A hidden European jewel unknown for many and well worth a visit. Facing Tagus River, Lisbon offers a beautiful view from any of its hills making almost unavoidably to fall in love with. A city for those who enjoy great food and drinks, within a relaxing atmosphere surrounded by friendly people.
This is how my Lisbon urban adventure started: Due to the lack of direct flights from Caracas to Barcelona, I had to make one stop and take another plane at some point in Europe. Alternatives were four: Madrid, Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and Lisbon. I thought Lisbon would be the best option for geographic location and for the lowest ticket price available at that moment, so I decided to give it a try and get to know this city. Well, I stayed there for a week and I wish could have stayed longer!
Food is delicious in Lisbon, dishes are generous and tasty. Feijoda and bacalao (codfish) are among my favorites. Portuguese cuisine is mostly seafood-based, but it's not limited to it, there are many options in the streets of Lisbon. As South American, I love heavy food, but when looking for something lighter, I had salads in Vitamins, there are several of them in the city. Malls are also good places to eat and hang around, Portuguese people love eat well and none of the fast food restaurants you may find will disappoint you. Don't forget to accompany your meal with a glass of wine, vinho verde (green wine) and the unforgettable (at least for me) vinho do Porto (Oporto or Port wine), much better while listening to fado, a traditional music very popular in Lisbon.
Places to visit are Baixa, Chiado, Alfama, Convento do Carmo, Elevador de Santa Justa, Castelo de São Jorge, Jardim Zoológico and Belém. At the top hill of Alfama, there is Castelo de São Jorge, from which a wonderful view of the city can be enjoyed, with its red roofs, the Tagus River, 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei Statue. Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, and it can be noticed by the narrow streets, churches and nicely decorated balconies. In Baixa-Chiado there are many restaurants and shops, beautiful places to walk in the cobblestone streets.
Hills, hills and more hills, Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills, so be prepared to walk. After a day visiting different points of the city, Bairro Alto is the place to go out in the night. During the day, everything is closed in Bairro Alto, but in the night it surprised me all the people walking all along the narrow streets, many restaurants and bars. I didn't know which one to choose! People love to drink Caipirinhas and Caipiroskas, as I of course did. I highly recommend travelers that like partying to stay in Bairro Alto, you can have a drink and get to your hotel easily; however, it's your decision, taxis in Lisbon are not expensive. I stayed in BA Hostel, it is a great place to stay in, you don't hear any noise from people drinking outside, it's very clean and staff is wonderful, always willing to help.
The options to move around the city are taking the bus, the subway, the old electric tram or just walking. The vintage yellow tram is a "must-do". I took one from Miradouro de Santa Luzia to Campo de Ourique, it's a scenic trip that took me back in time. There are several routes, all hop-on hop-off, most popular is eléctrico 28.
Next place to visit is Belém. To get there, I took eléctrico 15 in Cais do Sodré, but can also be taken in Praça da Figueira and Praça do Comércio, get off at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém. Honestly, the reason why I went to Belém was to try the world famous pastéis de Belém, a "must-eat". It is a small custard tart, so delicious, one is not enough! The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is really beautiful, the decorative features carved out the walls are stunning. Torre de Belém and Padrão dos Descobrimentos are next to the monastery, after crossing a square. From these landmarks, I enjoyed a great view of Tagus Rives, 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei Statue.
There are many things to see in Lisbon. Fátima, Cascais, Sintra and Estoril are recommended to visit for a day trip outside the city. Tour operators in Praça do Comércio offer all these services for group travel, sightseeing tours and private trips.