It was initially an afterthought added at the last minute to our planned 3 week holiday to Spain but 5 days spent in Lisbon (Lisboa) turned out to be one of the highlights of our month away. Besides spending time in Central Lisbon we also went on enjoyable day trips to nearby Belem and Sintra, I’ll blog those experiences separately.
Our first impression of the city was great because we checked into the top floor apartment 5B at Chiado Mercy Lisbon Best Apartments. We spent a similar amount per night in each city but this serviced apartment was the best accommodation of our trip: new, large, clean and very centrally located.
Lisbon’s streets are famously stony and often steep. When it’s raining they’re also very slippery. Unless you take taxi/uber everywhere, this is not a city you’ll be happy in if you’re unfit and don’t like walking.
Wear good shoes with a decent sole to give your feet support, not sandals or flip flops. My Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Boots were very comfortable and provided lots of grip.
Trams are a well known and much loved feature of Lisbon streets. Be careful around them, I saw some people almost get run over trying to get tram photos.
If you like long walks it’s well worth walking down the Tram 28 route across Lisbon. It will take you past many city architecture, history and culture highlights. When we saw the trams pass they were usually packed and didn’t look comfortable. Pickpockets often travel on that tram route targeting tourists.
After a little bit of walking around Lisbon you’ll notice the variety of colourful tiled patterns and artworks on buildings.
To learn more about them and see how this practice evolved over time you should definitely visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo National Tile Museum.
The highlights are the huge 23 metre long Panorama of 1738 Lisbon in 1,300 blue and white tiles made before the Great Earthquake in 1755 and the church, though there are lots of great individual Azulejo as well.
Pasteis de Nata (Portugese custard tarts) are something you have to try when visiting Lisbon. Amazingly they only cost about 1 euro each.
My two favourite places to eat them were:
Saga, a lovely Pastelaria along the Tram 28 route which was full of locals not tourists.
My other favourite was the Manteigaria Portuguese custard pies factory which is located at Rua do Loreto 2 (Bairro Alto).
Timeout Market is hyped a lot as a must see. Since we don’t drink alcohol and are vegetarian there wasn’t much on offer to make it interesting. The only plus for me was the outlet shop of the excellent Manteigaria Portuguese custard pies factory.
Speaking of food we really liked the Vegan restaurant Organi Chiado. Recommended for vegetarians and flexitarians as well.
Mentioning Elevador Castelo that’s an option to go easily to the Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle). Otherwise walk up hill to the Castelo de Sao Jorge via the winding but pleasant route to the right of the Pingo Doce Elevador Castelo entrance.
Whether you go to the castle or not, there’s a great Panoramic lookout view from the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.
Other highlights of Lisbon that we saw included:
Santa Justa Lift (paid entry to top), you can get almost the same views for free by walking towards it by the overhead walkway past the Carmo Convent ruins.
Arco da Rua Augusta on Praça do Comércio near the Tagus River. The Rua Augusta Arch is a stone, triumphal arch-like, historical building. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake, has six columns and is adorned with statues of various historical figures.
An unexpected highlight was the free Museu do Dinheiro (Money Museum) run by the Banco de Portugal.
We’ve been to similar museums around the world but this was the best as it also included money from other countries, even Australia! Don’t miss the basement which contains the only visible section of the ancient city wall Muralha de D. Dinis, built more than seven centuries ago by the King to defend the population of the city. There’s also a vault displaying a 12kg gold bar that you can touch, it’s worth close to half a million euros!
If you’re interested in hand made jewelry check out the free Museu da Filigrana Filigree Museum and Shop. It’s not large but has good displays explaining the history of Filigree and how it’s made.
Given the opportunity we would definitely visit Lisbon again as well as exploring more Northern cities including Coimbra and Porto.
You can see all of my Lisbon photos on Flickr in full high resolution or by scrolling through the slideshow below.