GUEST ARTICLE: Seemingly preserved in time, the Portuguese city of Lisbon (Lisboa) combines maze-like cobbled lanes snaking around striking red-and-white buildings with a host of transport options to allow you to regain your breath.
1. Shoot into town aboard the Aerobus from Lisbon Portela Airport for just a few euros. It stops near most hotels and runs every 20 minutes. You can’t miss it as you step out of the arrivals hall. Buy your ticket from the driver.
2. Ride a vintage red or yellow tram with the locals (and a few tourists). It’s a great way to explore (and feel up close) the twists, bumps, slopes, and ceramic tiled houses of one of the world’s oldest cities. With five tram lines to choose from you can navigate with ease. Just be mindful of pickpockets – without being too paranoid.
3. Sample hot and creamy Portuguese tarts (Pastéis de Nata) baked on the retail strip in downtown Baixa or Pastelaria Suica on Rossio Square, washed down with a traditional hot chocolate. One is not enough. Nearby Pasteis de Belem in Belem is more popular and historic but does suffer from long queues.
4. Head skywards on the 110 year old cast-iron Santa Justa Lift, a Portuguese National Monument. Experience 360 degree views spanning the Rio Tejo waterfront, Sao Jorge Castle, Praca da Figueria and the Barrio Alto district from the roof top. Marvel at the huge public squares, rows of red roof tops and shiny black and white cobbled paths.
5. Soak up some raw emotion through Fado music. Restaurante Bar A Tasquinha in the windy ancient district of Alfama (near Sao Jorge castle) showcases local talent and traditional meat, seafood, potato and rice specialties in an unpretentious setting. Walk down the slopes of Alfama towards the waterfront to visit the Museum of Fado to deepen your understanding of this unique type of soulful music.
6. Wander around the narrow lanes, alleys, cafes and bars in the Bairro Alto and Chiado district away from the tourist traffic. You’ll spot murals, graffiti, boarded houses and local shops shutdown – a reflection of the crippling economic quagmire that Portugal finds itself in.
7. Catch the more modern tram 15 to arrive in Belem in about 30 minutes. Check out the views of Jerónimos monastery and the San Francisco-eque 25th of April Bridge from the UNESCO World Heritage Tower of Belem. Grab a Portuguese tart as you walk there – if you have the patience to stand in line.
8. Train it to Sintra and hike up to the ninth century Moorish Castle military fort and the colourful nineteenth century Park and Palace of Pena to catch sweeping views of the historic centre and UNESCO World Heritage monuments.
9. Snag a bargain bed at This is Lisbon Hostel in Alfama district. Experience the home vibe, hearty breakfast, group activities and terrace lounge to watch the sun go down over the red rooftops and black and white cobbled paths. Fill your tummy up with lots of local delicacies from the nearby Pingo Doce supermarket, accessible via a cool new lift.
This article has been written by Pranav Bhatt. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University. He has an interest in world travel, cricket, politics, technology and the media. To view more of Pranav’s photos from around the world visit his Flickr PhotoStream.