Lisbon; the friendly city (April Holidays)
Living in Cornwall, cities are a little out of our comfort zone, but we have a love of Portugal and it’s people and Lisbon and surrounding area didn’t disappoint.
Having done the far west of the Algarve and the Alejento/ Costa Vicente, we are working our way up the coast line and booked a week in Caiscais 30km west of Lisbon on the Tagus estuary where it opens into the Atlantic. It felt very much like St Ives but grander and with a beautiful light and climate.
Lisbon was a €2 train ride along the coast and Sintra a half hour train ride or hour long via the bus coastal trip.with so many UNESCO world heritage places to visit!
We packed a lot into a week and got a feel for the city. It always takes a day or two to get your bearings and is always worth getting lost, but never be afraid to ask in Portugal. The most gracious of people, they will often take your hand and physically walk you there. The city of seven hills could do with a few more signs, but going off track you come across some wonderful surprises with the added grandeur of the tile clad houses that line the often narrow streets that were as steep as Clovelly; the narrow alleys where the trams trundled through; the small door ways that revealed the best of local eateries to the decorative pastelarias; not forgetting the miradouras which opened up vistas over the city from high up and beautiful parks.
Too much to write, here are a few of our favourite things we did.
Every day walking a different route from our hotel Casa Vela and always ending up somewhere on the front. House of Wonders owned by Anna has great fresh world cuisine with a chic roof top bar. Dom Pedro gives you traditional Portuguese cuisine among the miriad of new chic expensive restaurants. The museums and historic houses were as good as any in Lisbon and cheap or free. It was small , friendly. a little touristy but had everything you needed with great walking and comforts. Shop at the mercerdo and buy your wines from the supermarket.
Take the coast road to Sintra. We caught the bus. the views down the coast are stunning as were all the wild flowers. arriving at the bijou station, we took a taxi to Quinta do Regaleria which we could in hindsight have walked. fantasy gothic gardens with grottos, statues and quirkiness, it is a must. With views to the sky top Royal Pena Palace we knew we had to go while here and avoid the tourist trap of central historic Sintra. A bumpy fun ride in a tuk tuk landed us at the entrance with a still 1km steep incline walk, it was beautiful though the rooms small but a picture postcard photo at every turn.
Pena National Palace
Quinta Da Regaleira
Walk and explore. It’s not a huge city but very steep. Tram 28 does the major spots and was fun. Don’t miss Alfama, Biarro Alto , Rossio square for Ginja (cherry liqueur ) and the lesser known Principe Real. High up, trendy but open and a mini village in it’s own right. For something more modern, using the so so simple, uber clean fast metro, you must not miss Oceanarium, a world class aquarium in the expo area of Parque do Nacoes with great urban art and views of the Vasco do gama bridge and a huge shopping centre. Timeout mercado di Ribiera offers fantastic communal modern eating in a market setting and is a a must do near Cais Do Sodre station. It also meant we could have a glass or two, eat and get on the train back to Caiscais in just a moment.
Belem area with the Monument to Discoveries with fountains and the monastery building as a backdrop was also beautiful whilst munching on the famous pastel de nata, custard tarts.
We didn’t hire a car, but just about did every other mode of transport though mainly our legs!
With the great exchange rate we ate out cheaply and bought a few lovely items along the way. Seriously, you need to go with an empty suitcase for beautiful clothing and linens.
There were so many things we didn’t get to do, but another time maybe.
elevador Bica from behind the fab mercado di ribiera
Tram 28 to get a feel for the city and lie of the land and admire the sights and architecture.
Park, a rooftop bar .
Biarro alto hotel rooftop bar just to be nosy and look around but great cocktails.
Via the elevador Gloria, admire the view from the miradouras and then walk up to Principe Real.
Walk Alfama for lunch or late aft when the locals are out chatting.
Chiado felt too much like a city to me, but you don’t have to go far either west of East to get into the old city.
Oceanarium a must see and use the metro. cheap, clean and easy even for us country bumpkins
Stand outside the back of Chiado theatre and listen to rehearsals
So many individual shops and not all expensive.
Gins are huge and tend to be cheaper than beer. Wines are far superior and love raposeira, their cava.
Talk to people. They are so friendly and always smiling. Hardly any English but mostly French visitors with a few Aussies, Scandinavian and it only takes a few Americans to know they are there. 😉 .
Already planning a trip back, as there was so much more to see in this beautiful city.