Welcome to my travel series, where I share my experience visiting different cities.
Since I travel often, I get to discover and explore new places. However, I only get 24 hours, which I try to make the most of. In my “24 Hours” series, you might find helpful information on places to go, things to do, museums to visit, and some traveler tips. Of course, I only get a glimpse of each city that I visit. Therefore, this is not a comprehensive guide that presents every single corner of the city. It is helpful, however, if you’re wondering what to do in one day, or if you’re on a short passage as well.
This month’s highlighted destination is Lisbon, Portugal: a beautiful sunny and colorful city that’s full of history, culture, and great food. Before I describe my journey in Lisbon, here’s a small presentation of this beautiful country.
Population: 10.3 Million
Language: Portuguese (various dialects spoken in different areas)
A walk in Lisbon
I arrived in Lisbon in the morning, which gave me the whole day to explore the city. Everything is within walking distance if you’re downtown, and the sights are very enjoyable as you walk. If walking is not an option, there are subway stations all over the place. I started my walk on one of the main streets called Ave de Liberdade, which I took straight to the Alfama area. The walk is very nice, there are plenty of shops, the architecture is beautiful, and the buildings are captivating and colorful.
On the way, I stopped by Rossio Square (or Pedro IV square), which has a beautiful fountain in the middle. It is across from a Neoclassical building, the Teatro Nacional, which hosts many events throughout the year. ( http://www.tndm.pt/pt/ )
I wanted to see the ocean, so my I went straight to Praça de Comércio, a large plaza that overlooks the sea. A set of stairs framed with two columns are built into the ocean and the plaza is framed with a colonnade with an arc at the center. The streets leading up to the plaza are filled with shops and restaurants. Seafood is very popular, so I tried one of the famous paellas near the plaza. My tip is to look around and search for the best deals, compare prices, and decide on a location you like as many restaurants offer similar menus. Lisbon is also famous for its Nata desserts, which are delicious and cheap.
You will also notice a lot of trams around town: red, green, and yellow, which cover a pretty large surface area. Since some areas are a lot more elevated than others, this is a great way to get around and avoid the steep hike.
Carmo Archaeological Museum
Whenever I am in a new place, my experience is not complete unless I visit a museum to help me learn a bit about its history and culture. So, I picked the Carmo Archaeological Museum, which is a Gothic church that was ruined by an earthquake in 1755, and is now an archaeological museum. Despite some parts of it being completely destroyed, it remains a very charming site. Exploring this church is a unique experience, as the space is open and closed at once. The foundation and the walls are still standing, yet the roof is gone. It is a spectacular sight to be looking directly into the sky through the missing roof of an 18th century church. A portion of the church is a gallery displaying historical objects of art, artifacts, ceramics, as well as books and mummies. You will also find a model of the original church.
Santa Justa Lift and Rooftops
As you can see on the last picture, the sun started to set, and I wanted to find an area to watch the sun setting over the ocean. As I made my way to the back of the Carmo church, not only did I notice the impressive Gothic flying buttresses that support the structure of the church, but there was also a rooftop café with a gorgeous view over Lisbon. In addition, there is a passageway to Santa Justa Lift, which allows you to watch the city from the top. There are tickets for purchase to get a panoramic view of the city. However, since I did not have much time, I did not go for that option. However, I still managed to take these beautiful photos:
After walking for a few miles and exploring a few areas, it was time for me to take a break. I wanted to find a café to rest and to gather energy for my last stop. I found a charming café near Castelo Sao Jorge, which overlooks the city and the ocean, and allows you to watch the sunset. I believe the bottom level is a restaurant and the upper level is a café. I went upstairs near open windows where I drank my coffee while watching the ocean. It was a very charming and relaxing experience. For more information on this café, refer to link below:
Castelo Sao Jorge and Peacocks
After my lovely experience at the Chapito a Mesa, which is extremely close to Castelo Sao Jorge, I made my way over there. Sao Jorge is a Moorish castle on a hilltop that is famous for its architecture and gardens. Unfortunately, I did not make it early enough to get in and tour the premise. I would advise; however, that you purchase your tickets in advance since the line tends to be quite long and buying a ticket in advance could save you a lot of time waiting in line. Another aspect this citadel is famous for is its peacocks, which you will see roaming around everywhere. The narrow streets surrounding the castle are quite charming, and you will find shops and cafés around that area as well. I took this opportunity to buy some gelato, which I enjoyed while I walked back to my hotel.
Things I am saving for a future visit:
My passage to Lisbon was a very enjoyable one. Despite the short duration, I was happy to get a glimpse of this beautiful city, which I would love to explore a bit more. For that, I created a list of things I would like to do given the opportunity. These suggestions could also help you with your travel plans, especially if you wanted to do something a bit different than touring downtown and eating paella and Nata. My list includes:
1- Belem Castle:
This fortress is located a bit outside of downtown. When I inquired about how to get there, I was told there are several options, including the tram, which takes about an hour. It is definitely a landmark to be visited in Lisbon.
2- Castel Sao Jorge:
As I previously mentioned, I only saw this castle from the outside, as I did not have enough time to go inside for a visit. The line was also extremely long, so there was no chance of me getting in before closing time. Ideally, I would love to start my visit early in the morning, when there aren’t too many tourists and the air is fresh. I am very eager to learn about its history and to contemplate the beauty of its architecture.
3- A botanical garden. There seems to be so many great options, but I would love any suggestions.
Some helpful tips:
1- I found it extremely helpful to carry cash around. Not all the shops accept credit cards, or if they do, they might have a required minimum price.
2- Lisbon is extremely famous for its sardines, which come in many flavors and are extremely affordable. I would advise you try some, as well as olives. They are delicious and very affordable.
3- When I was doing groceries, I noticed that ‘green wine’ was sold. I had never seen green wine before, and when I asked a local, he told me that it is green for two reasons: the green recalls the color of the fertile areas the grapes come from, and as those grapes aren’t very mature, the result is green wine. So, if you drink wine, it would be interesting to try a new type of wine.
As I leave you with these small tips, I hope that this post was helpful and enjoyable to you. If I am missing on any interesting areas to visit or things to do next time I am in Lisbon, I would love to read about them in the comments below.