This Blog is about a short trip to lovely Lisbon and its surroundings - but let's do an Outing here first. Main purpose of that trip was the Eurovision Song Contest that happened to be in Lisbon this year thanks to the fantastic melancholic singer Salvador Sobral. He is quite a tragic figure as he won the Eurovision in May 2017 and went through a heart transplant in autumn of the same year.
So yes, I have to admit here I am quite a fan of the show and even more the party that comes with it and have traveled already to a couple of previous editions. However this time I took a quite late decision and therefore couldn't get ticket for the show itself, but the live screening at the Eurovison Fan Village was fun as well - although that night was a chilly one out there.
But let's have first a look into Lisbon and what to do there. I always liked that comparatively small European capital, although I usually find Spanish cities as Madrid or Barcelona more lively. Lisbon and Portugal always had a bit of melancholic touch for me - same as their Fado music.
Hotels and car rental I once again organized through my well trusted agent SpainTop (www.spaintop.com), which are based in Spain as the name says :-) but also can arrange your trip in Portugal.
So where to stay
Of course Lisbon has many hotels from all categories, but due to the Eurovision and my late booking all were full or had exorbitant prices. So I opted for an apartment, which I anyway prefer sometimes as you feel more like a local and come to see less touristic neighborhoods. The Hello Lisbon Santos Apartments (www.hello-lisbon.com) are located in a residential area and a quiet side street. If you arrive by car, parking might be a bit of a challenge and the next public parking is quite a drive away. However next tram station is just a 5 minutes walk and to the main center area you will do 20 minutes on foot. Make sure that you get the door code sent to you via email before arrival otherwise you might face some challenges - I had to open the door to two desperate arrivals who didn't get a code, but were lucky I heard them. Once you enter the main door you will do your check-in via a computer there and if you face problems you can talk to a person from their office via Skype. A bit tricky that process and I won't guarantee here that if you arrive late at night there will be always somebody assisting you.
The apartments are a bit small, but with modern equipment and very clean. So a nice place for a city stay. If you add breakfast on your reservation a box will be delivered to your door stop somewhere in the morning hours.
What to do in the city
Of course Lisbon is a city that is best explored by foot or the famous Tram Line 28, however the latest fashion is to hire a Tricycle for a fun tour around the city. You can find the drivers all over the center and mainly around the Praca do Comercio. A tour will bring you to the main sights of the center plus to some nice viewing points and as Lisbon is built over many hills (no, we are not in Rome :-)) a Tuk-Tuk tour saves you some sportive energies that you can spend later on the many bars. Here are some impressions of our tour with our super nice chauffeur Joao from 7hills Tuk Tours (www.7hillstours.pt)........
Still Lisbon and not San Francisco :-)
The Saturday Flea Market.
With a lot of curiosities on sale.
At the Old City we took a small walk with our guide through the narrow streets and had a chat with some locals there.
The portrait himself.....
Walk the Barrio Alto
After your Tricycle Tour it is time for a walk through the streets of the Barrio Alto. At the Rua da Bica you can hop on the old Funiculare to bring you up hill. Don't miss a stop at the Miradour S. Catarina from where you have fantastic views over the Bay and the impressive Hanging Bridge. The Barrio Alto is also the place to be at night with its many restaurants and bars and same as in Spain during summer the crowd is bringing the party out on the streets here.
Beside Barrio Alto you find the neighborhoods of Chiado and Baixa with its pedestrian areas for shopping or just to have a relaxed coffee. Use the famous elevator Elevador S. Justa to bring you up from the lower Baixa to the higher Chiado area. That's shopping in style!
Take the Funiculare....
To Miradour S. Catarina....
Afterwards take the Elevador S. Justa down to the shopping streets.....
Eat Pasteis de Natas at Pasteis de Belem Bakery
This famous Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon is a must try on a trip to Portugal and if you have a sweet tooth I am sure you will get addicted to them. Best place to try in Lisbon is at the well-known Pasteis de Belem Bakery (www.pasteisdebelem.pt) - so you have to expect long queues there, but the Natas and also all the other pastry there is simply delicious. If you don't want to wait for a table you can also take them on the go, however often the take-away queue is not significantly shorter.
If you are up for some culture and sightseeing afterwards you can visit the beautiful Jerenomis Monastery (www.mosteirojeronimos.gov.pt) just beside.
The monastery is just beside the bakery....
Where to eat
Time Out Market
Yes for those of you who are familiar with the famous Time Out Magazine and guides which you can find in many cities over the world - that market is sponsored from the same guys. Located in the Old Market Halls it is a culinary journey through whole Lisbon where you can try all kind of different food at the stalls plus of course their delicious wines and spirits. Especially on weekends this place is packed and an ideal place for lunch often with some live music around.
Local specialities for appetizers.
Followed by a delicious warm octopus salad.
Food options in the capital are endless and just walk around and you will find nice places to indulge all over. Here are just some few suggestions:
* Memorias 57 (www.memorias57.pt) for authentic Portuguese food. A restaurant with long traditions.
* As Salgadeiras (www.as-salgadeiras.com) another traditional restaurant located in a former bakery.
* Peixaria da Esquina (www.peixariadaesquina.com) for everything fish.
* FlowerPower (www.flowerpower.com.pt) for modern Portuguese cuisine mainly tapas style in a nice flowery decorated place.
Roof Top Bars
Like in many other cities rooftops are “the place to be” in summer also in Lisbon. My favorite one was The Park (www.mixcloud.com/parklisboa)- which sits on top of a car park - so the entrance is a bit tricky to find.
Further nice rooftops are SkyBar (www.skybarrooftop.com) on top of Tivoli Hotel, Silk (www.silk-club.com) which is one of Lisbon's most exclusive bars and also a Japanese Restaurant, Rio Maravilha (www.riomaravilha.pt) on top of a factory building, Atico (www.nh-hotels.com) on top of the NH Liberdade Hotel and Topo (www.topo-lisboa.pt) on top of a shopping mall where you can also eat nice tapas with your drinks.
Is the world famous Portuguese music - melancholic and sad on one side, but somehow it has its own beauty even if you don't understand the lyrics, however if you do then the songs will reveal an amazing world of poetry to you. To watch a Fado performance in Lisbon is same with the Flamenco Shows in Spain, they are mainly touristic, served with more or less acceptable food, but still the atmosphere is special and shouldn't be missed on one Lisbon night. Here are some places to check out:
* Pavilhao Chines (www.pavilhaochines.com)
* Fado & Food (www.fadoandfood.pt)
And yes there was the Eurovision - as mentioned I didn't get the tickets to go inside the final show, but the public screening on Praca do Comercio was fun with many crazy people around and lots of innovative dresses to admire. Next stop is Israel then in 2019 thanks to Israel’s funky Netta who won the crowds over. So watch out on www.eurovision.tv
Around the city
This city is one of the most famous sights in Portugal and only a short drive away from Lisbon. Sintra is a very picturesque town amidst pine covered hills in a beautiful mountain range. The cooler climate over here has attracted the former Elite of Portugal who have constructed extravagant palaces, impressive mansions and lush gardens. All that is preserved until today and some places are open to the public for a visit and some of the historic houses have been transformed into hotels or restaurants.
Also here you can find that cute little Tricycles that bring you around - and as some places are far away from each other and up the mountains that is a good investment. Most famous palace is the colorful Palacio de Pena which is a great example of romanticism styled architecture of the 19th century which was inspired by the love for art and the mysticism of ancient cultures.
Our tricycle driver was great fun.
Once you are done with your tour you can walk around the charming cobbled stone streets of Sintra filled with shops, cafes and traditional tapas bars all situated around the Gothic styled National Palace. If you are interested in the full history of Sintra and all the myths around this little city, you can visit the interactive museum “SINTRA – Mitos e Lendas” (www.visitlisboa.com).
And of course Sintra has also a lot of nice food stops where you can try local specialties like the Melted Goat Cheese.
Another beautiful sight not far away from Sintra at the wild and rough Portuguese coast is Cabo da Roca. The cape is the most western point of mainland Portugal and continental Europe. During spring time the cliffs surrounding the lighthouse are covered with a lush green vegetation and flowers. Very picturesque and beautiful to take a walk around – often accompanied with heavy winds. Nature at its best!
Most of the Portuguese coastline is made out of rough cliffs, but in between you can always find nice stretches of beautiful and unspoiled white sandy beaches.
Also the cliffs itself are a touristic attraction like for example the Boca de Inferno in Cascais.
Cascais was once a tranquil little fishing village, but has now transformed in one of the major tourism hubs of Portugal. Within the city the beaches are not so nice, but around you can find some real good places for a sunbath and a swim (but be warned Atlantic water is wild and also cold in summer times). In Cascais center and around the busy marina you have some pedestrian streets with little cafes, restaurants and shops.
I found a real nice Brazilian Café, Tocca (www.tocca.pt) where you can create your own delicious Acai Bowl or indulge in sweet coconut Tapioca – hmmmm, so yummi!!!
On another day we headed south of Lisbon to the port city of Setubal. You can take a car ferry or catamaran from there to the opposite Troia Peninsula. The peninsula itself is a beautiful nature paradise with white long beaches – which count to the best in Europe. You can rent a bicycle and explore the peninsula with its pine trees and interesting bird life. Worth is also a sail along the coast where often dolphins can be spotted. All those are the plus points of the peninsula. What I didn’t like much was Troia city itself which is an ugly tourism place with high rise apartment and hotel buildings. There is a Marina with some restaurants around plus a casino, but the whole place is lacking in charm and just feels artificial. So for two to three days it is nice for enjoying the beaches, but I wouldn’t like to stay a whole holiday there as you will be quite confined to your hotel.
We were staying at the Troia Design Hotel (www.troiadesignhotel.com) which is also a tourist bunker like the other hotels around, however as the name prevails in a more designed and stylish way. The rooms were in modern décor and very spacious – I would say real feel good rooms with fantastic views over either the Atlantic or the Sado River (if you forget about the ugly hotels around). The hotel has a large pool deck, various restaurants and a casino.
Right in front of the hotel is the Marina, where you can take the passenger catamaran to Setubal or you take a 5 minute walk on an elevated wooden trail to reach the amazing white beach where the Sado River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
The opposite city of Setubal is nice to visit for a late afternoon walk and maybe some shopping in its pedestrian area (between Largo da Misericordia and Praca Bocage).
Further you can find some real good fish restaurants at the Av. Luisa Todi (close by the Tourism Office) or at the Av. Jose Mourinho around the small fishing harbor. We ate twice at the Tasca de Fatinha (Av. Jose Mourinho 54) – where fish is grilled fresh on site and the famous Choco Frito (fried cuttlefish) is simply delicious. Although fish of course is the main affair here – leave some space for the also amazing desserts – you can choose from a great variety and all are house-made!
If you are up for a day trip from Setubal or Troia then the drive to the historic city of Evora would be nice (around 100 km). This well preserved town is still surrounded by a medieval wall and presents monuments from various historical periods. Evora is an UNESCO World Heritage site and on a stroll through the ancient center you can visit the massive Gothic cathedral, where you can have a walk on its roof with fantastic views over the city and the surroundings.
The white-washed city houses are building picture postcard images wherever you go. Another main attraction are the ruins of a Roman Temple and the large University Building. Of course as Evora is one of the most visited cities in Portugal you won’t be here on your own and the main streets are covered with touristic shops. However worth a look are the items made of the famous cork trees of this area – you can find some pretty cool handbags here that nobody will have back home – strike :-)
For lunch I can recommend the Pateo Restaurant (Rua 5 Outubre/Beco da Espinhosa) where you can sit in a shaded patio and enjoy some local specialties as the black pork or some sausages grilled live on the fire.
So that was my short trip to Lisbon and its surroundings and sure I will come back for more – next a trip to the Algarve coast.
Ate breve Portugal!