Portugal Diary | Lisbon

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The view from Castelo de São Jorge

Lisbon – or Lisboa – was my final stop in my first solo adventure, and it is a city like no other. Being able to explore this amazing city before going home was a really exhilarating experience, and was made all the better because I got to hang out with my Portuguese friend in the evening and discover even more of this amazing city with her. As much as solo travelling is a unique experience, being able to share it with a friend is also pretty amazing.

Before even arriving in Portugal, I pre-purchased a 72-hour Lisboa Card, which is a tourist card that allows you complete and free access to Lisbon’s transit system (bus, subways, trams, etc.) as well as free or discounted entrance to museums and other attractions. I had used a similar card on my trip to San Francisco a few years prior and really liked the ease of it, which is why I chose to go with this one. Personally, if you were only planning on using the card for a day or so, I wouldn’t purchase it since it’s not worth it.

I personally found it really easy to use and was able to use it for the full-time limit of the card and at all the tourist sites that I went to and because I was there during the week. If you’re planning on exploring Lisbon during the weekend, you’ll find that quite a number of attractions exempt or discount their entrance fee. So definitely plan ahead and do a little research.

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Tram 28

I spent my first morning in Lisbon exploring the neighbourhood of Alfama. This is where you’ll find Castelo de São Jorge, Tram 28, Sé de Lisboa, and a number of viewpoints (miradouros) to look out into this magical city. I spent all morning exploring this neighbourhood, walking around its cobble-lined streets and alleyways, and just taking in this historic area. I arrived in the neighbourhood pretty early and was one of the first people to enter Castelo de São Jorge, which I highly recommend you go check out. I wandered around the castle for over an hour looking out at Lisbon and all the different architectural aspects of the castle.

I eventually found my way to the Praça do Comercio, which I soon learnt was the backdrop to some of Portugal’s most important historical events. It’s definitely an area packed with lots and lots of tourists, but the views from the square are unlike any other that you’ll see in the city.

I headed towards the Belem area in the afternoon. It’s here that you’ll find Torre de Belém, Mosterio dos Jerónimos, a number of museums and other historical and tourist attraction sites. I got off at the Belem train stop and started wandering down the riverfront towards Belem tower. It’s also in this area that you’ll find Pastéis de Belem, which is the bakery where pastels de nata originated. (Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to face the huge lines that the bakery is known for because it was a Monday.)

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Torre de Belém

And because it was a Monday, a number of the sites including Torre de Belém and Mosterio dos Jerónimos were actually closed to tourists, so I ended up wandered around the area and taking it all in. I actually ended up on the rooftop bar of the Museu Colecção Berardo drinking caipirinhas and continuing my vacation reading. The rooftop bar boasts some truly excellent views of the area. You can literally sit on the edge of the building, which I did, and look out at the Rio Tejo and watch the world go by. It was a great way to wind down from all the walking I had done previously. I had actually walked about 18-20kms that day by the time I reached the bar.

Another great place to people watch and look out at the Rio Tejo is on the top of the MAAT, which is Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. The MAAT is architecturally stunning and was designed to look like a wave and climbing on top of it is absolutely free. The view as the sun sets in Lisbon from this vantage point is incredible. And seeing my first sunset in Lisbon from this spot was well worth the walk from the Museu Colecção Berardo.

The LX Factory is one of Lisbon’s hottest and newest arts centre and boasts stores, galleries, and restaurants. It’s here where I had dinner and explored the Ler Devagar bookstore and had a few numbers of cocktails to end off my night.

I spent the next day on a literary tour of Lisbon and then areas of Rossio, Baixa, and Chiado. I had a great time really seeing and exploring Lisbon and diving into its history. It’s a city filled with culture and history that spans centuries, and you can still see the remnants of its past in these areas. As a history buff, that day was fantastic. I got to see, explore, learn, and delve into what makes Lisbon, Lisbon or Lisboa.

I ended off my night with dinner at the Mercado da Ribeira, better known as Lisbon’s Time Out Market and in the Barrio Alto neighbourhood. I still dream of the tuna steak sandwich I had at the Time Out Market and is a place I highly recommend checking out. It is worth it even though it is crowded and you’ll definitely be fighting for a place to sit or stand and eat. The Barrio Alto area is known for its nightlife. You’ll find loads of bars and Fado restaurants in this area.

Be warned, this area is quite hilly but definitely worth exploring and wandering around the alleyways and cobble-lined streets. I even found a bar filled with books though I can’t remember its name or the exact street it is on. Sorry!

One of the best miradouros in the city is actually located in the Barrio Alto area, and where I ended off the night before taking the subway home. The Miradouro de Santa Catarina offers some SPECTACULAR views and has a small café that offers your regular café fair as well as some alcoholic beverages. It was one of my favourite spots to see Lisbon from and a great place to just sit and relax.

(All pictures featured in the post were shot by me with my iPhone 6s.) 

Next Chapter: Sintra and saying goodbye to Portugal 

Thanks for reading!

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