This is a guest post by the lovely Jessica Phillips of Two Feet, One World.
Lisbon can charm you with its faded yet aristocratic beauty, surprise you with the character and variety of its different neighborhoods, and lead you on a wild dance late into the night, only to wake you with a picture-perfect morning. It is ideal for a weekend visit – the only bad news is that you’ll likely want to return soon for more!
Epic views of the city from Castelo de São Jorge and Cristo Rei
Lisbon is a hilly city, with the blessing being that there are many great viewpoints to soak up panoramas over the centre and the River Tejo. Two of the best viewpoints are very different experiences. Castelo de São Jorge watches over the centre of town, and is easy to reach by strolling up the hill or catching the number 28 tram. At the top, the views will take your breath away as you gaze over the terracotta roof-tops down to the river. Stroll the thick walls of the medieval fortifications and you’ll gain a 360-degree appreciation of Lisbon. Afterwards, take a wander into the Alfama (see below) or back into town via some of the charming alleyways that join Lisbon together.
To reach Cristo Rei you’ll need to journey over the River Tejo – catch the speedy ferry from downtown Lisbon and then a bus up the windy road. There’s a reason you’ll feel a little like you’ve arrived in Rio – Lisbon’s statute of Christ the King was inspired by a Cardinal’s Brazilian visit. The view from the ground is impressive enough, as you can easily pick out Belem, central Lisbon, and even Sintra on a good day. However, take the speedy lift up the statute and you’ll really feel like you’re on top of the world!
Portugal is famous for its beautiful ceramic tiles and you can spend hours in Lisbon spotting your own favourite examples as they dot the exteriors and interiors of buildings everywhere. First introduced in the 15th century by the Moors, you can see both historic and modern, hand-crafted and mass-produced tiles, in a huge variety of colours and styles.
Wander the Alfama
If you feel like getting away from the bustle of central Lisbon and having a taste of its quieter side, take yourself into the winding streets of the Alfama. Located on the eastern side of Castelo de São Jorge, in the days of Moorish rule the Alfama was the wealthiest area of Lisbon. After they were defeated, however, it was largely left to the fishermen who lived along the coast, and even today you can sense the more relaxed sense of life. From stepping around neighbours having their morning gossip in the sun to catching glimpses of the sea from its narrow alleyways, wandering the Alfama is a fantastic way to spend time in Lisbon.
Catch the tram
Walking around Lisbon is all well and good, but as I’ve mentioned – it’s a hilly city! A great way to take a load off and see some sights at the same time is by catching the tram. Many beautiful old wood-paneled trams still traverse the city, and if you have a day-pass (which can be purchased from the main stations, but not the trams themselves), it’s a cost-effective and lovely way to get around, hopping on and off as you please. The best tram for sight-seeing is number 28, which takes you past Castelo de São Jorge, the Alfama and the Graça area.
Eat / drink
Pasteis de nata
It’s probably illegal to leave Lisbon without trying one of the morsels of deliciousness that is a pastel de nata. First created by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery in the suburb of Belém, these simple but oh so tasty little pastries are best served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon or brown sugar. You can find them all over the city, but for the authentic experience make your way to the Fabrica de Pasteis de Belém – the factory where they have been produced since 1837. You can queue up to buy a take-away pastry, but instead head inside to the factory tea-rooms – beautifully tiled rooms that extend further and further back into the building, they are virtually never full and your pastry will come fresh out of the oven!
Dine and party the night away in the Barrio Alto
The Barrio Alto was traditionally the working-class, bohemian centre of Lisbon, and still retains that feel today, with a huge amount of restaurants, bars and nightclubs to take care of all your nocturnal requirements. You can sip sangria, go on a bar-crawl along the cobbled lanes, or simply enjoy one of the strains of music coming at you from all sides. Lisbon nightlife can go as late as you please – rise to the challenge and you’ll have a phenomenal night!
Side trip to Sintra
If you’ve got a spare day or two in Lisbon, a side-trip to Sintra should be top of your list. Just a half-hour train ride out of Lisbon, you will feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. This beautiful hill-town is home to a multitude of palaces, castles and unique buildings, chief of which is Peña Palace’s jumble of architectural styles. You can bus between the many attractions or hike the hills if you’re feeling energetic – or splash out on a tuk-tuk tour to get a local’s view of this fantastic little spot.
About the Author
Jessi is a fellow Kiwi now living in London and attempting to see (and eat) as much of the world as possible. She loves exploring, good coffee, and beaches in any form. Her favourite adventures to date have been Oktoberfest in Munich (two years in a row!), an incredible trip through Turkey, cramming as much as possible into weekends in Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona, and of course the crazy madness that is life in London. Check out her blog here or find her on Twitter.