Lisboa, Portugal’s capital, is a human scaled city spread out on seven hills and many districts, and surrounded by water. It lies on the north side of the Rio Tejo Bay, and is linked to its south side by two gigantesque bridges, the Ponte de 25 de Abril, which you can see from the city center, and the Ponte Vasco da Gama, the biggest of Europe.
The charm of the Amalfa and the link with the water make it a place you’ll appreciate by its easy-going feel and its pleasant climate.
– Amalfa district
From the river uphill to the castle lays the old town, with its staircases, small streets, and traditional houses. There is no easy way to see it the way it should be seen, you have to walk up and down the stairs and the narrow paths. Well, actually, there is one easy way, to take the traditional tram line n°28 up!
– Zambeze rooftop bar
Splendid views on Lisbon and the Vasco de Gama bridge, chill in the sun on the lounge outdoor sofas with a nice fresh sangria or glass of wine.
Not easy to find, or better said, so not too many people. The food is not so good.
Take the elevator at Largo Atafona, and turn left when you get out.
– Santa Rita Restaurant
An institution in the neighborhood, this place is a canteen where you are seated in order of arrival. The traditional dishes are tasty, big and cheap. The menu is all in Portuguese (some dishes are translated), so just randomly pick some thing and surprise yourself!
24 Rua de Sao Mamede
– One of my favorite places in town, a tiny terrasse bar with a great view
Follow the tram tracks until you find a square Largo das Porta do Sol stop You will see the Santa Luzia church on your right side. From there, you can spot tables if you look up on the side of the church. You actually have to go around the church through the small garden/miradouro, where is a hidden staircase through a gate that brings you up there.
– Winebar do Castelo
A new discovery. The owner will ask you what type of wine you want, and your budget, and will pick a selection of wines for you to taste before deciding on which one you’ll get a glass.
Even for a large group, the more people the more bottles will be set on your table.
Very good wine for reasonable prices.
Order some cheese on the side.
Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão, in the castle’s vicinity.
– Rossio / Chiado / Baixia
The perpendicular mosaic paved streets of the Chiado make a nice stroll, with their shops, restaurants (for tourists) and bakeries. At one end is Rossio, with to large squares and many tram departures, and at the other end is Baixa, and the Praça do Comercio, overlooking the river.
One tourist attraction is the Santa Justa Lift, or Eiffel tower elevator, leading… nowhere! It was built by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard.
You can go up for 5€ and should have a great view (I didn’t go, as it was undergoing repair work).
In Beixa, don’t miss on the great pasteis de Nata at Manteigaria, definitely my favorite in town, even more than Belém’s. Right on the Praça Luis de Camões.
Also try Alcoa bakery, down Rua Garrett, for more elaborate pastries.
Beautiful viewpoint from the Miradouro de Santa Catarina. Try and find it in the street maze.
The new place to be is also the Park Rooftop bar, hidden at the top of a parking lot. Seats come at a price, arrive early.
– Bairro Alto, Rua de Atalaia and around
If you came to Lisbon to party, this is where to start. Basically empty during the day, the streets of this district become packed with youngsters going from one bar to the other. Lots of bars play music, ranging from live jazz to loud hits. As it closes around 2am, you then have to follow the troups, probably to the Lux disco.
During your tour, don’t miss the Miradouro de San Pedro de Alcântara, for another great view on the city.
Unfortunately, no pictures, as I don’t like to bring my camera when we go out to party…!
The cultural neighborhood, this area regroups a few museums and attractions, the main ones being (imho) the Jeronimos Monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries. You can also walk along the river, and take a break at the Pasteis de Belém shop.
Take the tram line 15E (modern) from Rossio. Get off at Mosteiro Jéronimos, not at the stop called Belém, or, for the tower of Belém, at Pedrouços. I personnally walked from the Tower of Belém to the Monastery and then to the Museu da Electricidade, taking 2-3 hours with visits.
– Jeronimos Monastery
Huge Manueline style of architecture building, it is composed of the cloisters and the church of Santa Maria.
The bigger part of the monastery building is taken by the archeological museum, which I didn’t visit.
The cloisters are a haven of peace, as it was intended for meditation. Take the time to look at the ornamentations, and notice they are different from one another. You will also see some doors, from which the monks had access to the church’s confessionals, without being visible to the public.
Don’t miss the first floor, from which you’ll enjoy a different perspective, and from which you will have an access to a balcony inside the church. I call it a VIP access, as the church being free, it is often packed with tour groups.
The church is of course worth its while, with a wonderful scepulture at the entrance, royal tombs and Vasco da Gama’s tomb.
– Pasteis de Belém
Don’t forget to go to the famous bakery, either before or after going to the monastery.
It’s right next to it, accross the street on its right side. You’ll probably see the queue. Don’t worry, it goes quite fast.
– Monument to the Discoveries
Located where ships departed to explore and trade, it celebrates the age of discovery.
You can go up (3€).
– Tower of Belèm
Not much to see, but still a landmark.
– Berardo Museum
A museum of Modern & Contemporary art.
Not all pieces are worthwhile, but some impressive bits.
Check the temporary exhibits also.
The building itself is quite astonishing, inside and outside.
Free on Saturdays.
– Museu da Electricidade – MAAT
A power plant transformed into a free of charge museum by the EDP Foundation.
Check the website for informations on the current exhibitions, mainly modern art.
Come back to the city center taking the train at the Belém train station right accross the street from the museum (different from the tram stop). The train accepts your ViaViagem card. This line also goes all the way to Cascais.
Get off at the end of the line, Cais do Sodre, and walk back towards praça de Comercio along the river. Stop at one of the kiosk bars, where they often have live music playing!
– Almada & Cristo Rei
On the other side of the Tagus, a 10′ boat ride from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas, from where the Cristo Rei braces the city in its arms.
Often bypassed, it turned out to be a great escape from the city.
Walk along the quays towards the Cristo Rei from the boat landing (directly on the right side), and you’ll pass by ruins bearing graffitis for a while.
After maybe 15 minutes, you’ll arrive upon the Ponto Final restaurant, for great sea food almost on the water (actually on a small jetty), with magnificent views on the other side and the Ponto de 25 Abril.
After lunch, walk leisurely all the way to the Cristo Rei, from where you’ll get more great vistas, and go up the statue itself, with the elevator inside (5€).
Take the direct 101 bus back down to the ferry port, and then the boat back to Cais do Sodré.
Didn’t do, and wasn’t advised to do
Casto do Jorge castle, which, uninanimously, is said to be an uninteresting visit not worth the 7,50€ entrance fee. It offers great views on the city, that you can easily get with a drink at rooftop bars anywhere in the city!
Out of town
Cascais, the beach town.
From the airport, take the red line (linha Vermelha), which has connections to all the other lines.
Blue (Azul) and green (Verde) will then take you to the city center, starting from Restauradores or Rossio, depending on where you are going.
Or take a cab, which shouldn’t cost much, as the airport is very close to the city.
Viva Viagem card
50 cts, top it up and it gives you discount rates compared to single ride rates.
Metro ticket single ride: 1,40€