Lisbon, why did I have to leave you so soon?

Oh Lisbon, our time together was too short!

Looking over the hilly neighbourhoods of Lisbon…

I can’t remember for the life of me who it was, in fact it may have been a bunch of different people, but whoever it was – I was told by someone at some stage that they hated Lisbon and it really wasn’t worth visiting.

For this reason, when planning our trip this little seed of thought that ‘Lisbon is stinky and gross’ was firmly placed in my mind. When it came time to decide whether to visit Lisbon or not, I decided that we would as it was clearly halfway between Lagos and Porto – but only for 2 nights – as it wasn’t worth visiting, right?

WRONG!

Some of the street art lining the laneways of Lisbon

As soon as we arrived I feel almost immediately in love with the hilly terraced streets, bright yellow coloured trams, breezy seaside promenades and graffiti covered laneways of Lisbon. The place just seemed so – for want of a better word – ridiculously cool.

A saxophone player busts out a few tunes on the streets not far from our hostel

Artists lined many of the laneways selling photographs or some of their own sketches, a saxophone player jammed by himself in a corner, free concerts were being played in the plaza in front of our hostel and we saw a bizarre performance of what looked like Chinese opera being performed in a tiny alcove on our first walk through the town.

Walking through the streets lined with the local temporary bars…

We also had the luck of being in Lisbon during June, when the whole city effectively lets it’s hair down for the entire month. Street parties and free concerts abound and in the Alfalma neighbourhood many of the local homeowners transform their bottom floor rooms and front porches into temporary bars selling a variety of drinks. You can move from house to house drinking up a storm whilst listening to impromptu performances of ‘Fado’ – a traditional Portuguese style of sad, melancholic singing.

The pimping lounge area of the Royal Lisbon Hostel

My favourable impression of Lisbon was probably helped along a little by the fact that the hostel we were staying at was unbelieveable! Seriously, when we walked into the foyer I had one of those ‘uh-oh, this place is way out of my league, surely I’ve got the directions wrong’ moments. Turns out, directions were correct and somehow we were just managing to stay in a private room in a pimping high-roofed, beautifully decorated, bright airy, centuries old building that overlooked a central plaze for the grand total of $25 a night each. Score!

Usually I like to approach my travelling at a reasonably leisurely pace – however the fact that we only had two nights and essentially only one full day in Lisbon before we were leaving for Sintra and then Porto meant that this simply wasn’t an option.

An evening cheese and prosciutto feast overlooking the plaza next to our hostel…

Our first afternoon was a bit of a right off as we were both still incredibly hung over from our final night in Lagos. So we just had a little wander through the streets, checked out a few of the free concerts on show and then enjoyed our luxurious surroundings at the hostel with yet another cheese and prosciutto feast overlooking the Plaza Camões – right outside the window.

One of the hundred-year old trams that are frequently seen rattling along the streets of Lisbon

As a result of our slowness to start the siteseeing our second, and only full day in Lisbon – was absolutely jammed packed.

Our meeting place and the starting point of the free walking tour

We began with a few sweltering hours on another free walking tour. Our guide for this one was a lovely young local guy who worked as an engineer during the week and then did the occasional tour on the weekend, mainly to meet different people. He was really genuine and laid back and I must say I much preferred his style of tour compared to the one we had done in Sevilla – not a dad joke in sight!

During the tour we wandered through the neighbourhoods of Rossio, Baixa, and Chiado before climbing uphill and then wandering down through the twisting backstreets and alleys of Alfalma.

Some street art depicting images of the ‘Fado’ singing…

The walls of the backstreets were absolutely covered in graffiti and street art and I had full reign to go crazy taking photos of it all as there was barely a soul in sight. I guess it was kind of early on a Sunday morning, so perhaps all the locals were resting up after a big night out on the town?

It was a five story drop over this ledge. This girl had no fear!

After climbing what seemed like and endless amount of steps I was surprised when we began to make our way into the top entrance of a large parking complex. I was even more surprised when I saw the amazing sweeping view the top level of the building had across the entire central area of Lisbon. The crazy girl in the picture above was reading a book and dangling her feet over the 5 story drop to the street below. What a nutter!

More graffiti on some crumbling walls in Alfama

As we reached Alfama the streets became rather chaotic and windy. Wandering through here we were told of and manage to spot a number of the many temporary bars that locals set up within their own homes during June.

Another beautiful look out from the Miradouro de Santa Catarina

We passed by some beautiful look out points or ‘miradouros’ as they’re known in Portuguese…

…as well as a number of beautiful churches and tiny cafes and guesthouses.

The sign that pinpointed the location of an Exorcist to his clients.

As we passed by this corner, our guide told us that a number of years ago a priest lived right by here who specialised in performing exorcisms on people who were thought to be possessed by evil spirits or the devil. Apparently he used to advertise his services and to avoid revealing his address simply told his clients to look for the sign with ‘the screaming child’ to locate his house. You can see the screaming child on the street sign above. Creepy!

The central monument in the Comercio Plaza.

Our tour came to an end at the large Comercio plaza by the water in the neighbourhood of Baixa. Usually after a sweaty few hours wandering the city I would be keen for a solid afternoon of R&R – but time was short, so this wasn’t to be! After a quick lunch we jumped onboard a tram to head out to Belem – a monument packed old neighbourhood located roughly 6km west of central Lisbon.

It was a sensory overload in Belem! After a long, hot walk along the riverside we firstly we paid a visit to the ‘Padrão dos Descobrimentos’ (Monument to the Discoveries).

Some of the explorers depicted on the outside of the Monument to the Discoveries

This is a tall structure that includes statues of various explorers and is set on the riverside leading out to sea to celebrate the Portuguese age of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Monument ot eh Discoveries with the 25 de Abril bridge in the background…

From this point we also had a fantastic view of the ’25 de Abril’ Bridge, a large suspension bridge that connects Lisbon to Almada and bears a striking resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.

Torre Belem, one of Portugal’s most iconic buildings…

Next we walked along the riverside for a few hundred metres to arrive in front of the UNESCO Heritage listed Torre de Belém (Belem Tower) a large fortified tower that is apparently one of the most recognisable tourist sites in all of Portugal.

Will’s all tuckered out in front of the Jeronimos Monastery

All the walking in the sweltering heat was beginning to take it’s toll, so we began the long walk back to the tram station, passing by the Jerónimos Monastery on our way.

Hellooooooo Pasteis de Belem!

Just before we arrived to the station, we passed by a small bakery that was completely packed with people – so much so that a trail of customers was winding out of the door and onto the street. I immediately remembered being told of the amazing ‘Pasteis de Belém’ by a fellow backpacker we had met back in Spain – apparently the first and original version of what we all know as ‘Portuguese Custard Tarts’.

Retaining composure as I hadn’t actually tasted the tart yet…

Usually I’m not a huge fan of sweet pastries, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try the supposed best custard tart in all of Portugal, so I got into the crowded line to give the little tart a try.

My true reaction to the little nugget of delicious-ness. Most attractive!

Oh. My. God.

It was honestly one of the most ridiculously delicious sweets I have ever eaten in my life. The slightly sweet custard was still lovely and warm as it had been plucked almost straight from the oven and the flaky sweet butter pastry that surrounded the custard was the perfect complement to it’s thick creamy richness.

Will had opted not to have one but after trying a bite of mine actually moaned in delight and ended up kicking himself for not having ordered one. Silly boy.

Santa Justa Elevator

We arrived back into central Lisbon just as the sun was setting and made our way to the Santa Justa elevator, built at the turn of the 20th century and offering bird’s eye views over all of Lisbon.

The view from the top of Santa Justa elevator…

The final windy few steps up to the very top level of the lookout left Will with his fear of heights more than a little shaky, but the spectacular view we had from the top was well worth it.

Our view of the roofless Convento do Carmo

From our vantage point we were able to peer almost straight into the roofless Convento do Carmo. The old convent / church almost lost its entire roof during the huge Lisbon earthquake of 1755 that left half the city in complete ruins.

We sat outside here on the cobble stoned laneway for our final dinner in Lisbon

The jam-packed day of site-seeing ended with a wander through Bairro Alto before stopping for a hearty Portuguese dinner whilst sitting outside enjoying the breeze in a cobblestoned laneway. In the end our few days in Lisbon were jam-packed yet wonderful and left me craving so much more time to explore all the city had to offer.

So whoever it was who told me Lisbon wasn’t worth visiting, I’m sending a big angry hand-shake right in your direction!

Pancho free walking tours – http://www.panchotours.com/tour/13/lisboa.php

Royal Lisbon Hostel – http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Royal-Lisbon-Hostel/Lisbon/43937

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Comments
One Response to “Lisbon, why did I have to leave you so soon?”
  1. anakirana says:

    i’m literally eyeing on Pastels de Belem now* hahaha.. very nice documentations!

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