Yes, I am in love. This beauty located on many hills and right on the banks of the gigantic Tagus River has seduced me! You will have tons of opportunities to spend a long weekend (or more) in Portugal`s capital with only roughly 600,000 inhabitants. Here are my very personal tips to enjoy one of the most beautiful (and special) cities on our planet! Be sure though to wear comfortable shoes (if you intend to walk a lot) – the many cobbled streets (and hills) are not really suitable for high heels.
1. Lissabon has, of course, modern means of transportation but don`t miss a ride with the „eléctrico“ – a very small, century-old streetcar that crosses the city for just 2,80 EUR – nostalgic ambiance included! Take line 28 from Praça do Comércio (Commercial square) with its giant arch (you may consider to sip an espresso before at Aura, a hip restaurant/lounge/café...) and go either up to Alfama (you cannot miss the beautiful white cathedral) or in the contrary direction to the „Bairro Alto“, the upper town (remember the many hills...). Lots of fun when this old streetcar climbs the narrow streets (and be happy that YOU don`t have to climb them yourself – unless you are looking for some great exercise)!
Photo: Up it goes – streetcar line Gloria climbing the Bairro Alto
2. Just a little bit of museum hopping...
I am not a big museum fan when the sun is shining but – if you are into the nice things of life, go and see MUDE, the Museum for Design (very close to Praça do Comércio - www.mude.pt) and the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (international art of various eras - with an outstanding collection of Lalique art (just 6 km away from MUDE – and cabs are not expensive in Lisbon). MUDE (entrance is free!) gives you an excellent overview of worldwide design from the early 20th century until today, with great explanations in English. And for 2016 a rooftop terrace is planned – that should be another reason for a visit.
Photo: The very cool entrance of the MUDE museum
3. Get a view! There are a couple of great lookouts (the Portuguese call them „miradouros“) – here are my favorites:
Castelo Sao Jorge – you have to enter the park of this castle (or, more precise, the ruins of it) which costs 8,50 EUR but is worth while – just for the stunning view over the city, the Tagus River, the famous bridge „Ponte do 25 abril“ (it will remind you of the Golden Gate Bridge!) and the Christ statue (yes, not only Rio has it), just gorgeous! You will get a good idea of the size of the river which flows into the Atlantic just after the bridge.
Santa Catarina in Rua Loreto, close to the Bairro Alto, offers one of the best views on the Tagus River, the famous Bridge of April 25 and the Christ statue. There is a nice bar/restaurant with called Noo Bai Café (http://www.noobaicafe.com/) an excellent view (I did not test the food though) and make sure to take a photo of the Adamastor statue, a mythical sea monster from an epic poem
San Pedro de Alcántara – just between Principe Real and Chiado, great view of the castle which is sitting on the next hill
Photo: You can enjoy this stunning view from the Castelo Sao Jorge
4. Time for coffee!
Well, you can get a great coffee almost ANYWHERE in the city. In many bars (including the simple ones) my favorite drink (which is espresso) is as good as in Italy, honestly. I am not really into recommending places where EVERY tourist goes but have at least a look at „A Brasileira“ – Lisbon`s most traditional coffeeshop which dates back to the 19th century. It is located in the Chiado neighbourhood and always full of people. You will probably not get a seat so just admire the old architecture and go down the street to find a hidden gem – and the real contrary to A Brasileira! Natural Living (www.facebook.com/naturallivingchiado) is located in a quiet patio, offering great natural snacks, smoothies and ... wonderful coffee! I enjoyed the quiet atmosphere on their terrace and the friendly service.
Photo: Ingrid is one of the charming waitresses at Natural Living
5. Relax in the Jardim Botanico
Lisbon is a pretty green city and this park is my favorite! Located in Principe Real (not far away from Chiado) you can take a deep breath of fresh air among tall palm trees and many other plants and relax from your shopping excursions. Ideal for a walk – and the entrance is free!
Photo: Just look at the the palm trees and the blue sky ... and relax!
6. Shopping à la Lisbon ...
Yes, you may go to one of the faceless shopping malls with all the international brands you find in any major city on this planet – but do you really want this? My recommendation is to rather shop in very special malls, both located in Principe Real. You would never expect a shopping centre in the Embaixada – an old building with an art nouveau style entrance and funky little shops with old doors and stukko ceilings – I loved it! You will find fashion (Portuguese designers – guys should see the Linkstore), accessories, jewelry, ceramics (watch out for the colorful sardins) and much more! Have a snack and a coffee in the impressive bar. Just a few meters away you will stumble into the Entretanto Indoor Market – pretty much the same concept as Embaixada with a great shop for crazy vintage furniture (Nichts Neues - www.nichts-neues.com, it is half German, half Portuguese), Etnik Spring (funky fashion and jewelry for women - www.facebook.com/EtnikSpring) and a great little bar where you get delicious and super-healthy smoothies (very friendly staff - www.liquid.pt/contactos)!
There are also a few very cool stores such as the A Vida Portuguesa in Chiado (www.avidaportuguesa.com), a historic candle shop (dates back to 1782) called Casa das Vellas (http://cazavellasloreto.com.pt) and and one just for gloves (founded in 1925), Luvaria Ulisses (www.luvariaulisses.com). All of them are worth a visit (and to spend some money...)
Photo: A look into the Embaixada Shopping Centre – shop until you drop!
7. Seafood, Fado, Wine...
Lisbon is full of good restaurants – trendy ones, old ones, very simple ones. I will not make any specific recommendation other than the websites below.
You will find a lot of fish (some of them look scary but they are delicious...mostly!) and seafood, lots of proteins (vegetarians will also be ok). Cod fish is something like a national symbol – there must be hundreds of ways to prepare it (locals call it „bacalhau“). The Portuguese wines are excellent – even the ones from the Lisbon region! And you will find organic wines in a few places. You may add a little bit of music to your dinner – FADO is almost a way of life, romantic, melancolic and even a bit sad. A local put it this way: Portuguese take life as it comes, we accep things as they are. A great attitude, in particular with a glass of excellent red wine on the table! The late Amália Rodriguez was the country`s most famous fado singer, Cuca Roseta and António Zambujo belong to today`s fado celebs.
Here are a few restaurants in Lisbon you may consider for a nice lunch ordinner:
- http://www.portasdosol.pt (more a cocktail bar with a great view on Alfama and the Tagus River)
And this is an excellent page about Portuguese wines (and many other things) with beautiful images:
8. Pamper yourself at the Palácio Belmonte
Yes, this is not a hotel, it is a guest palace. That makes a difference. Built over 500 years ago, sitting on a hill in the old neighbourhood of Alfama overlooking the cathedral and the Tagus River, the Belmonte is an oasis in the middle of the city. 11 stunning suites, breathtaking rooms full of art, antique and history, a peaceful garden with an infinity pool and a breakfast you will just love – organic goodies, a table on the terrace and a wonderful view – just wow. Read more on my blog. Yes, the Palácio is not cheap but come on, don`t you deserve a nice treat? And don`t forget to sip a sundowner in the Cultural Café – with piano music, little art exhibitions and a terrific wine menu. My second choice is a rather new boutique hotel called Santiago de Alfama in the same area – very cool design and a good mix of old and new.
Photo: One of the many incredible salons of the award-winning Palácio Belmonte
9. How about some more walks?
If you are tired of cobblestones and hills but still want to walk, stroll along the Tagus River from the Praça do Comércio up to the Bridge of April 25 – it will take about 30 minutes. You can watch people (including street artists), sip a coffee in one of the many outdoor bars and enjoy the beautiful view on the bridge which keeps coming closer. Wellbeing at its best! – Another great walk leads you again from the Praça do Comércio through Rua Augusta (more shopping!) up to the Rossio, the famous square with – in my opinion - the world`s most beautiful train station. From there it is just a very short distance to the Avenida Liberdade, Lisbon's Champs Elysées with many high-end stores and hotels. On a hot day you can just walk under the trees in the middle of this boulevard which ends at the Marquês de Pombal Square with the statue of that guy (who was responsible for the city's reconstruction after the terrible earthquake in 1755).
10. A day (or a few) in Cascais
If you have enough time, rent a car and drive to the coast. Oeiras, Estoril and Cascais – all worth visiting. I spent a few days in Cascais, an enchanting little town with beautiful old buildings, a nice marina, a beautiful pedestrian area with a couple of interesting shops (and, of course, flocks of tourists in the high season...), bars and restaurants of all kind, museums and little beaches (although I have to admit that they are not very attractive). One of the famous surfer beaches, Praia Guincho, is just a 10 minute drive away. A clean sandy beach with a nice landscape, beautiful girls and boys and very refreshing water (after all, it's the Atlantic, so don't expect Caribbean water temperatures) and to swim a lot – the waves are just too high, more suitable for surfing (and don't get jealous if you see all the sixpacks of those surfers...). My recommendation for overnight is the Pousada Cascais, a historic 5 star hotel owned by the Pestana group. It is located in an old fortress, just next to the marina with nice restaurants and within a little art district with interesting galleries. Take photos at the modern art objects and have a snack at the café (excellent!). Make sure though you don't book the cheapest room category – you may end up in a room without balcony and just a little window. And who wants that when being so close to the sea?
YOU WILL FIND MORE IMAGES IN MY GALLERY - ENJOY!
Turismo de Lisboa has an excellent website if you are looking for further information: www.visitlisboa.com