by Janis on 4th May 2017 / 0 comments

What to See, Ride, Taste & Hear around the streets of Lisbon

I really don’t know why Lisbon hadn’t been on our ‘go to’ list earlier. We have been to numerous European cities up until now, but for some reason Lisbon had not really risen to the top.

Well now was the time to put that right, our timing wasn’t perfect in terms of the weather, but we weren’t going to let that put a dampener on our adventure.

Lisbon has so many things to offer; however, one of the standout memories that we brought away were the friendliness of the locals.

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Like with most cities to capture the true essence of a place you really need to don those comfy shoes and start wandering, with Lisbon this is imperative as there are plenty hills to tackle.
Looking east from the viewpoint of Portas Do Sol over the terracotta tiles roofs of Lisbon with the Church of São Vicente de Fora on the hillside, and the National Pantheon in the distance.
The view from Portas Do Sol
For your sanity, I have just kept this list to 16 but it could have been longer, also once you have visited Lisbon yourself, I’m sure you’ll have your own list favourites.

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This is beautiful structure isn’t your average elevator, it is a stunning piece of architecture and so iconic to Lisbon’s skyline. I would highly recommend a visit to the Carmo Lift as the panoramic views across the rooftops of the city and the River Tagus beyond are breath-taking.
The elegant art deco iron structure of the Elevador de Santa Justa at night in Lisbon, Portugal
Elevador de Santa Justa at night, Lisbon, Portugal

 The queues at the bottom maybe a little busy at times, so you may want to gauge your arrival time. We were staying not too far from the upper level, so when we arrived the queues were non-existent, and we used our return ticket later in the day when it was quieter.

I would also suggest taking a stroll past the Santa Justa Lift in the evening, as it is quite impressive when it is illuminated.

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide was invaluable to us.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Lisbon mini-break, now you can grab the revised copy.

The Torre de Belém at the mouth of the River Tagus is another landmark that is so synonymous to Lisbon. It was constructed to commemorate Vasco da Gama's expedition and a reminder to the incredible role that Portugal played in discovery the world.
The 16th century Torre de Belém, a stone tower built in the Manueline style just outside Lisbon set on the shores of the River Tagus
Torre de Belém, Lisbon

 The defensive tower was built between 1514-20 and once stood on an island in the Tagus. The northern bank has been gradually built upon and the tower is now accessible to the public along a walkway.

The incredible tower was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983, along with Jerónimos Monastery which is also in Belém.

Just a short hop from the Torre de Belém is Padrão dos Descobrimentos ‘Monument to the Discoveries’. This truly eye-catching monument stands 52-metre-high and was opened in 1958, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death.
The side profile of the cream stone Monument of the Discoveries in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal
The Monument of the Discoveries
Henry the Navigator stands pride of place at the head of the monument and flanked by 33 other historical figures, who played significant roles in this period of Portugal’s history.

Where to stay in Lisbon

- Lisbon Rentals Chiado - This apartment was fantastic, located in the heart of Lisbon on the edge of Chiado & Bairro Alto and quite large for 2 people. Extremely clean and very well equipped.
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Also, by Lisbon’s harbour is the afore mentioned UNESCO site Jerónimos Monastery, known also as Monastery of the Hieronymites with its lovely manicured gardens.
Looking through the stone arched windows within the cloisters the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos to the tower beyond
A view of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimo

 The magnificent monastery took 100 years to build and was constructed in the distinctive Manueline style. It is visually impressive from the outside; however, when you step inside it has an incredible internal courtyard and cloisters.

It is certainly worth a visit and then when you’ve finished, you can indulge in a Pastel de Nata in the nearby Pasteis de Belém.

Sé Cathedral which was built in 1147 is located in the historic and colourful Alfama district of Lisbon and is the capital city’s oldest church.
The two stone towers flanking the entrance to Sé Cathedral in Lisbon, Portugal
Sé Cathedral, Lisbon
The imposing cathedral has gone through various architectural changes, due to the number of earthquakes that Lisbon has suffered, the most devastating being on 1st November 1755.
Castelo de São Jorge, ‘Castle of Saint George’ is Lisbon’s hilltop Moorish fortress. It sits proudly on São Jorge hill which is Lisbon’s highest point, and overlooks the lively, bustling city below.
A view across the rooftops to the Castle from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa in Lisbon, Portugal
The Castle from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa
The magnificent remains of Carmo Convent and Largo do Carmo is a reminder of the devastation of the 1755 earthquake. The ruins of the 14th-century church and convent of Carmo stand high above the city and have since been lovingly maintained into a tranquil place to visit and reflect.
Inside the ruins of the Carmo convent, looking up at the cloudy blue sky over Lisbon, Portugal
The remains of the Carmo Convent
Looking up towards the main window in the ruins of the Carmo convent, Lisbon, Portugal
The window at the Carmo Convent
Largo do Carmo played a significant role in Portugal’s history, as this is where the Carnation Revolution took place on 25th April 1974, to end Portugal’s dictatorship. It is incredible that this is still so recent in our history.
The Pantheon with its incredible dome is a magnificent piece of architecture located in the Alfama neighbourhood of Lisbon.
The front profile of the domed National Pantheon in Lisbon, Portugal
The National Pantheon, Lisbon

 Originally built as the Church of Santa Engrácia it now houses the tombs of some of Portugal’s major historic figures, including a crypt for the legendary footballer Eusébio.

If you have a head for heights, you must take a climb to the top of the Pantheon and step outside of the dome. The incredible views are amazing all along the River Tagus and beyond.

If time allows a day in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Sintra is a must. The captivating palaces and gardens scattered amongst the lush hillside are a real pleasure to explore.
The multi-coloured, ornate fusion, of the Romanticist castle of the Pena Palace at Sintra, just a short train ride away from Central Lisbon.
The Palace of Pena, Sintra, Portugal

 Our particular favourite was Quinta da Regaleira, with its subterranean towers, grottos, underground tunnels and mesmerising waterfalls.

I advise a bit of forward planning when visiting Sintra as it does get very busy, especially at the weekends.

While visiting Lisbon I urge you to seek out the miradouros (viewpoints). As Lisbon is such a hilly city there are quite a few of these beautiful miradourus dotted around Lisbon, and often with dapple-shaded gardens.
The view from Miradouro da graça over the rooftops of Lisbon, Portugal. In the near distance you can see the castle on the hillside, and in the distance the April 4th Bridge over the River Tagus
The view from Miradouro da Graça over Lisbon
The unobscured panoramic views across the tiled rooftops enable you to see for miles and you’ll be able to spot your favourite landmarks.
If you’re in Lisbon on a Tuesday or Saturday, then head up to the Feira da Ladra (flea market) in Alfama. This bustling, colourful and lively street market is full of an eclectic mix of oddities, there is sure to be something for everyone.
People strolling past market stalls in front of elegant tiled buildings in the Thieves Market, Lisbon, Portugal
Strolling through the Thieves Market
The Feira da Ladra is also known as the ‘Thieves Market’ and can be found just nearby the Panteão Nacional.
‘Squares’ to you and me, Lisbon has some delightful praças dotted all around this colourful city, some tiny and intimate and some just shouting splendour.
A view of the Statue of King José I in the centre of the Praça do Comércio with the Lisbon Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta in the background.
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon
The grandest square in Lisbon has to be Praças Do Commercio which stands with the Augusta Arch proudly looking down upon it. This beautiful square is a great place to sit and watch the world go by, with an incredible view of the River Tagus beyond.
Lisbon has so many iconic sights, and one of them just has to be the yellow tram. I believe its most popular route is no. 28; this line takes you through the winding streets of Alfama and past many of Lisbon’s well-known hot spots. The trams may get busy but, hey that’s part of the fun.
A desaturated black & white image of Tram 28 with just the yellow of the shot remaining
Tram 28, Lisbon

 Our tip is to catch the no. 28 earlier along its route, then it weaves you up all through the narrow streets of the Alfama neighbourhood. Jump off near the top and stroll back down, visiting all the historical sites at your leisure.

Also, there are 3 funicular trams, named Glória, Bica & Lavra, adorned with local art.

An addition in recent years are the Tuk tuks, I think you tend to either love them or hate them.

You learn so much from a city from just meandering around its streets and lanes and Lisbon is the same. There is plenty to be discovered just by turning left when the less adventurous are turning right.
A sepia-toned image of the lanes of the Chiado region of Lisbon, Portugal
Amongst the lanes of Chiado
Take yourself for a walk around the Bairro Alto, Chiado and Alfama, you’ll never know what you will find.
Heading to an intimate bar with captivating Fado music being sung was one of the highlights of our visit to Lisbon.
Inside Tasca do Chico, Lisbon, Portugal
Inside Tasca do Chico, Lisbon
The compelling melancholic ballads which are sung by men and women late into the evenings (and early mornings) are a must to experience. They can be very moving; we spent a few very enjoyable hours at ‘Tasca do Chico’ in Bairro Alto.

Pastel de Nata

 No trip to Lisbon would be complete without sampling these little delicacies.

You can get Pastel de Nata throughout Lisbon; however, our favourites and that of many others is where they were originally created at Pasteis de Belém.

A plate of four Portuguese custard tarts at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal
Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

Don’t be put off by the queues, these creamy custard tarts, with their delicious flaky pastry cases are worth waiting for.

Believe me you’ll be hooked.

Ginjinha

The local tipple of ‘Ginja’ a sour cherry liqueur is served almost everywhere; however, the best places to try it is out of the two little shop fronts by Rossio Square.
Queuing for a shot of Ginjinha Sem Rival at a tiny little shop in the centre of Lisbon, Portugal
Ginjinha Sem Rival in Lisbon
A single bottle of Ginjinha, in which you can clearly see the cherries in the bottom of the bottle, brought back from Lisbon, Portugal
Our bottle of Ginjinha brought back from Lisbon
You are served with a brimming shot glass full of the sour cherry liqueur and as a treat when you finish it (some down it in one), there is an ginja berry at the bottom infused with the liqueur.

Elegant Cafés

For an experience a little more graceful then try Café Nicola or A Brasileira.
A black and white image of the maitre d' standing in front of the Café Nicola in Lisbon, Portugal
Café Nicola, Lisbon
These are a couple of Lisbon’s famous elegant cafés that serve a tasty selection of pastries within a very stylish Art Nouveau and Art Deco décor.

This was our first trip to Portugal, and I can certainly see us planning a road trip around the country to discover more of its delightful culture.

We would love to hear if there any places in Portugal that you can recommend?

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