I didn’t have a real picture of what to expect in Lisbon (or Lisboa), not many people I’d met had either been to or spoken much about it but as my first introduction to Portugal, I was fairly impressed.
After about three consecutive months travelling, I arrived here at a point when I was a little more slack than normal when it came to sight seeing. Slow meandering and eating were instead focuses at the time.
Not that there’s anything wrong with this of course, but with only a couple days in the city I look back and think wistfully that I could’ve probably seen so much more than I did.
I’ll share some highlights from four of the main areas of the city nonetheless and hope to discover more again another visit!
Seemingly popular with a mix of people, from the tourists to locals and those of the indie persuasion the area is charming but with edge.
Graffiti covers pastel coloured buildings and during the day it makes for a nice stroll around but it’s pretty quiet. After dark it’s a different story and becomes one of the top places to go for a good night out.
You can walk (and feel the burn) up to here or take a tram to Bairro Alto which also offers some of the highest views of Lisbon from a terrace like public area called the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
Alfama & Graça
This is actually two close neighbourhoods under one description, partly because there wasn’t much my friends and I did here – we were pretty content just walking around admiring the scenery!
We discovered a lot of this area by accident on our walk down from Miradouro Da Graca, and I think it was actually my favourite.
The musicians playing for passersby, mixed with the ocean views beyond the charming homes running alongside cobblestone streets created a fantastic atmosphere.
Miradouro Da Graca is the place to get pretty fantastic panoramic views of the city. As you could imagine it’s a little bit of a trek uphill but not unbearable. We stopped into a small bar nearby to try some ginjinha, a local Portuguese liquor made from sour cherries.
Views from Miradoura Da Graca
Ginjinha, local sour cherry liquor
In operation since 1837, if you want to try a traditional pastel de nata or egg tart pastries, more commonly referred to as Portuguese custard tarts in Australia, then Casa Pasteis de Belém is for you.
There will most likely be a long line (strangely there wasn’t for us though, very lucky!) but it’s worth it. Melt in your mouth flaky pastry filled with sweet goodness. I’ll take 50 please.
While we were in Belém there was a parade (not sure what it was for unfortunately) and some market stalls across the road from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, which is what we came to Belém to see. There was eclectic knick knacks of all kinds and you could even buy tiles.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a UNESCO heritage listed monastery, along with the nearby Belém Tower.
There seemed to be a huge amount of French tourists around and the majority of them seemed to want to see the monastery the same time as us. The line was ridiculous, so we decided to save it for another day but sadly never made it back.
I would love to see it inside but the outside is pretty impressive itself.
The downtown area of Lisbon, this is where the main shopping featuring every popular major European label like Pull & Bear or H&M is located.
Spot the artwork on the balcony
Main shopping street
What first drew our attention was the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta. Following the earthquake of 1755 it (and actually the majority of this area of Lisbon) was built to mark the new beginnings of the city. You can pay a few euros to get to the top.
There’s many places as I’ve mentioned to see the city for free but it was still lovely from the arch.
The backside of the arch
Views from the top of Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
Statue on top of the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
Views from the top of Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
The Praça do Comércio, also referred to as Terreiro do Paço is a large square located across from the ocean.
King José I sits in the middle of the square
25th of April Bridge, a look alike of the Golden Gate as seen from the square
In this square you’ll find the Lisboa Story Centre. This is one of those attractions designed for kids but if you had very to little knowledge of Portuguese history (guilty) it’s pretty informative.
There’s an audio guide and although I found it a little slow and tedious at parts overall I did learn a lot.
The tour ends with a mini film about it the huge earthquake that took place in 1755 (which I had never heard of to be honest!), it’s death toll starting at an estimated 10,000 makes it one of the worst ever.
I wouldn’t say it’s a must see, but if you have the time and are interested in such things it’s a good way to spend an hour.
A nearby stroll will get you to yet another square called the Praça dos Restauradores. As the name promises, there are many choices of dining nearby, there’s the usual tourist traps but you can also find some reasonably priced options too.
Most restaurants will bring out appetisers like olives when you sit down, these are never free so only eat them if you’re happy to pay for it. Otherwise, ask for the dish of the day which is often much cheaper if you’re on a budget.
Seafood here is very fresh and a lot of meals come with potatoes, rice and vegetables. It’s quite a healthy diet and the Portuguese do meat well too.
A few more pictures from around the city..