecto Nicolau Nasoni 16 is wonderful. If it is your first night, go for bacalao. A Portuguese staple, these folks do it well! 
  • Tapas & Destapas, on Rua de Trás serves wonderful Tapas in a modern setting, with some nice outdoor seating.
  • Lastly, we really enjoyed Trasca, right across from Tapas & Destapas on Rua de Trás. Somewhat tapas-ish as well. Funky place, definitely go inside for dinner or lunch!
Some other things to eat and munch on are Mangeigaria, where you will get your fill of the ubiquitous Pastel de Nata... it is fun to stop by and watch them make it... the line will be out the door. And in the end, we found them a little too sweet... so try some other stores as well. They are literally everywhere.

We also found some fun stores (if you read my blog, you'll notice that this is a first). One that is really noteworthy is Lufalufa on Rua das Flores 255. Get some excellent, handcrafted t-shirts with some of the coolest prints ever. And yes, I do own a shirt...

There are plenty of sites to see in Porto, and tons of guidebooks to tell you all about them. A couple of things we figured out about some of the sites:
  • Livraria Lello - yup, the one from J.K. Rowling lore. The line is crazy, so go online and get tickets. It is very pretty, but very full
Yup... it is very busy in this bookstore
  • Do go up the Torre dos Clérigos, it too can be crowded, so go early, or check out the line... then go up the tower which gives you some amazing views of the city from up on high
View from the tower
  • If you want to go a taste Port - book your tickets. The big houses (Sandeman, Graham's) sell out in summer. We do recommend it, it is fun, and come on, you must drink it and learn about the differences in color... We wandered into Ramos Pinto, which had a fun tour and tasting. Not too expensive, and low key... might be better than Sandeman?
  • If you feel like too much city... take a bus and head out to the ocean. The two light houses are a nice area to visit. Both of them is in the art work featured in this post.The city bus zips you over there in 20 minutes or so. We walked all the way back, which is a nice walk. Before walking back we had lunch at Habitat, sitting outside with a nice cold beer and some good food. You can take the tram from in front of the restaurant as well.
  • We missed the Mercado do Bolhão, it was under renovation. So, cannot comment on that, but it apparently is a cool place to be.
  • Make sure to walk across the Ponte Luis I, go both ways, across the top and down across the bottom. We did also ride the gondola up, which is how we got to the top of the bridge
The gondola

This is just some stuff we did. Like I said, tons of guide books... do read them and you will find so much to do. Porto was our highlight of Portugal!

Lisbon in two Parts

We stayed a some 6 days in total in Lisbon, split over two separate stays. In between we spent time in Estoril, Sintra, and Cascais. More on that later.

Typical Lisbon and its famous trams

The highlight of the Lisbon stay was, without any doubt, Manny's Place. Before we get to that, we did actually stay across the street, in the middle of Bairro Alto. Because, of course we stay in the old town. It is after all the cool, nice place to stay. It is... but! 

Bairro Alto is party central, and it comes alive after 21:00 or so... and boy, does it come alive. On our first evening, after a travel day from Porto, we started hearing heavy bass. After wondering if this was our neighbor, we finally figured out that the street below was full of tequila shot drinking people... welcome to Bairro Alto!

Next day, we were in need of dinner, and Google mentioned Manny's Place with 4.6 stars. So, as we did in Porto, we visited our temporary neighbors. It was the most fun evening, with great food, and a wonderful drag show. We met Manny and his amazing staff, who kindly made sure we had reserved seats for the drag show. When in Lisbon, do yourself a favor and visit Manny's Place, enjoy the wonderful food and the show. Tip: arrive early, eat outside, become friends with the staff and then ask to see the show later.

For the second stay we landed on the Rua do Poço de Negros. This is still very central, and enables you to walk to Bairro Alto to party, without the crowd partying under your window. Would definitely recommend this area. Some fun restaurants, one we enjoyed was Sekai Sushi bar (hey after nearly 2 weeks Bacalao is becoming a bit old).

The other food place to hang out in (Somebody Feed Phil highlight) is Time Out Market, a 10 minute walk from our VRBO. Is it the best food? No, but it is a fun experience, right down at the river. It makes a great stop for lunch while walking around the city.

We also made a real effort to do some of the highlighted restaurants in local guide books. We enjoyed Nicolau, although it typically does have a wait. The cafe is very cute and elegant, and the food is good. Is it the best, hmmmm, maybe not, but I would still recommend because of the vibe, the crowd, the place, and the food.

The Elevator

We did skip the tower / elevator, just wandered around the area. The line is just crazy... All in all, we enjoyed Lisbon, but after Porto, we did not quite understand the hype on tv and in Europe guide books. Nice, cool, busy, but... not Porto was our verdict.

Cascais, Sintra, and Estoril

You can skip Estoril, unless you are here for some motor sports event. If you go from Lisbon to the coast, like Cascais, I would highly recommend taking the local train. Hop on at Cais do Sodré, which is right down the street from Time Out Market. It is a nice train ride down the river. Cheap and pleasant.

If you want, stop at Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery. If you only do the tower, the Algés station may be the closer one. If you do both, stop at Belém station.

Due to various reasons - Covid19 being one - we did not actually see the castles in Sintra. We did wander around the town, which is very promising albeit touristy. If you go to Sintra, check ahead, get the tickets if you can.

Cascais was a lot of fun. We did do two beach days, and that was a lot of fun. Just be prepared to join the crowd. One of the beaches we hung out at was Praia da Ribeira de Cascais. It is smack downtown, and because the train is so easy and the station is less than 3 minutes from the beach, makes for a nice beach day trip from Lisbon. The railroad car based Tram Velho serves a decent enough burger and a nice cold beer. Makes for some good people watching... if you decide to wander into the city, we did sit out on the plaza in front of Aquafarina. Italian, good food, nice place to sit on a nice summer day.

The other beach we went to - it takes a car best we could figure out - is on the Atlantic. The Praia do Guincho is a wide expanse of a beach. The roads to it pack with cars on the weekend. If you find a spot that is somewhat close, just take it!

Pre-booking the Alpha or Intercidades

Yes! We pre-booked the Alpha about a month before traveling on the CP site, and we traveled 1st class on the high speed train for E22 for adult... you get a serious discount. The site works well, you'll get e-tickets but will need to attach an ID (likely your passport) for in-train verification. So bring that ID! 

At the discounted rate, you can save even more by using the 2nd class, but for E22, I would not worry and choose the quiet 1st class. The difference isn't too big in terms of seats, just fewer people. Make sure to pick your seats so you sit together if with a group.

The Intercidades - we used it for our return to Lisbon is a lot more pedestrian, and a lot slower. But if you want to stop or branch out, it will work nicely. It took us from 10:38 to 13:52 to make the return journey, and even in 1st class, this is a lot less comfortable. You still get assigned / reserved seats.

Practical Portugal Stuff

  • As said before, buy a metro ticket and keep the physical ticket and reload it as you need to. This applies across both Porto and Lisbon
  • Orange juice! This is now a thing across Europe, where each (super) market has an orange juicer. We found the Portuguese OJ the best! And the self serve juice machines are a kick to operate... seriously, do yourself a favor and grab a bottle and juice them oranges... Best thing - ever
  • If you do a VRBO, and cook yourself, find the local butcher. Even in Lisbon we found a nice small butcher and got some great meat. We went to Flavicarnes, right next the Mini Preço. But it seems to have closed since.
  • Reload the metro tickets, as already mentioned, these are reusable
  • Both Porto and Lisbon have hills... they make from excellent views and some steep climbs. We made the mistake to not think to much and ended up walking up Calçada da Glória with suitcases... cobblestones, steep uphill and gawking tourists in the little cable car...
  • Trains, metro, trams, busses, they are all cheap, clean, easy to use and so, doing Portugal without a car is super easy and makes your trip fun.
  • Dress well... you are in Southern Europe and people do look well dressed and like doing so. So, blend in, bring some nice shoes, or buy some... Portugal is the home of many shoe makers
  • Walk, take the tram, really go out. The weather is wonderful, wander around, stop, sit down, eat, drink. Live life al fresco in Portugal
That's all for now. If you go, enjoy Portugal. It is laid back and an amazing place to do a very varied trip. Make sure to not skip the coast. Add in some side tours to the coastal towns between Porto and Lisbon, and of course also consider the Algarve region.



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