Friday, March 31, 2023

Experiencing Portugal and Lisbon Part II: Where to Stay, Where to Go, What to See

In the previous edition of our newsletter, we talked about Lisbon Portugal, which is enjoying a moment  in the spotlight that’s long overdue. We can't say enough how much we love Lisbon (and all of Portugal, even if driving the streets and highways is a bit of an experience that takes some getting used to). If you're looking to stay in Lisbon, you'll find no shortage of Airbnb rentals--rentals which change so much from month to month that there's no point in guiding you to one over another, especially with the ongoing effort by the local government to restrict and shutdown Airbnb rentals in the city. Don't worry, there's also no shortage of wonderful hotel rooms, and you'll have a wealth of choices. Some of our luxury favorites, based on quality and value:

  • Altis Belém Hotel & Spa - on the waterfront near Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) and Jardim da Torre de Belém (Belém Tower Gardens). Or alternatively NAU Palacio do Governador in the same area.
  • Hyatt Regency Lisbon  - near the waterfront with beautiful views of the Tagus and the Ponte 25 de Abril (25 April Bridge).
  • Hotel Vila Galé Collection Palácio dos Arcos - on a hillside near the waterfront with beautiful views.
  • Pousada de Lisboa, Praça do Comércio - A boutique luxury hotel across from Praça do Comércio, a waterside public plaza, and Arco da Rua Augusta, an ornate 18th century arch.

Other luxury accommodations to consider, based on quality and value:

  • Pestana Palace Lisboa
  • Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel
  • The Emerald House Lisbon, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • As Janelas Verdes/Riverview, a Lisbon Heritage Collection
  • Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel
  • Palacete Chafariz d'El Rei
  • Pestana CR7 Lisboa

If you're driving and don't mind being up to 20-30 minutes outside the city, here are a few more luxury accommodations to consider, based on quality and value:

  • InterContinental Cascais-Estoril, an IHG Hotel
  • Hotel Cascais Miragem Health & Spa
  • Hotel Albatroz Cascais
  • Farol Hotel
  • Hotel Vila Galé Cascais
  • Grande Real Villa Itália Hotel & Spa
  • Fortaleza do Guincho
  • Senhora da Guia Cascais Boutique Hotel
  • The Oitavos

It's important to note that we probably look at luxury accommodations different than most. We've stayed at luxury hotels around the world, but multi-million-dollar lobbies don't impress us whatsoever and more than a few luxury hotels are guilty of having wonderful lobbies and not so wonderful rooms.  Fancy brands and fancy names don't impress us. What actually impresses us is the right combination of quality and value. To us, quality and value incorporates the locations/views, the rooms, and the experiences are worth more than walking into a stunning lobby and then finding the rooms are rather ho-hum. We say locations/views as there can be a tradeoff between having a great location, such as a central location near most everything you want to see and do, and having a great view, such as of the ocean or a mountain but then being in a less central location.

Another important note is that sometimes our stays are comp'd and there's been too many over the last thirty years to track which ones comp'd us and which ones didn't. If we mention a hotel, they probably comp'd us at one time or another, and we're not talking about them because of some comp years ago or even last year, we're talking about them because we genuinely enjoyed our stay and that joy stayed with us. Also important to point out our comps aren't for some random mention in a travel newsletter or a travel guide, they're because of our photography work.

As we discussed last time, the nightlife in Lisbon is good and often even great, as are the wealth of restaurants that range from inexpensive dives to fine dining. The combination of great places to eat and great places to stay is a strong reason to make Lisbon your home base when you visit Portugal. There also are other reasons, as the map shows. 

Drive three hours north and you can be in Porto, enjoying everything this other fabulous coastal city in Portugal has to offer, including the medieval district and the Palácio de Bolsa. Drive three hours south and you can be in Lagos Portugal, enjoying everything the Algarve coast has to offer, including sweeping coastlines with even more beautiful beaches and scenic rock formations to walled old towns and historic churches.

Seville in Spain is another beautiful city nearby. When we visit Lisbon, we make it a point to drive out to Seville as well since it's so close, as we talked about in the inaugural edition of our newsletter (

There are several common routes between Lisbon and Seville (see the map below), with the middle route being the most direct, if not the most scenic. If this is a roundtrip you are only going to make once, we suggest taking the top route through Badajoz on the way to Seville and the bottom route along the Algarve coast on the way back to Lisbon.

All of the routes take you eventually into Andalusia, one of the most famous regions of Spain. The whole Andalusia region is fantastic and well-known for its ceramics, embroidery and leather goods. With this in mind, be sure to stop in the rural shops, especially for the pottery. Each area has its own distinctive style and each craftsman makes the colorful plates, bowls and flower pots in different ways. Note that it's hard to get fragile pottery home in one piece even if you hand carry it, so keep that in mind when selecting pieces. Plates wrapped carefully will weather the journey home better than vases and such, and no matter how careful you are something may get broken.

Our favorite time of year for the drive is spring when the olive trees are in bloom. There’s nothing like driving with the windows down and drinking in the smell of olive trees in bloom. Plus, it's a gorgeous, scenic drive.

Back to Lisbon itself. Where to go and what to do in Lisbon? One starting point is Cais das Colunas on the waterfront. It's an 18th century quay with marble steps. Take a few pictures on the waterfront (and because of the sunset views, you may want to return here later as well). From the quay, you can go to nearby Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square). One of three main squares in the city.

Here, you'll find restaurants and clubs, places to sit outside with a glass of beer or wine. The square is also home to the Lisbon Story Centre, with it's inexpensive 60-minute tour of Lisbon's history. If you want tourist information, head across the square in the opposite direction. 

When you are ready to leave Praça do Comércio, walk away from the waterfront and cross the street to see the Arco da Rua Augusta. It's a stunningly beautiful 19th century triumphal arch. West down the street is another photo opportunity at Praça do Município (Municipal Square) and the exterior of City Hall. Continue walking down Rua do Arsenal and to Rua Nova do Carvalho. 

Also known as Pink Street, Rua Nova do Carvalho was formerly the red light district, but now it's famous for bars and night clubs. Afterward, you can walk back toward the waterfront and the panoramic scenic point of Cais das Pombas.

Here, you'll find a nice waterfront area where you also can take pictures of Lisbon's most beautiful bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril. Afterward, you can walk back along the river to where you started, optionally stopping at the Reminiscência sculpture. Total walking time is about an hour, without stops.

Here are the stops in a numbered list as well:
  1. Cais das Colunas, Praça do Comércio, Lisboa, Portugal
  2. Lisboa Story Centre, Praça do Comércio 78, 1100-148 Lisboa, Portugal
  3. Arco da Rua Augusta, R. Augusta 2, 1100-053 Lisboa, Portugal
  4. Municipal Square, Lisboa, Portugal
  5. Rua Nova do Carvalho, 1200-370 Lisboa, Portugal
  6. Cais das Pombas, Lisboa, Portugal
  7. Reminiscência (Almada Negreiros), Av. Ribeira das Naus, Lisboa, Portugal
  8. Cais das Colunas, Praça do Comércio, Lisboa, Portugal
 Other great places to visit in Lisbon:
  • Alfama, an old neighborhood full of narrow streets, houses and restaurants. Also some of the best Fado clubs for nightlife.
  • Cristo Rei, a statue of Christ on a hillside that also offers fantastic views of the Ponte 25 de Abril
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a waterfront monument dedicated to sailors and discovers
  • Torre de Belém, a waterfront tower built in the 16th century
  • Sé de Lisboa, Lisbon Cathedral
  • Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora, the monastery and church of St. Vincent
  • Igreja de Nossa Senhora, 16th century church
  • Castelo de São Jorge, a castle with a viewpoint that offers 360-degree views of Lisbon
  • Igreja de Santa Engrácia, a baroque church started in the 17th century but not finished until the 20th.
  • Museo do Carmo, a 13th century monastery and museum
  • Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator with a platform at the top near Museo do Carmo

Well, that's Lisbon in a Nutshell. We hope your adventures are as wonderful as ours and hope to hear about your visits too.


Hui Cha Stanek and William Robert Stanek

William R. Stanek. The Black and White Collection #1: Fine Art Photography Rare Masters by William R. Stanek, HC Stanek, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble ( Our new photography book!

About Hui Cha Stanek

Erstwhile Photographer and Long-time Publisher Hui Cha Stanek has always been the woman behind the scenes. She has managed the day-to-day operations of Stanek Media for the past three decades. Her work has been featured in a number of gallery shows and recently in a career retrospective with her husband. She prefers candid street photography and photography of people (though not traditional portrait work). One of her most famous works, Tip Toe I See You, is shown below.

Others, not to be missed:

Salt Water Taffy

Let Me See Too

My Hair Day Too Mom

Where Did it Go

You'll find these fine art photography works and more at:

About William Robert Stanek

Seattle-based Photographer and Artist, William Robert Stanek, is a combat veteran who supports other veterans, is also a vocal champion of books and libraries. Not only an artist, he wrote nonfiction for over three decades as William Stanek and fiction as Robert Stanek. Find his fine art photography and prints from his original oil paintings in his online studios:

360 Studios -

1North Studios -

Studio 24 -

Robert Stanek Studios -

William has been called the Michelangelo of sunsets due to his hundreds of breathtaking sunsets, and this is especially represented in his original oil paintings, but the sun itself isn't always the centerpiece of the work. The true centerpiece of a work can as easily be waves breaking on a tropical shore as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Chapel Bridge in Lucerne Switzerland. Although William packed up his paints and brushes some years ago, his work remains available and are displayed all over the world.

William's passion for sunsets is only truly rivaled by his passion for sunrises, many of which he captures in his original oil paintings as well. Here's a print of one of his original oil paintings, titled As the Sun Breaks.
Racetracks in the Blue is another one his original oil paintings, available as a print, this one from his The Gold & Treasure Coast Collection.

Find William Robert's books at....

Thanks for reading!

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