Lisbon – glorious, romantic, beautiful Lisbon. City of golden light and old streets. Old seaport destroyed by a massive earthquake and rebuilt. Lisbon – the city of warmth and conviviality, city of desire, city of Saudade.
If you are planning a trip to Lisbon, here are my top 8 things to do and see recommendations. As a frequent visitor, I have walked the streets of the mosaic many times and would like to share some of my favourite places with you. The following captures the essence of the capital of Portugal and gives you the chance to explore the city for yourself.
Take tram number 28
As soon as you arrive in Lisbon, you will hear the propulsion of the emblematic trams crossing the city. Number 28 is the most famous of all routes and one of the best ways to see the city as a whole. The tour goes through many of the most important parts of Lisbon and takes you to many tourist attractions: Alfama, Sé, the Graca district, Baixa and Bairro Alto, Chiado and Estrela. Buy a three-day travel ticket at the Carris kiosk in Figueira square and you can get on and off all the trams which will save you feet and is much cheaper than paying each time. Watch your bags because pickpockets are very common, but enjoy the ride.
Spend an evening in a fado bar
Traditional Portuguese music is known as Fado. Currently, Mariza is the most famous fado singer, whose great voice has delighted the whole world. Traditionally sung by a woman dressed in long skirts and wrapped in a scarf accompanied by the Portuguese guitar, Fado calls what the Portuguese call “Saudade”. This word is difficult to translate accurately into English. It means something similar to disappearance, nostalgia and hope. Listen to the music and you will feel the feeling. Nowadays bars have been set up for tourists, so you have to look for the small places where the locals are still present. Lapa and Alfama are good options.
Take a day trip to Sintra
The magical village of Sintra is only around 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. Take a tour of the Portuguese countryside and mountains for breathtaking landscapes. Sintra is the site of palaces – once the region loved by the nobility. Although there are many attractions here, my favourite is Quinta da Regaleira, a fairytale madness from the castle just outside the village. It is a wonderful place to rest.
Getting lost in Alfama
Alfama is the old heart of Lisbon which survived the great earthquake of 1755. In the labyrinth streets, you will find many typical scenes that you see on postcards of Lisbon. Houses decorated with traditional azulejos (Portuguese tiles), hung in front of the windows, iron balconies richly decorated with flowers, sites such as the Lisbon Castle, the birthplace of Saint Anthony, the museums and the secret staircases. Step into the past and taste the atmosphere.
Visit Belém and eat Pasteis
Belém is a district of Lisbon, accessible by tram 15 from the commercial square. Here are 3 of Lisbon’s most famous sites: the Monument to the Discoveries, the Tower of Belém and the Jeronimous Monastery and Gardens. In summer, the place is very popular with tourists, so try to go there early in the morning or on weekdays. Visit the Pasteis de Belém and taste the famous custard tarts, then head to the beautiful places nearby.
Find your favourite Miradouro
Viewpoints are viewpoints in Lisbon and everyone has a favourite. Mine is the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, which will be yours? These beautiful places offer you a party with the best view of the city. Often you will find a bar or cafe nearby so you can watch the sunset while enjoying a galão or a Cerveja (café au lait or a beer).
Enter the Santa Justa elevator
Built by a student from the Eifel, this giant iron elevator from the city centre takes you up the steep hill from Baixa to Chiado / Bairro Alto. When you get out of the sparkling wooden car, you will have a spectacular view of the city. From here you can visit the Gothic ruins of the Carmo Monastery.