When Ulysses reached the Tagus river as part of his journey, Zeus instructed him to build a city on this land we now called Lisbon. The land was full of snakes and their queen was Offiusa who was half woman half snake. Offiusa fell madly in love with Ulysses and offered him the kingship of lands. Ulysses thought he would refuel his ships, get some rest and be on his way (typical man mentality) and accepted her offer. She was over the moon (typical women mentality). After some raunchy sex and honeymooning she woke up next morning and saw him leaving on his ship. She grew mad with rage and ran to the River Tagus to chase him and her wriggling tail ran through Lisbon so hard, it divided the city in 7 hills and that’s how Lisbon got the 7 hills it is built on; Hill of São Jorge (the highest hill and the first inhabited place in Lisbon), Hill of Santa Ana, Hill of São Vicente, Hill of Chagas, Hill of St. Andrew, Hill of Santa Catarina and Hill of São Roque.
Even though historians are certain the city was populated by Phoenicians I just loved this myth about Lisbon or Lisboa. It is the sunniest capital in Europe and a centre of modern multiculturalism and creative arts with a thriving food, arts and culture scenes and an amazing night life and not to forget, HOT GUYS!
All Things Lisbon
Lisbon has a lot of things that are very specific to the city; Grafitti, Alfama St. Anthony’s feast celebrations in June, beautiful buildings and balconies, colourful districts, nightlife in Bairro Alto and its gay scene and the list goes on and on. I stayed near Cais do Sodre station which was close to most places on foot and also convenient for travelling to beach in Cascais and a visit to Belem. Within all things Lisbon I do want to mention a few names that you will hear again and again.
Fado – The melancholic music that originated from Lisbon and originated based on ‘longing’ and not sure why but I could see Fado in the faces of a lot of Portuguese like it just stayed there. It is very charming and you will come across plenty of music houses, more details here.
Pasteis de Nata – These little creamy custard tarts from Portugal especially Lisbon are everywhere and extremely delicious. I had them pretty much every day for breakfast with some coffee, mouth watering!
Sintra – Sintra is a beautiful city and royal sanctuary located under Sintra Hills. It is an hour away and is famous for its beautiful palaces and villas in Moorish style. Unfortunately i didn’t get time but if you do please go.
Tuk Tuks & Trams – While modern means of transport are there in Lison with extensive coverage through metro and busses the old style trams still play an important and beautiful part in Lisbon life. To make things even more interesting you will see garishly decorated tuk tuks.
Tip: Don’t forget to bargain for the tuk tuk fare, It is part of the experience 😉
Free Walking Tours – I went with Lisbon Free Chill Out Walking Tours and the guys are absolutely amazing.
The Great earthquake of 1755 – This earthquake shaped Lisbon like no other singular event in history. It is a fascinating tale of horror and courage that I shan’t spoil for you, enjoy it on the tour.
Mercado da Ribeira (Timeout Market) – This is one of the best food markets I have been to definitely a much better take on food markets. It includes the most famous food and restaurants from all around the city under one roof in a modern and very inviting setting. It opens early and stays till late with good drinking options and still quite cheap. Perfect food spot for Lisbon!
Airport – Lisbon airport is modern and the transport to the city is really good and frequent. Lisbon metro runs from 6am to 1am.
Tip: Give yourself extra time if your flight arrives at Terminal 2 which has no public transport link other than a free shuttle to Terminal 1.
Baixa Chiado –> Livraria Bertrand Chiado –> Praça Luís de Camões –> Church of Sao Roque –> Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara –> Principe Real
Baixa Chiado – The metro station is in the centre of city and really easy to get to from all directions. I would recommend using it as the reference point. The status in the square are especially loved. While here don’t forget to try the coffee from Cafe a Brasileira which has the honour of hosting a lot of famous authors and poets.
Livraria Bertrand Chiado – The oldest bookshop in the world! At a stone’s throw from metro station , the bookshop is a must visit..
Praça Luís de Camões – Luis de Camoes square is between Chiado and Bairro Alto. This is where most of the Walking Tours start and this is where you will most likely say good bue to new friends you made in Bairo Alto.
Church of Sao Roque – This beautiful little church has the most expensive altar ever built. The walls and celing are intricately decorated it is a fine example of Portuguese empire and its might in the golden days.
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara – This beautiful little garden is at the start of Principe Real and has amazing panoramic views of the whole city. You can see the whole city from this point including St. George’s Castle, which I didn’t go to because of lack of interest mainly 😉
Principe Real – Principe Real is a neighborhood in Lisbon with its beautiful houses, streets and very unique culture. (This area is famous among the gay population for its “bear” scene, please take a note). The beautiful tiles in Moorish style are quite common and the old style in the neighbourhood hides a lot of gems. I would highly recommend Cantinho Lusitano for a late lunch but you do need to book well in advance for its amazing food and cosy atmosphere.
Bairro Alto – Spend the night in Bairro Alto. The district is famous for its narrow uphill streets and while you start atop you will end up at the bottom of hills with everyone at the end. I would suggest Restaurante Stasha for some amazing food especially the garlic prawns.
For some cool bars try Setimo Ceu, Bi concept and 40e1.
The discos are mostly in Principe Real and the best ones are Trumps and Construction.
Carmo Convent –> Santa Justa Lift –> Praca do Comercio –> Church of Santo Antonio –> Alfama
Carmo Convent – This beautiful site used to be the biggest church in Lisbon but after the famous earthquake it was left as is, I guess as a reminder of the church. There is a small museum inside.
Santa Justa Elevator – One of the icons f Lisbon, this 45 meteres tall lift is made in the style of Eiffel Tower. You will see loooong queues to get in and above for the amazing views. There is a viewing platform on the top for pictures and panoramic views of Lisbon.
Tip: Instead of going to the bottom of lift, go down from Carmo Convent and a few steps away si the top of elevator. You can ride it down instead of going up to save time.
The Elavator from Rua Augusta..
Church of São Domingos – My favourite church in Lisbon with its beautiful half burnt columns and the Red roof. The contrast makes it an absolute stunner. The church survived the earthquakes and fires and natural calamities and played an important part in Portuguese inquisition because this is where they used to read the sentences for the ‘sinners’.
The national theater building is next to the church and if you have time/fancy it, have a peek.
Praca do Commercio – The Commercio square is mainly the symbol of Lisbon everywhere in the world. The massive waterfront square was the site of Royal palace for two centuries and after the earthquake it was moved to Belem. The square has the famous yellow arch on the north side. The square has some amazing cafes and bars for evening time the most famous one being Cafe Martinho da Arcada.
Tip: The main tourism office is located here if you need more information.
Arco da Rua Augusta – This beautiful arch was built to commemorate the rebuilding of Lisbon after the great earthquake and is located between Rua Augusta, the main pedestrian street of Lisbon and Comercio square.
Church of Santo António – A church located outside Alfama, the old distric. Thought the small churches are absolutely beautiful in Portugal the big ones like this one are absolutely mundane and boring and I’d consider it optional.
Alfama – Alfama, the most famous district of Lisbon with amazing views, narrow cobbled streets, alleys and a whole lot of love for the ancient ways of Lisbon. This district is walled and you will love losing yourself in the winding streets. If you go during June they decorate the city for St. Anthony’s feast and it looks even more beautiful. You can visit St George’s castle in Alfama on the top of the hill.
You will come across multiple stops for some amazing and panoramic views. The whole area is stunning and colourful.
These blue paintings are called the jewels of Alfama and are detailed accords of battles or other important events of Portuguese history.
Tip: Fado in Alfama has its own charm and you can book through your guide for the same evening or book your own in advance.
Cais do Sodre –> Royal Palace of Lisbon –> Jeronimos Monastery of Belem –> Cascais beach
Cais do Sodre – The most useful train station in Lisbon, It is right outside Timeout market and has trains to both Belem and Cascais. You can take the train or bus to Belem from here.
Royal Palace – The Royal or national palace is located on a 15-20 minutes uphill walk from Belem and is quite segregated from other tourist attractions of Belem. If you are short on time you can definitely skip this one. There is a small gallery in the palace but the palace otherwise is almost empty.
Jeronimos Monastery of Belem – The monastery is a stunning building and a very powerful reminder of the Portuguese empire and its wealth in its golden age. The whole building is a piece if art and you will be left in awe of the place. You need at least an hour to enjoy the beauty of this magnificent structure.
Pasteis de Belem Belem – Right outside the monastery you need to head to the most famous shop in Belem that’s been selling the Belem version of custard pies; Pasteis de Belem. lips licking good!
Cascais Town and Beach – After a bit of culture and magnificence of Belem, take the train from the train station to Cascais which will take about 30-40 minutes depending on the train and spend the rest of the day in the beautiful town with colourful houses, its lovely clean beaches and amazing food. If you fancy octopus you need to go to Palvo Vadio for a bite and wonder how they have such an amazing menu with only Octopus as main ingredient.
You can also enjoy shisha next to the train station and when you’ve had enough head back to Lisbon and head to Bairro Alto or stay in Cascais for a quiet evening and beautiful sunsets.
Good bye Lisbon!!!
Oriente Station – I was planning on taking a train from Oriente station to Faro which I missed and ended up taking up a wrong bus and ending up in Lagos at 11pm. I had to take a taxi from there to Faro at 1am which made for a very interesting story but a very tiring night. NEVER miss your trains and leave early.
The station is absolutely gorgeous however but getting information was very difficult and most of the timetables were not accurate, be careful!