Looking for a city-break? Lisbon is just the perfect destination. Here are a few things that i absolutely love about this charming city. The place attracts a lot of tourists every year and you will know why in a bit. So here you go!
1. Love at first sight
Portuguese tiles a.k.a Azulejos
One of my fondest memories of Lisbon was taking the tram ride to my hotel the day i landed. Lisbon is as charming as any other European cities, yet simple and unique in its own way. While the tram made its way through Lisbon's narrow streets, the first thing i noticed were the beautiful tiled facades of Lisbon which gave the city an individuality, something which Portugal is known for. Portuguese tiles or Azulejos are tin-glazed ceramic tiles found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, houses, restaurants, and almost every other building in Lisbon.
For the geeks out there, the National Azulejo Museum is well worth a visit with a collection of five centuries of azulejos.
2. Ride or die
With the construction of the Lisbon Metro and the expansion of the bus system, the tram lines in Lisbon are reduced to 6 from 27. The most popular tram line from amongst the 6 is the line 28 passing through the city's notable neighborhoods - Bairro Alto, Baixa and Alfama. With only 2.90 Euro, you get to see the best of the city in the most authentic way. But it's not an easy ride as it sounds like. Since taking a ride on Tram 28 is on top of every tourist's list, getting a place to sit or for that matter getting in the tram, is next to impossible especially during morning and evening hours. After having spent some time in the lively neighborhood of Baixa district the evening i landed, i decided to walk the route taken by Tram 28 to Alfama district. That was when the tram arrived screeching its way through the streets fully packed like sardines in a can. Without a second thought, i decided to walk it all the way.
After having spent a lovely evening at Portas do Sol viewpoint in Alfama district, i took the Tram 28 back home and this time it did have few empty seats. I didn't get down at my stop but instead sat till the last stop, taking in glimpses of the beautiful city.
3. Do you see what i see
Look-out points of Lisbon
As a city built on seven hills, Lisbon is immensely blessed with the best views. Here are a few look-out points that i visited and fell in love with.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
The first time i saw the red-tiled downtown district of Alfama was from the beautiful flowered terrace of Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Since it's on the way to Alfama district, this pit-stop is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy lovely views of the Tagus river as well. I would recommend a drink or two at Bar Terraco Santa Lucia, a casual bistro on the terrace. I loved their proscuitto & cheese toast. The view, the wine and a local street musical performance absolutely made my evening.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Just a few steps from Miradouro de Santa Luzia you land up in this open balcony with splendid views of Alfama district.
Miradouro de Graca
This is another look-out point from the district of Graca with lovely views of the city and Castelo de Sao Jorge.
Aerial View from Rua Augusta Arch
Walk up to Praca do Comercio and take the elevator up Rua Augusta Arch to enjoy a sweeping 360 degree view of Lisbon city.
View from Castelo de Sao Jorge
An early start to the castle will really help to avoid the long queue at the ticket counter and to have the place all to yourself. There are different ways to get here. You may walk from Baixa district. However, It's a long steep walk uphill but an insane leg workout. A better (wise) option to conveniently reach here is by taking Tram 28 (which is in case if you manage to get in the tram) or walk from the Rossio metro station to Praca Da Figueira bus station and catch the bus 437 which takes right upto the castle entrance. The easiest option is to take a taxi.
Halfway through you may take a slight detour and visit the Lisbon Cathedral popularly known as Se Cathedral.
In St. George's Castle, you get a taste of Lisbon's history and see remnants of the Moorish era. Did i mention the views? History can wait, get ready for excellent views of the city from Lisbon's highest hill.
Watch out, you could see peacocks strolling around. For information about timing and fees check out their website.
4. Alfama, you stole my heart away!
You do not a need a plan to walk around Alfama, you just need good walking shoes. Get your poses ready as every corner is Instagram-worthy. Explore this beautiful neighborhood and its maze of streets, get in and out of quaint shops, stop by cozy eateries for a bite or two and an occasional drink. By evening, lounge in one of the restaurants with a classic Portuguese delicacy and enjoy Fado music.
5. When in doubt, take a day trip
You might have to leave all your diet plans back home because that's not going work in Lisbon. You could have pastries for all three meals if you'd like to and then take a tram ride 20 minutes from Lisbon to it's outskirts, just to indulge in the world famous Pastel de Nata from Pasteis De Belem. This golden puff pastry is crispy on the outside and sweet and creamy inside. A few shakes of powdered sugar and cinnamon take the flavour to a whole new level. And that's not it in Belem, it's also known for two UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower (both have no entrance fee on Sunday mornings). To get to Belem take the tram E15 from Cais do Sodre.
I also highly recommend Manteigaria in Rua do Loreto 2, Lisbon for their finger licking good Pastel de Nata. A single bite into the warm buttery folds of the puff pastry makes you close your eyes and lose yourself into the lusciousness of the custard core that opens up. I felt myself transported to a fragrant cloud somewhere, my senses immersed in pure delight.
6.The best kept secret
Take a day trip to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo Da Roca
Go for a full day trip to the fairy tale village of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and combine it with Cascais, a bustling resort town known for its beaches and lush waterfront along with Cabo Da Roca, Europe's western most point. Make an early start to cover all three points and take the first train to Sintra from Rossio station if possible. It's a 40 minutes ride and get down at the last stop, Sintra. From there, the bus 434 will take you to all the major points of Sintra - the historic centre, the National Palace, the Moors Castle and the Pena Palace.
The historic centre of Sintra is your typical European street, cobbled pathways, winding alleyways, adorned with small eateries and tavernas throughout the street and soft music floating in the air.
It's true that great food is not just eaten with the mouth but also with the eyes. Have a look at the plating below. That's some presentation! Don't mistake it for a fancy place, it's just a tiny eatery outside National Palace called Vinhos & Sabores. This plate of heaven was the best meal of my trip - an exemplary meal of chipped cod with baked potatoes and spinach served with some Port wine.
A few minutes walk downhill and you are back to Sintra bus station. There are two options to go to Cascais - one is to take a direct bus to Cascais withouting visiting Cabo Da Roca or take a more scenic route to Cascais via Cabo Da Roca. Take the bus 403 instead of 417 if you prefer the more scenic route. It's definitely worth it.
You may spend 30-45 minutes in Cabo Da Roca. There's a bus every 30 minutes from there to Cascais.
Cascais is synonymous with the word charm in all its sense. With its mosaic-tiled pavements, palm-fringed waterfronts, picturesque harbour and gorgeous ocean views, it is sure to sweep you off your feet. Settle in for a drink or two in Cascais's charming centre before you make your way back to Lisbon by train.
7.Head over heels
With amazing rooftops, restaurants, cafes and bars, the neighborhoods of Bairo Alto, Bica and Cais do Sodre are the best places to spend your nightlife in Lisbon. Enjoy a cocktail from Park rooftop bar or just explore the dozens of bars and night clubs for a fun-filled night out.
Suggested Itinerary for 4 days:
Day 1 :
Avenida Da Liberdade
Praca Do Comercio
Rua Augusta Arch
Evening in Bairro Alto
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Sao Jorge Castle
Day trip to Sintra, Cascais & Cabo Da Roca