On our way back from the Azores, we decided to stop a couple of days in the Portuguese capital to get a taste of the mainland. It is completely different from the Azores and although Lisbon is a nice city, I immediately felt suffocation. Bare in mind that our previous destination was the pristine remote and sparsely populated island of Flores, so when we landed in Lisbon we immediately sensed the huge contrast. However Lisbon is a city that has a lot to offer and an emerging tourist destination. Here are some of the top things to do in Lisbon:
10. Start at Praça Dom Pedro IV or Rossio Square
This large square is one of the main of the city and features two beautiful fountains and some picturesque vintage style shops. These include one of the oldest hat shops in the city Chapelaria Azevedo Rua. This square is also home to the main train station of Lisbon. It is a good starting point for your walking tour around the main attractions of the city.
9. Admire the trams around Praça Figueira
Next to Praça Dom Pedro IV is Praça Figueira another picturesque square surrounded by shops and forms part of the Baixa district. Around the square you will see a lot of bus and tram stops and this is a good point to take a good photo of the vintage trams, one of the symbols of Lisbon. There is also a small market (it is actually more like a grocery store) displaying some local products like the bacalhau, canned tuna and local beer. Worth taking a look inside if you are there
8. Get lost in Bairro Alto and Alfama Districts
A stroll here is like a stroll back in time. These are not the cleanest and prettiest of roads but this is the real heart of Lisbon. You will see a lot of houses covered in tiles and balconies with hanging clothes, together with a lot of electricity cables crossing the alleys.
7. Jerónimos Monastery and Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Be careful to plan well your visit to the monastery as the line to get in is usually very long. In fact we only saw it from the outside. In front of the monastery there is also a nice garden as well as the monument to the famous Portuguese discoverers who explored the Americas. After your visit you will surely enjoy a lunch at a nearby restaurant which I found to be delicious. Food was actually my favourite aspect of the Portuguese capital. At Cervejaria Portugalia I was delighted with a super delicious typical prawn dish named Açorda de Camarão no Pão which is actually served in bread.
6. Belem Tower
Belem Tower is an attraction which is not very close to all the other main attractions in Lisbon and getting here involved getting lost. We got on a bus that instead of continuing along the Tagus river banks, where the Tower is located, diverted towards the buildings. We kept on hoping that the bus would go back towards the river, however it left the centre and ended up in the campsite in the outskirts. Next day we tried again and got on a taxi to be on the safe side. Taxis in Lisbon are very cheap so getting a shot like this was worth the taxi fare (around 15 Euros from Cais do Sodre).
4. Indulge in cheap fine dining at Mercado da Ribeira
This food market is one of my favourite markets ever and possibly my favourite spot in Lisbon. This market is different from the other markets I had visited previously. Apart from several typical foods like Pasteis de Nata and Bacalhau dishes, there are fine dining options at a very reasonable price. Moreover you will see the food being prepared and cooked in front of your own eyes. A true feast for the eyes and the stomach 🙂
3. Travel back in time at the Castelo de São Jorge
The moorish castle lies on the highest hill of Lisbon and dates back to medieval era. Apart from the architecture of the castle itself it is also one of the best locations to see Lisbon from an aerial perspective. As you get to the castle take your time to admire the surroundings of the castle, full of souvenir shops and street artists.
2. Watch the city from above from one of the numerous miradouros
Lisbon is a city of hills and viewpoints are numerous. The above shot was taken at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol in the Alfama district next to the Santa Luzia church. A curious characteristic of the city is the typical red roofs of the houses. There are several viewpoints such as Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara and Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte. However my favourite was the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, also because there was a nice vibe with live music and dancers near the viewpoint terrace.
1. Get an iconic photo of a tram in front of Lisbon Cathedral
This shot was an absolute must and I waited long before I could get this shot. I know, it is not as spectacular as I hoped! However given the big quantity of people and other photographers running around in the middle of the road trying to get the same kind of shot I can settle for this one.