Portugal, a country of enchanting people, warm weather, delicious and excellent food.
My relationship with Portugal began more than two years ago when I participated in a student exchange. I spent a week with the Portuguese students in Lisbon.
My trip to Lisbon, a city of thousands cafes, shots-bars and clubs began on a hot summer day in August. Together with four friends booked two rooms in dilapidated hostel in the center of Lisbon, in the neighborhood Rossio.
Although we were “only” the second parallel street from the main street, it looked as if we were in a completely different city. The main streets are wide, tree-lined on both sides of the street with a lot of shops, bars, people and lights. On the other hand, already the second or third street looks tight, irregular, interspersed with graffiti and has poor looking houses. They are not as glamorous as the main, but those houses have a “Portuguese” spirit. As students, we traveled on the budget and we were happy when have found a small restaurant near the hostel that had affordable price. The restaurant was hold by mother and son Hugo. It was a typical Portuguese, small restaurant (4-5 tables for four people), shabby furnished with old furniture, but decorated with love. The menu mainly consisted of traditional Portuguese food – cod fish in three or four ways. Whenever we came to have dinner restaurant was empty and they explained to us that the local people, as well as the Portuguese in general, have dinner later, about 9 or 10 pm.
First thing that everyone need to do when they arrive to Lisbon is to buy a metro ticket! It is much more affordable to buy a daily ticket then to always buy a one-way ticket. Especially on first few days of staying in Lisbon when we, tourist, usually go from one part of the city to another to see famous places.
Initial sightseeing with a book about Portugal took us to the botanical garden, statues of famous Portuguese people, parks, building, monument and other turistical places. But, it all didn’t had as much Portuguese charm as when we met locals who showed us around.
Lisbon is rich with history and anywhere you go, you will find locations that will be interesting for tourists. It is one of the oldest cities in the world dating from Roman time!
Lisbon’s Upper District. It has really narrow and steep streets (I do not recommend wearing heels if you go sightseeing) with small and colourful houses. It is highly advised for everyone to take the famous Lisbon’s yellow funicular – Ascensor da Glória or Glória Funicular that connects Baixa and Bairro Alto. Here is situated Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara which is one of Lisbon’s many parks situated in the city but this one is special – it is situated on higher terrain having a beautiful view over Baixa.
I love that neighbourhood! This is the IT place to go out! Locals usually go out on Friday and Saturday night. Especially later, after 10-11 pm streets will be full of young people drinking in the bar or on the street. I am a big fan of street art and seing how streets in Lisbon, especially Bairro Alto, were covered in them made me really happy. So, if you are a street art lover, this is a place for you.
In Belém we visited Museu Nacional dos Coches (Carriage museum), really big museum showing all glory and luxury of Lisbons’ past. We took soo many pictures there!
Padrão dos Descobrimentos or Monument to the Discoveries is a ship-looking monument is a monument that celebrate all Portuguese discoveries. On the monument there are a lot of statues showing famous Portuguese explorer and discoverers such as Vasco da Gamma, Ferdinand Magellan and Bartolomeu Dias.
Torre de Belém or Belém Tower is a fascinating 16th century tower surrounded by water where, to climb up to the top, you have to go through stone narrow staircase (not for claustrophobic people!).
When we were going to Belém, on our right side we have passed Mosteiros dos Jeronimos, one of few places we didn’t saw on our first trip to Lisbon (but we will see it soon in May!) because when we were passing by, the line to enter that place was really long and would had to wait for at least an hour to enter.
One of the most famous pastries is produced here, Pastéis de Belém (or Pastéis de Nata) and the original place where they make it is in Pastéis de Belém. Pastéis are pastries that have a shape of cups and are filled with egg cream.
Baixa (means low, because Lisbon is situated on hills) is Lisbon’s downtown area. It was mainly rebuild after a huge earthquake in 18th century. Rua Augusta is broad boulevard and probably the most famous street in that neighbourhood. It is a wide street with tiles on the floor and restaurants,coffee shops,bars and stores from both sides. While we were walking down the Rua Augusta, there were pesky restaurant barkers everywhere pulling us for a sleeve asking us to dine in their restaurant. Me and my friends would usually go here or to have a dinner or to look for souvenirs. Here you can also buy traditional souvenirs.
Some of the most famous traditional souvenirs are:
1. Gallo de Barcelos (the Rooster of Barcelos)
2. Azulejos (blue and white decorative tiles)
Following Rua Augusta you can arrive to Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square) or Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) which is a wide square from one side surrounded by the Tagus river and from the other side by arcade with its centre as grand triumphal Arch of Augusta. In the middle of the square is the statue of king’s José I.
One of the places we have also visited in Baixa is Elevador de Santa Justa (or Santa Justa Lift). It is in the middle of the city so when you get to the top, you can see a beautiful panorama of Lisbon.
Parque Eduardo VII is located on the opposite side of the Palace Square. It is the highest place in Baixa and from the top there is a wonderful sight of the city where on sunny days the Portuguese flag is raised. On the top can also be found a monument dedicated to the revolution of the 25th of April. For me it was one of the most calming and beautiful places in this big and loud city.
This is only a part of what I have visited in Lisbon and I advice you that if you plan to visit Lisbon, spend at least 7 days because only then you can see the city in its full light.