Trip to Lisbon, Portugal - May 2011
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The famous tram 28 in LisbonYellow trams snaking up steep streets, black and white cobblestones, the wonderful custard cakes Pastel de nata, chilled Vinho Verde in the blazing sun, monuments for the explorers of the golden age of discovery, a city destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, names like Magellan and Vasco da Gama, home of the world expo in 1998, view from Castelo se São Jorge, narrow streets of Alfama, Torre de Belem, Elevador de Santa Justa, bacalhau, Rua Augusta, both red and white port wine – this is a trip report from Lisbon (or Lisboa) in Portugal.

A short summary
This trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Lisboa (or Lisbon if you like) in Portugal in the period from May 12th - 16th 2011. In Lisbon we checked out attractions like Castelo se São Jorge in Alfama, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Torre de Belém, Parque das Nações and we did a lot of walking around in the city squares and enjoyed good food and wine.
The trip report is split into sections: this first section that you are reading now covers our four day stay in Lisbon. On the next pages you will find:

Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our cameras (Canon EOS 450D, Canon IXUS and Olympus mju).

Prelude
We are in Portugal :-)Over the years we have been fortunate to visit some of the great cities of Europe: Berlin, Paris, London, Rome, Florence etc. When travelling it is always great to visit a new city in a new country to experience a new culture and when I decided to buy a surprise trip for Nikki’s birthday, I decided that Lisbon would be a good option. I actually started off with planning a trip to Warsaw in Poland but when I talked to friends it seemed like Lisbon was highly recommended and so I switched destination. If you want to get an idea of what kind of travellers we are, it might be a good idea to check out some of the other trip reports that we have made – you can find all of them here.

Planning the trip
At Frankfurt airportOnce I had decided on the destination I started working on finding the plane tickets. I looked around a bit online and in the end I bought the plane tickets from the Lufthansa homepage. The plane tickets with Lufthansa cost about 2800 Norwegian kroner (about 355€) per person – not that cheap in other words but not that bad either taken into account that I only booked the tickets a month ahead. Finding a hotel is also tricky in a city that you are not familiar with. I looked at TripAdvisor and various online sites and I ended up with Inspira Santa Marta as the price was within my budget, it seemed like a new and modern hotel and the location didn’t look too bad. The hotel was booked through Expedia.no and the cost was 4300 Norwegian Kroner (550 €) for 4 nights – about 138€ per night in other words. The price included all taxes but did not include breakfast. To get a better understanding of the city I bought the Eyewitness travel guide for Lisbon.

Map of Portugal

Map of Portugal. Map provided by www.worldatlas.com.

The trip begins
Getting ready to go to LisbonI’m not sure why the Lufthansa flights have to be so early in the morning. But on May 12th we got up at like 5 AM in order to be at Stavanger Airport (SVG) to check in at 6 AM. Check-in was fast and soon we were on our way to Frankfurt. We had a few hours stop in Frankfurt and as a StarAlliance gold member we could at least wait in one of the Lufthansa lounges. I don’t mean to complain guys but you should really start getting with the times and offer free internet in your lounges (actually they have now introduced this). This is offered at most other lounges and airports that I go to these days at least. But hey, at least we got some fruit and sekt for breakfast. About 30 minutes prior to the departure to Lisbon I had to reveal the destination to Nikki by presenting the guidebook to her. Landing in Lisbon - we got a great view of the cityShe seemed quite happy with the destination and started reading right away to get a feel of the city that we were going to. The flight from Frankfurt to Lisbon was actually 3 hours - I guess Portugal (like Norway) is in the outskirts of Europe ;-) As I have complained a bit when it comes to Lufthansa, I would like to make it right and say some nice things about them – they are quite a good airline. We got a nice hot meal on our way to Lisbon and they also served wine, beer and soda. On the way we passed right over a huge city and I couldn’t figure out which one it was – in the end the captain announced that it was actually Paris. I guess I should have spotted that but I blame it on my eye sight :-) As we were closing in on Lisbon, we flew over the airport and city. We made a sharp turn to approach the runway from the opposite direction and over the area Belém where some of the famous monuments of Lisbon are located – what a great start to this adventure.

Arriving in Lisbon
The Aerobus is a good way to get into town and back from the airportWe landed at Lisbon airpoirt (also known as Lisbon Portela Airport) at about 4 PM in the afternoon in sunny and warm weather. Coming from a cold spring day in Norway it was heavenly to be informed that it was 27 degrees Celsius outside! I had read that it was possible to take both taxi and bus into town but we decided to go for the taxi option as the airport is very close to the city centre of Lisbon. The taxi used the meter and after like 10-15 minutes we were at the hotel and the meter stopped at like 8 € + 2 € (not sure why there were two numbers). The driver was pretty fast to turn of the meter and when we took out the suitcases he said “18 €”. I told him that the meter only said about 10 but then it seemed like he didn’t know English anymore and he was just babbling away in Portuguese and pointed at some sort of sticker at the back of the taxi. So in the end I paid him what he wanted but I guess we were ripped off. When we asked inside the hotel later on they told us that it was a common problem that taxi drivers did stuff like that. So Mr. taxi driver: I hope that you get lots of bad karma coming your way for pulling stuff like that. And for you readers: there is a bus option that called Aerobus that cost 3.5€ and it takes you straight to the heart of Lisbon. It can be a great option if your hotel is located near one of the stops.

Anyway, we arrived at hotel Inspira Santa Marta and check in was fast and soon we were ready to start exploring Lisbon. You can read our review of the hotel Inspira Santa Marta Hotel here.

Note: The currency in Portugal is Euros (€) and in May 2011 100 € is 140 USD and 100 € was about 785 Norwegian Kroner.

How to get around Lisbon
Look for this sign to find the metro in LisbonLisbon does not have a really huge city centre and this means that you can cover a lot of ground by just walking. But a Scottish guy I met in Kuala Lumpur a few years back said that you can’t trust Norwegians when it comes to advice concerning walking distances :-) But if you want to get a feel of how big a new city is I would recommend using tools as MAPfrappe and Gmaps Pedometer - here you can measure distances and time it will take to walk from one place to another. It is e.g. only 2 km from our hotel Inspira Santa Marta (located near the Avenida metro station) to the water front. You can see the location of our hotel on my Lisbon Google map.

Map of the metro lines in LisbonIn Lisbon we actually ended up using the metro and trams quite a lot – not that surprising really as we like using public transportation in bigger cities. First of all a bit about the metro system – the network is not as extensive as e.g. London and Paris but it works very well in Lisbon too. On the ticket machines you first buy a card that you can refill later on. For 3.95€ you get a day ticket that covers unlimited travel with trams, bus and metro within the city zone. Compared to Norway that is quite a bargain. The bus and tram company is called Carris and you can check out the lines here . The Metro system is called Metropolitano de Lisboa and you can find the metro map here.

Note: Remember to validate your ticket by holding the card over the card reader in bus and trams.

Inside a metro station in LisbonAnother means of transportation that you will see in Lisbon is of course the famous trams – they seem to have become a symbol of the city. Their network is not extensive but they can take you up to the castle, out to Belem and it is a nice way to see a bit of the city. If you have a day pass you just validate it by holding it against the scanner once you board the tram. There are both old school trams and newer, bigger trams depending on where you go. There are also trams that only takes you up and down steep streets (e.g. Elevador da Glória).

Note: pickpockets seems to be active on the crowded old fashioned trams so keep an eye on your valuables.

Hello Lisbon
Praca dos Restauradores in LisboaWe basically just dumped our bags at the hotel and walked out of the hotel into the blazing, Lisbon sun. It was late in the afternoon but it was still quite warm – walking out of the hotel and into a new city is one of my favorite moments when it comes to travelling. All of a sudden you are in a new place with different stores, a different culture, different smells and there are so many new things that await to be explored. I had checked out the neighborhood on Google StreetView in advance From Praca dos Restauradores in Lisbonand it is a great tool to take a look at where you are going to be staying. But it is always hard to get an impression of the terrain! The moment we walked out of the hotel we could tell that Lisbon is a city full of hills! We walked uphill to Avenida da Liberdade – the Champs Elysee of Lisbon. This impressive 90 meter wide parade avenue is filled with lots of lanes for cars, pavements and even lines of trees and palms. It was flanked by name brands like Louis Vuitton, TOD’s, Escada etc but there were not many people around. We walked downhill towards Praça dos Restauradores and towards the city center itself and it only took us about 5 minutes to walk to the closest metro station Avenida.

The square known as Rossio in LisbonWe soon reached the open place known as Praça dos Restauradores and the obelisk commemorating Portugal’s liberation from Spain (yes, Portugal was under Spanish reign for a short period of time). The square was basically empty but a guy approached me and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I was a bit thrown of when he just said “Hashish?”. So the first communication with the locals involved the offer of buying drugs. Actually this was only the first of a long series of offers to buy drugs and I have actually never, ever been offered it that many times in one city before. Has my appearance changed so that I look like someone that would be a potential buyer? But let us get back to the trip report: at the Praça dos Restauradores we also got a feeling of how hilly Lisbon really is as we could see the castle Castelo se São Jorge hovering above the city on a hill and on the other side the neighborhood of Bairro Alto located on another hill. We walked a couple of more minutes to the square of Rossio which seems to have been an important place in Lisbon over the centuries. A couple of fountains were spraying out water and the square also contains a column with a statue of Dom Pedro IV, the first emperor of Brazil. The square is paved with cobble stones in a black and white wave pattern and the use of black and white cobblestones seems to be used throughout the city.

Augusta street in LisbonAfter getting offered some sun glasses (and some more drugs) we walked down Rua Augusta – a pretty narrow pedestrian street with shops, cafes and lots of street performers. The street leads straight towards the arch known as Arco da Rua Augusta, the open square of Praça do Comércio and the river Tagus. Again I have to say how great it is to walk around in a new city – all of a sudden we could see the yellow trams drive past us andArco da Rua Augusta in Lisbon when we reached the river we got a great view of the surrounding area. It was just a great start to our visit to Lisbon – walking around and just getting to know the city a bit to start with. To get back to the hotel we just jumped into the nearest metro station – OK, taking the metro should be pretty straight forward but we did have a few problems. We had no coins and only 20€ bills and according to the machines they should be able to handle this - but obviously not. But hey, as long as there is a place where you can break a 20€, then everything is good :)

Note: One single fare seems to start as low as 0.9€.

I will get back to eating and drinking in Lisbon in this section. On the first night we checked out both Chafariz do Vinho Enoteca and a place called 100 Maneiras. After we had been out eating at night we normally just walked and took the metro back home to our hotel. I’m not quite sure what the safety situation is like in Lisbon but we felt pretty safe. It was actually quite cool to walk at Avenida at night as there were small bats flying around – reminds me of my neighborhood back home in Norway when I grew up.

Breakfast of champions
It is wasy to find a place to satisfy your sweet tooth in LisbonThe first night in Lisbon turned into a bit of a late night (at least so late that we had to ring the “doorbell” to get into the hotel ;-) so we didn’t get off to a bright and early start the next day. We decided to go for a Lisbon breakfast at Rossio as we didn’t have breakfast included in the hotel. At Rossio there is a place called Pastelaria Suiça and you can find these “Pastelaria” all around Lisbon. We walked through the place and noticed that there were also seats outside on the other side, at Praça da Figueira. Pastelaria are pastry shops that serves lots of sweet stuff. The famous Pasteis de nata in LisbonWe made our selection inside and there was so many things to choose from – it was not that easy to communicate with the lady behind the counter. Every time I would point at something to ask what it was, she interpreted this as “I want one of these”. They also had a sea of pastel de nata – the famous Portuguese egg tart pastry. The lady was almost insulted when I only asked for 1 of these...I guess they should be eaten in pairs at least. Actually I got two on my plate when it was served so obviously she ignored my order – I guess I choose to take it as a compliment. She was probably thinking “the guy was so skinny that he needed the extra calories”. It was a real breakfast of champions – together with a “uma bica” (their version of espresso) it was excellent. Our sugar-high breakfast was 14€.

Tram 28 to the castle
Watch your wallet on the tram in LisbonWhen we were eating breakfast at Praça da Figueira we could see the trams roll by. We decided to take the famous tram 28 to get to the castle Castelo de São Jorge. There were lots of people waiting for the tram and when the next one came along, there was quite a shuffling to get into position to get onboard. Nikki noticed that a couple of ladies in the crowd seemed more interested in people’s bags (or the contents of it) than actually getting on board. The famous tram 28 coming down from AlfamaWe spotted these pickpockets quite early and I just shifted position to avoid getting close to them. I think they found our attention a bit uncomfortable and they soon jumped out of the line. When the tram started moving it didn’t really go up towards the castle as expected – it turned out that we had jumped on the tram going in the wrong direction! I guess we are still travel amateurs – we kept on joking that this was typically what would happen if we were competing in the TV show "Amazing Race". But it was not a total disaster – tram 28 seems to do a circle line so we did get to the castle area eventually. As the tram started going downhill we jumped off a bit early (around the church of Santo António da Sé) but it was not a problem as we just walked to the castle. On the way we walked through quiet neighborhoods on narrow cobblestone streets with hardly any people. We met this old lady and just to confirm that we were on the right way to the castle (ok, we were a bit lost) so we did the old point and saying the name. I’m not sure what this lady was trying to tell us but she was babbling away in Portuguese and we had of course no idea what she was saying :)

Castelo de São Jorge - the castle with a view
Nikki with a view to Alfama in LisbonThe castle was built in 1147 according to the guidebook when Dom Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon. It seems like the castle was built on existing Moorish structures but it was of course enlarged. But once again, the earthquake of 1755 left quite a bit in ruins but a lot of restoration was done in 1938-1940 and the result today is a beautiful castle hovering above the city center of Lisbon. We started out at Largos das Portas Sol where you get a lovely view of the Alfama (the old city). We decided to follow the trail mapped out in the guidebook more or less.

Note: there in a 7€ entrance fee to get into the castle area.

The walls of Castelo de Sao Jorge in LisbonAfter paying the entrance fee we got into the castle area and first area that you get to is the observation terrace. As the name indicates you get a great view towards the city center of Baixa where we walked the afternoon the day before. One of the stunning views are maybe towards the lift Elevador de Santa Justa – yes, there is a huge lift that takes people from the lower street level of Baixa to the Bairro Alto and Chiado area but I'll get back to that. In the castle area there is also an excavation point where they have found traces from the iron age and the Moorish period. There wasn’t that much to see really. Going down to the city was a lot easier than going up to the castle – this time we finally found the shortest and fastest route – it is not really a long walk and going downhill it is a breeze.

Take the lift from one part of a city to the other
The outside lift know as Elevador de Santa Justa in LisbonAs I have mentioned already, there are hills in Lisbon. To deal with this they have built some pretty cool "tools". One of these is the Elevador de Santa Justa (or just Santa Justa lift). This huge lift was designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, apparently an apprentice of the more famous Gustave Eiffel (you guessed it...the guy who designed the Eiffel tower). More than a 100 years later the lift is still carrying people up from the Baixa city center to Bairro Alto some 45 meters (about 148 ft) higher up. The line to get in was not that long but as only 1 lift was being used it still took a bit of time before it was our turn. The trip up only takes a few seconds and at the top you can continue to the very top using a spiral staircase. From the top you get a great view of the entire city just on the opposite side of the castle that we visited earlier that day. So I do recommend that you pay the extra fee to be able to enjoy the view from the top of the lift! You can see a short video of the view from the top in my Youtube Channel.

Note: you can take the lift for free if you have a day pass on the metro but it cost an extra 1.5€ if you want to take the staircase to the top and enjoy the view.

This tram in Lisbon is called Elevador da GloriaFrom the lift there is a walkway leading right into the Bairro Alto area. Another way of getting to this area is taking a funicular known as Elevador da Gloria from the Praça dos Restauradores – we actually used this quite a lot as it was easy for us to walk to Praça dos Restauradores from our hotel and with Elevador da Gloria we got easy access to Bairro Alto without breaking into a sweat – and again it is for free if you have a day pass on the metro.
We did return to the Bairro Alto area several times during our trip as it is a great place for eating out and for nightlife in general. We did stop by the Solar do Vinho do Porto as this seems to be some sort of port wine institute and I thought maybe we could learn more about the making of port wine. Instead it seemed to be a bar where it was possible to taste quite a lot of different port wines.

Note: there are shops in the city center that has a pretty good selection of port wine and they also give you samples if you want to try different kinds (red, white, dry etc)

A field trip to Belém
There are modern trams in Lisbon as wellOne of the things that are on every visitors list when coming to Lisbon is a visit to the part of the city called Belém. This part of the city was the starting point for the great sea journeys during Portugal’s Golden age. We took the tram out there one morning and this time it was not an old classic car but one of the longer modern trams. It was pretty packed with tourists and a few locals – I kinda felt sorry for the poor local woman carrying her tray of eggs. Praca do imperio in Belem, LisbonHer usual method of transportation has turned into a zoo of tourists trying to reach all the highlights of the city. Once again it seemed like we got a company of a pickpocket – a young girl that didn’t seem like she had quite built up the confidence for actually carrying out her mission. The tram took us more or less all the way out and we decided to get off after we passed Mosteiro dos Jerónimos as we wanted to start with Torre de Belém. The walk from the tram stop down to the river didn’t take more than like 10 minutes but note you have to take a walkway to get over the railway.

Belem tower or Torre de Belem outside LisbonTorre de Belém is an old fortress commissioned by Manuel I in 1515 according to the guidebook. Back then it was located out in the Tagus river but with reclaiming of land it is now possible to get out to it using a short walkway. It seems like this tower is one of the symbols of Lisbon and Portugal and it was easy to spot it as we were getting closer to the river. We paid the 10€ entrance fee (which covered both the tower and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). Inside Belem tower in LisbonThe tower itself is beautifully decorated especially on the outside – when we got in, it was more modest with vaulted ceilings and an exhibition about immigrants from Africa and how they had been treated in the Portuguese society. But the tower also included a dungeon (what would a fortress be without it?) and it was possible to climb lots of floors to get a better and better view of the area. Getting to the top was not that easy as there was just one narrow spiral staircase leading up and down and there was hardly room for traffic in both directions. But I guess it just adds a bit of extra challenge to the visit :) Here is a short video from Belem taken from my YouTube channel.

Padrao dos Descobrimentos in LisboaWhen we were done with the tower we just walked over to another famous monument – Monument to the Discoveries or Padrão dos Descobrimentos. To start with I thought that this monument was also quite old but it turns out that it was built in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the navigator. The monument is impressive as it is 52 metersEast facade of Padrao dos Descobrimentos in Belem, Lisbon (about 170 ft), shaped like a caravel and filled with big statues of people that had an influence on the golden age of discovery in Portugal. We did not go to the top of the monument as we had just enjoyed the view from the Torre de Belém and we could hear the pasties de Belém calling our names ;-) So we just used the guidebook to identify the various statues on each side of the monument. Note that the huge compass in the pavement in front of the monument is actually a gift from South Africa.

Time to dig in – trying the famous pasties de Belém
The place to eat pasteis de Belem in Lisbon: Antiga Confeitaria de BelemNo visit to Lisbon seems to be complete if you haven’t tasted the famous pasteis de Belém which is actually the same as pastel de nata but let’s not get too focused on details ;-) This egg tart pastry was apparently invented by nuns in the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and these days it is served at a place called Pastéis de Belém. It is safe to say we gave pasteis de Belem in Lisbon thumbs up :-)When we walked over there it looked pretty packed but the place is actually huge so there are lots of tables if you just walk in and through many of the rooms. We decided that we needed some proper food to start with so Nikki tried to order some small dishes, two glasses of wine and a bottle of water. I’m not sure how it happened but we got the food but then the drinks were a bit mixed up as we got a big bottle of Vinho Verde and a tiny bottle of water. Enjoying some real pasteis de Belem in LisbonThe food was not very impressive but the cold Vinho Verde was excellent after walking around in the Lisbon heat all morning. Luckily this type of wine is not that strong as we finished the bottle – but we didn’t forget to also taste the egg tarts of course. They seem to have quite a bit production going on at this place as you can see into the kitchen where there are hundreds of cakes being prepared. Once again we just had a couple but they were excellent but I’m not quite sure I could taste the difference between these and the ones that we had in the city – maybe the wine can have something to do with that ;-)

Tranquility at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
South portal of Mosteiro dos JeronimosAfter the lunch we walked over to the monastery located right next door – a monument commissioned by Manuel I around 1500 AD and this also shows that Portugal was bringing in lots of money from trading around the world. The outside was filled with tourists taking photos of the beautiful decorated façade and locals as part of a wedding party but once inside it was actually very peaceful walking around – especially walking around the inner courtyard. You can also get a very good view of the church of Santa Maria from the upper levels at the monastery. One of the great exhibitions at this place was the presentation of world history vs. Portugal history vs. the Jerónimos Monastery history. With the presentation it was easy to see what happened when and it was presented in both English and Portuguese. We also stopped by the refectory with tiles from the 17th century and the church where you can find the tomb of Vasco da Gama. You can read more about the monastery on their website.

Drinks in the sun
Nikki with a view to Tagus in LisbonIn the end it was time to return to Lisbon and we just waited around for the tram to come along – in the afternoon is was quite hot with 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) and blazing sun. The tram took us part of the way but all of a sudden it stopped and the driver just said something in Portuguese and apparently it was the end of the line and everyone had to get out. So all of a sudden a bunch of tourists were stranded “in the middle of nowhere”. Well, it was not that dramatic as a new tram came along pretty soon. On the way back we decided to jump off at the station Cais do Sodré and we walked over to a place called Meninos do Rio. Along the way we passed people fishing in the river, people taking a swim, others cycled past us and kids just laying around relaxing in the sun. Meninos do Rio is a restaurant located on the boardwalk and we enjoyed a bottle of Vinho Verde (yes, another one!) in the sun while looking at cruise ships passing by – what a relaxing afternoon!

Note: a bottle of water at the grocery store can cost about 0.1 € (15 US Cent).

Going under – a visit to the aquarium at Parque das Nações
Gard at Lisbon aquariumThe next morning we decided to check out the Oceanário de Lisboa as it is supposed to be one of the largest aquariums in the world. Getting to this area called Parque das Nações right outside Lisbon is not tricky as there is a metro line that takes you out all the way out there – it was built in connection with the World Expo back in 1998. Taking the metro from the old school downtown of Lisbon to ParqueVasco da Gama shopping mall das Nações is a bit weird as when you walk out of the metro station you are all of a sudden in a very modern city. We walked through the Vasco da Gama shopping mall and outside there was a booth selling combined tickets – it was pretty chaotic with people trying to get info and when we finally reached the lady and talked to her it was even more confusing. It turned out that the combined tickets didn’t really save us any money at least as the cable car was not functioning. So we just walked over to the aquarium instead.

Note: Entrance to the aquarium was 12€ and 6€ for the temporary exhibition.

Sharks at Oceanario de LisboaThe aquarium was like quite a maze as we were led through various zones – from the arctic to the tropics. In the middle there is a huge tank with lots and lots of various fish and rays and it is just fascinating to watch the big fish glide by. As usual the penguins got quite a lot of attention but the sea otter was also quite a charmer – they were just laying on the their backs floating around. Nikki wants to be a sea otter in her next life ;-) The temporary exhibition while we were there was Charming sea otters at Lisboa aquariumfocused on sea turtles but I’m not sure it was worth the 6€. On the way back to the metro station we walked past some cool fountains – they were like erupting volcanoes and it would happen suddenly and create a small tidal wave in the connecting pool. It seemed like it scared a few people that were walking along thinking about something totally different. We also passed by a strange sculpture consisting of many male statues welded together. They looked familiar in shape and when taking a closer look it was a sculpture by Anthony Gormley that has also done Broken Column in my hometown Stavanger.

From the modern to the old
View of Alfama in LisbonWe took the metro back into town and decided to take the tram up to the castle again to follow a suggested walk from the guidebook. We were waiting around at Largo Da Madalena but the problem was that tram number 28 never came along - and the ones that did come was completely full. In the end we just jumped into a minibus that were going in the same direction and we got to Largo Das Portas Do Sol which was our starting point for the walk. I’m glad we did this walk of Alfama as it was fascinating to see the contrast compared to where we went earlier that day. Beware of narrow streets in LisbonIn Alfama it felt almost like we were spying at people as we walked past people’s homes. Here we could see clothing hanging outside to dry, birds in cages were also hanging outside to allow the birds to get some fresh air, people were sitting outside talking to their neighbors and we even walked past a public hand washing laundromat. TStreet decoration in Alfamahere were lots of steps in the area and some of the streets were so narrow that they even had signs about the width restriction! In some places the narrow streets opened up into small piazzas were there would be a few table and they would serve some food and some Vinho Verde. There seemed to be some celebration in progress as they were hanging up colorful decorations and they were also building some sort of stage in one of the squares. We sat down right outside the cathedral of Sé and enjoyed the last rays of sun before it was setting behind the buildings in the area - along with a small bottle of Vinho Verde of course ;-)

Last day in town
Hams for sales in LisbonOn Monday 16th of May it was time for us to check out of the hotel. But as we only had a flight in the afternoon there was still some time for us to look around. After a bit of back and forth with the hotel in connection with check out (see the review of the hotel here). After eating and drinking lots of good stuff in Lisbon we stopped by Manuel Tavares located near Praça da Figueira. In this small shop it was possible to buy lots of good stuff ranging from There is a great selection of port wine in Lisbonvarious Portuguese hams, goat cheese and of course port wine. They even handed out free samples of stuff and even if it was early in the morning I had to try out some of the stuff that we normally don’t get at home like white port wine or dry port wine used as aperitif. It is quite impressive to see that you can actually buy vintage as far back as the 1930’s in a shop like this. Buying port is not that easy as some vintages are good and some are not that great and it also depends on the process of making it – but you can read more about that on other websites ;-)

View to the square called Rossio in LisbonWe walked slowly up to the Bairro Alto area again and there was an artistic atmosphere as people were performing modern art stunts in the middle of the stores and streets. We stopped by Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for some final views of the city before we returned to the hotel to pick up our suitcases. A view to the castle area in LisbonThis time we decided to take the bus instead of being ripped off once again by a taxi driver. There is a Aerobus stop on Avenida right by the metro station there and the ticket is 3€ per person and it only takes 15-20 minutes. We heard a conversation at a café one day and an American couple asked the waiter about the transport to the airport. He said that it should not take more than 20 minutes and they were like “But when we got here it took us an hour to get to the hotel” - so obviously their driver has been taking them around in circles to make some more money.

We checked in and took a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt at 5.50 PM. If you haven’t shopped in town there is still a chance for some shopping at the airport. They do sell port wine and even pasteis de nata that you can bring back home. Our last taste of Lisboa was just that as they had the Portuguese egg tarts in the TAP lounge.

Conclusion
Gard and Nikki at Alfama in LisbonWe have had the pleasure of seeing great European cities like Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Florence and so on. I didn’t really have that many expectations for Lisbon even if I knew that this small country was once at the very top of their class when it comes to exploring the globe we live on. To start with I got a bit sceptical as I was being approached by people wanting to sell me drugs on basically every open square and there were homeless people sleeping in the streets, blind people begging on the metro etc. The walls of Castelo de Sao Jorge and Lisboa viewAnd it is easy to see that Portugal still doesn’t have the wealth that many of the other European cities have – you can also see this in the building as many of them are in a very, very poor condition. I guess you can also interpret the number of pickpockets that we saw as a sign of the economy – I don’t think I have ever seen this as clear before but maybe I have not paid attention to it previously. But the city itself is spectacular with lots of hills, cobblestone streets (watch out: they seem to be a bit slippery when it is raining) and narrow streets where life seems to go on just the way Hanging around at Belem towerit has for many, many years. It seemed to be a fairly quiet city but with lots of restaurants to choose from and it is also a pretty cheap destination. I have mentioned some of the prices in this trip report and you can also read more about prices of our meals in the eating and drinking in Lisbon section. An example of cost is bottle of water that cost 0.1€ at the grocery store and the day pass on the metro that was 3.95€ (about 5.5 USD). All in all we had a great stay in Lisbon and if you haven’t been there I can highly recommend a visit. Before we went there people mentioned that we should also visit Sintra but as we didn’t have that much time we decided to just focus on the city of Lisbon. But that means that we have a reason to go back in the future ;-)

Some useful tips:

  • Wondering about the weather in Lisbon? Check out weatherbase.com to get some weather stats so you know what to expect.
  • A good guidebook: yes, you can find a lot of useful info on the internet. But get a good guidebook with a comprehensive street map. Which one to buy is up to you :-) We bought Eyewitness Travel guide and we found it to be quite good for a first time visit.
  • Which forums to ask questions: Try TripAdvisor, Fodor’s or Frommer’s
  • Are you bringing a laptop? We did and it was great to use this to check out attractions and opening times, maps, restaurant information etc. Just make sure you find a hotel that offers internet...or even better: free internet ;-)
  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Lisbon? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.
  • Here is a interactive Lisbon Google map where I have highlighted some of the places that we went to.
     

If you have any questions or comments feel free to get in touch. Have a great trip to Lisbon!

 Feel free to continue to the next page of this trip report: eating and drinking in Lisbon.

 

 
 

 

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