The trip I took to Lisbon, Portugal was about a month after the one in Barcelona, Spain, so in July 2016. Lisbon has a warm partly Mediterranean, partly Atlantic climate, which makes July a very hot month. Luckily, there was a breeze, so I didn’t completely dehydrate.
In my last story I was telling you about the very important things you need on a trip, which I mostly skipped in Barcelona, but thankfully I was now a bit more prepared. Besides comfy shoes, I also had a plan and I decided to make use of the hop-on hop-off buses, which my feet were surely grateful for.
The hotel was in a rather central area and had a subway station just 2 minutes away. The hop-on/hop-off bus station was also there, in a big square – Marquês de Pombal. This neighbourhood looked pretty high-end and was full of hotels. There was also a huge park – Parque Eduardo VII, which was nice for a relaxing stroll.
The first day we started at Sao Jorge Castle, a castle located on top of a hill that offered a gorgeous view of the city and the sea, or better said the Rio Tejo. I will probably continue to call that river the sea forever, just because as long as I’ve been there, I was constantly under the impression that the river was the sea (I know, wishful thinking). And speaking about the castle and the hill and me trying to save my feet, I still had to climb to the top, as the bus doesn’t reach the castle, which is not a bad thing, but boy, was that a steep climb. But it was worth it, nevertheless. The view was indeed great and the castle walls were quite impressive too.
We then walked towards Praça do Comércio, a huge square that is just on the shore. At some point on our walk, I had a very good and filling lunch of soup and fish and a drink too, all for a very cheap price, my guess is it was something like 8€. Many of the local eateries are quite small and hidden from view, but if you pay close attention you’ll find some treasures. Mostly family businesses, they offer good food in big portions at good prices. Of course, you’ll stumble upon the occasional high-end restaurant, but after the experiences I had, I would definitely go for the small family-owned restaurants.
We also visited the Fado Museum, where you can learn about the history of fado music, a type of music that originated in Portugal. On another day, we had lunch there, though I don’t clearly recall when, but it’s when I had my first tuna steak ever. Despite any of my expectations, I completely fell in love with the dish and my mouth still waters, to this day, at the recollection.
On the second day, we went to Torre Belem, a very famous landmark in Lisbon. The tower is located somewhat in the water but it is reachable via a bridge. Again, we decided not to go in (long line) and only enjoyed the outside of the building which is really nice. Nearby the tower, there’s also a monument in honor of the geographical discoveries made by the Portuguese, called Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries). It was being renovated when I was there, so only a part of it was visible. It is quite a large structure and worth seeing at least for the idea behind it.
Also nearby, there is the Jeronimo Monastery, a huge building, beautifully designed, that, guess what? Also had a huge line of excited tourists outside. We were on our way to take the bus to Cascais, so we skipped that too. I know this sounds like a lot of skipping, but after walking for a while in the heat, and seeing many monuments and museums and churches on the inside, the idea of looking at them from the outside only starts getting more and more tempting. And no, I couldn’t say I regret not entering these places, and the same goes for many future locations.
And so, we took the bus to Cascais. Cascais is famous for its beaches and is very popular among people looking for relaxation and a tan. However, neither I, nor my companion are big fans of the beach. I get sunburned easily and direct sunlight gives me severe headaches. He, on the other hand, gets easily bored and laying on the beach doing nothing is at the top of the list of boring things for him.
However, we did find something really cool there, which was Boca do Inferno. One of the most spectacular sceneries I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. A rock structure beautifully sculpted by the sea waves, named “Hell’s Mouth”, not only because of its shape but also because the place was quite dangerous for boats and ships.
After getting back from Cascais, we spent the afternoon taking a stroll through the city. We passed Elevador de Santa Justa, an old, vintage looking lift that can give you a nice panoramic view of the city. We decided not to go up, as the line to get in was huge and we did get a nice panoramic view of the city from the castle the other day, as you remember. We headed to Mercado da Ribeira, which is very similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona. A food market with many stalls where you can eat. However, the prices here seemed to be a bit higher than in other parts of the city. But it’s sure worth a visit. To get there, it’s nice to pass through the Baixa-Chiado neighborhood, one with small, uphill streets.
The following day, we decided to go to the aquarium, known as Oceanario de Lisboa, also one of the biggest in Europe. Nearby, you can also see Torre Vasco da Gama and relax your tired feet on a trip in the cable car.
A building that I really liked, although it wasn’t on my list, was the train station, which I went to on the fourth day to get on a train to Sintra.
Sintra is a town, about one hour away from Lisbon by train. For its size, Sintra has incredibly many attractions. It’s almost as if the entire town is a complex of attractions. There are several castles and museums you can visit. We limited ourselves to only two major ones, as we were planning to reach Cabo da Roca too.
Once off the train, we exited the station and got a bus to the top of the mountain, where Pena Castle is located. The castle has a lot of charm due to its lively colours and it sure is worth visiting. After this, we climbed down a bit and visited the Moors Castle, or better said, its ruins. I loved walking the walls, although by the end, I could barely breathe and I was in desperate need of water (do take plenty with you, if you decide to visit).
We got the bus back to the train station and from the same bus station, took one to Cabo da Roca. I don’t really remember how long the ride there took – must have been around one hour. The road there is quite twisted and “curvy”, but the drivers seemed to be very experienced. It was probably one of my favourite places in Portugal. The view is stunning and the thought of being at what I called the “end of the Earth” is really great. I even paid about 11 euro or so (which might sound nuts – but I was crazy excited) for a certificate with my name on it that states I was at the end of the earth. Also, for those of you who plan more time there, you can find Praya da Ursa nearby. It is a gorgeous beach with huge rocks. Be careful on the way down and get ready for a steep climb back, but other than that, it’s by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, scenery wise.
After this one-day trip, we got back to Lisbon and somewhere behind the train station, in the Baixa-Chiado neighbourhood, if I’m not mistaken, we found a street full of tables and chairs from restaurants. They were dangerously inclined, but we took a chance and had something to eat at one of the restaurants. I’ve personally haven’t thought before that, of ever eating pork and mussels in the same dish, but it was delicious!
Another cool thing you can do in Lisbon is take the tram, which climbs a hill, so it works like a funicular. You’ll see plenty of photos of that tram on the internet.
All in all, this was a really amazing trip, a bit more organized and it is definitely one of the places I would like to revisit someday.