Beautiful Lisbon, part 1
Lisbon is the biggest city in Portugal and also its capital. This last year it has become a very popular destination for many travelers. And with all right. It is a friendly, cosy and modern city with interesting history in southern Europe with warm and sunny days far into fall. The city lies by Tagus river that runs out in the Atlantic Ocean.
I visited in November and was quite lucky with the weather, it was clear skies and temperature around 15-19 degrees every day. It was really warm and comfortable in the sun. Normally November has a lot of rain and it was raining the week before I got there, so I was happy it was sunny when I was there.
Lisbon is famous for its trams that run through the city. Most popular is the tram 28 that takes a scenic route through the city. With it you pass by many of the landmarks of the city in the most popular neighbourhoods. In theory you can jump on the tram anywhere along the line, but I recommend you hoping on at any of the start/ending points. If you do, you’ll have a bigger chance of getting a seat since the trams are normally full of people. The tram initial stop is on Martim Moniz.
The trams share the streets with cars, and because the streets are quite narrow there’s no way for a tram to pass by a car that is standing still and loading on or off something, and that happens all the time. I think you must have quite good patience to drive the tram in Lisbon. :)
In the map below I have marked some popular places in Lisbon, and the blue markers are presented in this blog post.
Mirador Portas do Sol (1)
This is one of the popular viewing points in Lisbon that you can get to with the tram.
Here you have a fine view over the ocean and the rooftops of the neighbourhood Alfama.
Beside the observation decks there are also restaurants and cafés where you can sit and enjoy the view.
The city is quite big and is built on seven hills. It is possible to walk over the main parts, but as it is pretty hilly you can combine walking with taking the tram or subway. Except for the tram the city has a well-developed subway system. You can buy a 24h ticket and travel unlimited with the tram, bus or subway, also included is the elevators. A day ticket is around 6 euro, a single ticket is around 1,45 euro.
Down hill from the mirador is the Sé cathedral (2).
The city is divided into neighbourhoods that you can see on the map above. Barrio Alto, Chiado, Baixa, Graca and Alfama are some of the most talked about places in the centre of Lisbon. All of the neighbourhoods have its charm and I thought it was quite hard to choose a place to stay before I got here. I ended up in Barrio Alto, close to the square Luis de Camões (3) that is between Chiado and Barrio Alto. It’s a very nice square where many of the Lisboners hang out during the day and night. Here are some good breakfast places as well.
Barrio Alto has a good location and is close to the popular places and has many restaurants during night. But, it lies on one of the hills so you can’t avoid walking uphill if you stay here. Everyday I had to take many steps of stairs since I always was exploring other parts of the city.
On my last day in Lisbon I realised I hadn’t been exploring Barrio Alto enough in day time even though that’s where I was staying. So, I put on my walking shoes and headed out strolling the small and hilly streets of Barrio Alto. I was enjoying it a lot, I walked the narrow streets that was almost empty of people.
Principe Real (4)
After some walking I reached Principe Real, a small park in the northern parts of Barrio Alto. I instantly felt it was a different atmosphere here and I liked it a lot. In the park there were some small street vendors selling beautiful things like tea, scarfs and so on. From the park, between some buildings you have a beautiful view over the city. I sat down on a bench, watched the view, enjoyed the sun and had a snack. Before this park I didn’t have any “feelings” for Lisbon, but this made my day in a weird way, and I was very happy when I left.
After the park I made my way south through Barrio Alto again. I wanted to take photos of every alley… It’s really colorful everywhere.
After some walking I reached one of the elevators in the city Ascensor Bica (5), maybe the most photographed elevator in the city. Like all of the elevators in the city they have always been used to facilitate the people so it would be easier to transport themselves and goods up and down the large level differences.
At the lower level of the elevator you are quite close to the ocean. Just a short walk from the elevator you’ll reach one of the main railway stations Cais de Sodré (6) that also is a ferry terminal. From here you can take the ferry to the other side of the river. Many people are using the ferry in their daily commute.
The riverside (7) is pretty and many people are walking or working out here. From here you’ll have a view over the 25 de Abril bridge.
If you are down here, do not miss Mercado da Ribeira (8) and the food court Time Out! I stumbled upon it as I was going home from the train station. This is a big, fresh and modern food court that offers all kinds of exciting food. You’ll find traditional Portuguese food, thai food, italian, meat, fish and of course pastries. It can be quite hard to find a seat in the evening because of all the people, but I thought it was pretty cozy place.
Pastel de nata is a popular pastry that you can find almost everywhere in Lisbon. It has a filling of creamy egg custard and tastes like vanilla. If you buy it from a good store, like here in Time Out, it’s really good!
Another popular thing to eat in Lisbon is Pastel de bacalhau. It looks like a fried potato or something and I thought it was filled with cheese. To say the least I was a bit disappointed when I found out it was cod-fish… I didn’t like it very much. You can either have it to go or enjoy it with a glass of wine that people normally do. I went to the store on Rua Augusta where you could see them being made.
Another popular neighbourhood of Lisbon is Belém. It is located west of central Lisbon and can be reached with the tram from Cais de Sodré. Belém is a perfect half day or day trip from the centre of Lisbon when you’re done with the attractions in the city. Here are museums, historic monuments, parks and the riverside with a view over the bridge.
One popular sight is the Jeronimos monastery. I only went inside the church which had a free entrance.
On the other side of the long building is a small square and the entrance to the Marine museum.
Across the street from the monastery you’ll pass a small park and reach the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos. A celebration to the old explorers of Portugal. Now I regret not going up in the monument to get a view, but the line was just too long.
You can then walk along the riverside until you reach the Belém tower. Along the waterfront are small wine bars where you can sit and have a sip with a view over the water and bridge.
I didn’t go inside the tower either because of the line, I was happy just looking at it from the outside. It was really warm this day too so it was nice to just sit in the sun. Belém is a very popular tourist spot and always expect a lot of people here.
Part 2 of Lisbon here!