Lisbon: where the sun, food and history come perfectly together

Lisbon is a place I have been going to ever since I was a little. It is only about 20 minutes from where I live so I think you are pretty safe following my tips if you want to visit it someday (which I truly and strongly recommend you!)

TRAVEL TO LISBON  – PORTUGAL

  1. AIRPLANE to Portela Airport (airlines such as Ryanair, Tap or Easy Jet flight there)

From the airport to the centre

  1. TAXI – if you feel like you have just arrived and you are a bit tired so you want the easiest and quickest option you can take a taxi just outside the airport
  2. TUBE – the Portuguese tube is cheap and it has only four different lines so it easy to travel with (ticket price: £1/40€/$1.50); the price is the same no matter how far you travel on the tube

Lisbon has an airport very close to the centre – Portela Airport. Once you arrive you can either take a taxi or take the tube.

The tube is the easier and cheapest way to travel around the capital. You can use it to reach all the main touristic attractions.

Whether you are on a long or short vacation Lisbon is a good place to go! When in short vacation I can tell you right away the points you must stop at and the food you should try!

Places to go:

Praça do Comércio, Elevador de Santa Justa, Castelo de São Jorge  (all on Baixa-Chiado tube stop)

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Elevador de Santa Justa
Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio
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São José Statue (Praça do Comércio)

Torre de Belém, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Ponte 25 de Abril (Take the tube until Cais do Sodré and from there the train or bus)

Ponte 25 de Abril
Ponte 25 de Abril
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Padrão dos Descobrimentos
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Torre de Belém

Finding a good place to eat in Lisbon is not a hard task. I can guarantee you that you will enjoy your meal in most restaurants in the capital if you roughly know the areas to go.  Most typical restaurants are located in Baixa and Bairro Alto. For typical food I suggest Chão De Pedra or Chapitô. 

Chão De Pedra and Chapitô Restaurant

Prices of both in average: £16/20€/$23

If you want to have the full experience of eating while listening to traditional Portuguese music – fado – then I suggest you try A Severa or Parreirinha de Alfama. Docas and Parque das Nações are also nice areas to visit and to eat where pretty much any restaurant you pick is good!

A Severa and Parreirinha de Alfama Restaurant

Prices of both in average: £24/30€/$34

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Alfama is the Lisbon neighborhood known for Fado. This is where most of the houses of Fado are located at and where you will  get the true feeling of what is a Portuguese “bairro” (note: don’t be scare with some people you may find there, this is the place where you will see the “barristas” that may be a bit crazy at times but it’s safe). The closest subway stop is Santa Apolónia.

Pastel de Nata is the pastry I recommend you to try if you visit Torre de Belem since their factory and store is just nearby. The famous pastry house has always a queue of tourists who want to try this egg custard with a choice of cinnamon on top!

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If you are on a longer vacation then I suggest you visiting more than just the capital. I recommend Cascais, Ericeira and Sintra which are all close by bus or train.

Cascais and Ericeira are both beach towns. Ericeira is Europe’s first world surf reserve and it is a picturesque fisherman village where you will eat the best fish and seafood ever! Cascais is fancier but with very nice streets and views also. The beaches have a calmer ocean so many people enjoy it. If you go there make sure to try a Santini ice cream – very popular and delicious!

Ericeira
Ericeira

To go to Ericeira take the tube to Campo Grande and then a bus (Mafrense buses) and to Cascais take the tube to Cais do Sodré and then the train to the stop called Cascais.

Sintra is a mystic village full of history and myths. It has many palaces and wealthy houses from the Monarchy period. Palácio da Pena, Palácio de Monserrate and Peninha are my favourites! While in Sintra make sure to try one of their travesseiros and queijadas – two very delicious traditional pastries from there. To go to Sintra either take a tube to Restauradores and from there the train to Portela the Sintra; otherwise take the tube to Campo Grande and from there a bus to Sintra (Mafrense buses).

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View from Peninha
Sintra
Sintra

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My suggestion to stay if you’re not on a budget is Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, a 5 star hotel in the center of the capital. If you are on a budget Lisbon has many cosy hostels such as Nest House Lisbon Hostel or 5 Sins Chiado Hostel.

Corinthia Hotel Lisbon

Prices from: £92/115€/$129 per room per night

Nest House Lisbon Hostel

Prices from: £9.50/12€/$13.50 in a dorm and £24/30€/$34 in private rooms

5 Sins Chiado Hostel

Prices from: £7/9€/$10 in a dorm

Rovaniemi, Lapland – The Santa’s Home

It only takes a flight to Rovaniemi, known as the Santa’s home airport and with a 10 minute taxi drive you will not only meet Santa himself but also his adorable elves. You can also ride reindeers, huskies and many other things!


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A trip to Rovaniemi is the perfect vacation with or without children since there is entertainment for everyone but in fact once you reach Santa’s town you will be a child again!

The best way to get there is by airplane but if you have some time to spend you can also take a sleeping train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and have a view of the finish landscape. It will make you feel just like in the Polar Express movie. But if you can’t wait to meet Santa we recommend taking the airplane.

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Be aware that once you reach Rovaniemi not many transports will be available. There are barely any buses so best way to travel is taxi. From the airport there are taxis to all central location in Rovaniemi and usually they accept credit/debit card to pay if you don’t have any cash (there aren’t ATM at Rovaniemi airport so if you want to have some pocket money it is better to do before flying to Santa’s airport). There is a group taxi to take people to the hotels otherwise you can also call a private taxi (phone number: 00358 200 88000).

TRAVEL TO ROVANIEMI, LAPLAND – FINLAND

  1. AIRPLANE to Helsinki Airport (airlines such as Finnair Airlines flight there)
  2. AIRPLANEto Rovaniemi Airport (flight duration from Helsinki to Rovaniemi: 1 hour 15 minutes)

From the airport to Rovaniemi centre

  1. TAXIFROM £5.40/7€/$7.6 (duration: 10 minutes)

The best options to stay during your vacations are either in a hotel or in a house.

RENT AN HOUSE

Prices from: £58/73€/$82 per night at one bedroom house

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Hotel prices may vary depending on what are you looking for since there are many hotels in Rovaniemi.

HOTEL SUGGESTIONS:

Snowman World Igloo Hotel 

Prices from: £185/232€/263$ per night for 2 people w/ breakfast included

A great choice to truly experience the city of the snow since you will be sleeping on actual igloos! The hotel also has a restaurant made of ice where you can enjoy typical food.

Santa Village Hotel 

Prices from: £268/337€/$379 per night per room w/ breakfast buffet included

It is located right at the village and the rooms offer high quality and atmosphere since they were built quite recently back in 2010.

If you are a meat lover you must try their reindeer meat or if you prefer fish than they have a fresh smoked salmon on their traditional rye bread which is a must try!

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Their bakery is also quite tasty, I personally recommend a delicious apple pastry they have which you can find in most places!

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Santa village and Santa Park are close to the airport only a 10 minute drive. The Santa village is free to visit however if you wish to do any of the activities they offer such as ride a reindeer or a husky you have to pay.

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ACTIVITIES AND ITS COST:

  1. Ride Huskies (500 meter ride will cost £22/28€/31$ for an adult);
  2. Ride a snowmobile (30 minute ride costs £54/68€/$76 and it is minimum 2 people)
  3. Ride a reindeer (400 meters costs £13/16€/$18 for an adult);
  4. Visit the snowman world (where you can experiment ice restaurants and bars where a full menu costs £69/87€/$98 or go for some fun ice activities);
  5. Visit Santa Park (costs £24/30€/$34 a two day ticket);
  6. Do a safari (if you wish to explore the surroundings there is a variety of safaris you can choose from including to go see the Northern lights).

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Santa Park is a two day valid ticket. Yet an afternoon should be enough to visit it as t is fairly small. Santa Park is like a theme park where most activities are aimed mainly for children (yet remember everyone will be a child once you pass the magic doors!). Activities include elf school, many workshops where you can build some nice souvenirs to bring home, watch some ice sculptures among other things.

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This year Santa Park opens in the 21st of November 2015 and closes in the 9th of January 2016. It is open from 10am until 17pm and from the 1st of December until the 9th of January it stays open until 6pm. On the 24th of December it will be also open from 10am until 16pm.

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One thing that surprised me was the fact that once you get into Santa Village you have to pay for everything and everything is quite expensive. Yet I truly enjoyed what I saw and the best thing for me was the snowy landscape on which the park lays on.

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Rovaniemi, Finland – take a note

Rovaniemi is a city located in the north of Finland. It is the administrative capital and commercial centre of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland. It belongs to four different countries Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. It is situated only 10 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle so as you can imagine temperatures there aren’t exactly high.

map rovaniemi

During winter time the temperature is around -13ºC being the coldest temperature registered of -47.5ºC in January 1999. In the summer time temperatures are about 13ºC with the highest temperature registered being of 30.7ºC in June 2011. Snow stays on the ground 175 days a year on average.

Despite the fact that Rovaniemi experiences polar day between 7 June and 6 July it does not experience polar night. However, the sun barely gets above the horizon in the winter.

Rovaniemi, Lapland is famous for being the home of Santa Claus! In this city lays the Santa Village where you can meet Santa himself and his elves. With the Christmas spirit always in the air this a place where you can also enjoy a variety of winter activities such as riding a snow mobile or riding a husky!

Another common reason to travel to Rovaniemi is to try to see the Northern Lights, an amazing sky color show that is often visible in the North of Finland.

This Friday I am sharing my own experience in this magical white place! I went there in a three day trip with some friends. It was a trip I enjoyed very much despite my lack of resistance to the cold!! Can’t wait to share all my tips and suggestion on how to make the best out of Rovaniemi!

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“If you want to truly feel the magic of Christmas Lapland is the place to go! Before you realize your inner child will come out and for a moment you will believe in magic.”

Carolina Lopes

Country: Finland

Country’s capital: Helsinki

Official language: Finnish

Currency: Euro (£1 =1.41 euro)

Population: 58.100 inhabitants

Total area: 7.601 km²