We almost didn’t make it to Lisbon or Portugal at all. Since we were coming from Barcelona, it made a lot of sense to go down the east coast of Spain to our last stop, Malaga. I really hadn’t heard much about Lisbon so it wasn’t high on my list, but Diem did some research and wanted to go, so I said yes. Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and is a major global and European commercial and financial hub. As we later learned in our walking tour, Lisbon is also one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. It has a rich and deep colonial history and was launching point for many famous explorations like Vasco da Gama’s expedition to India in 1498.
We took the AVE direct to Madrid then the overnight train to Lisbon from Madrid. The trip to Madrid was especially nice because we got free cava and snacks for the first time using our first class Eurail passes. We got into Lisbon early around 7:00 AM and made our way to the Airbnb. The Airbnb host let us check in early so we showered up and took a nap then made our way to a lunch BBQ spot. We took the BBQ to go and went to a nearby overlook, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. It was a really beautiful day so we sat at a picnic table and enjoyed the view of the Castle, the city center, and the river. After lunch we walked towards Praca do Comerico (Commercial Plaza) and checked out the Guards Museum on the way. We walked down to the city center next to the national museum where I was aggressively propositioned for marijuana. We then walked along Rua Augusta street towards Arco da Rua Augusta and the Commercial Plaza. The Commercial Plaza is a huge open square facing the river and with a number of stores lining the square. We then went to a nearby ViniPortugal (Wines of Portugal) store where we did some wine tasting. The store was set up like Splash in San Diego where you load money on a card and then select different wines on an automatic dispenser. We decided to walk home along the river which turned out to be much longer than we expected. It was a 5k walk and took us about 1.5 hours to get home. We went to a nearby Market for dinner.
The next day, we had lunch at a local spot, O Eurico, that Diem researched. We were the only tourists there and it took us a while to get our food but the fish and octopus that we ordered was pretty good and cheap. We then did a Sandemans walking tour and our tour guide was a history major and really enjoyed talking about Lisbon’s history, maybe a little too much. He talked for nearly 40 minutes before we finally began walking. The tour was 3.5 hours long but we didn't see that many sights because the tour guide spent so much time talking at each spot. Along the way we got to try a traditional Portuguese cherry licorice shot at Gingha de Carne. We ended the tour at Commercial Plaza. After, we walked to the Time Out Market (old warehouse with lots of restaurants) but we didn't eat there because we weren't quite hungry yet. Next, we made our way up to the viewpoint Miradouro de Santa Catarina. We saw a bunch of people with beer so just followed the crowd towards a mini market that sold big 40s of beer with plastic cups for 1.75€. We took our drinks back to the viewpoint to enjoy the view. There were a lot of people there even though it was pretty cloudy and you couldn’t see the sunset. Even with the clouds, the view was still very pretty. After we finished our drinks we made our way back down to Pistola y Corazon for dinner (tacos) and then ordered an Uber back to apartment.
On our third day we took a bus to see the Santuario Nacional de Cristo Rei (Christ the King) which was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited that monument. Around the statue there are great views of the city and the bridge Ponte de 25 April. The bridge was actually modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge as you can tell from the pictures. After taking some pictures, we took another bus to Alfama and lunch at Tasca do Vigario. Alfama is oldest district of Lisbon, it spreads down the southern slope from the Castle of São Jorge to the River Tagus. It was also one of the few areas of Lisbon that survived the earthquake of 1755 with little damage. After lunch, we walked to the Portas Do Sol lookout viewpoint vista of Alfama and the monastery there. Took some pictures of the pretty view and went to the second lookout at Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen which was not as good a view. After, we walked to Castle de Sao Jorge. We thought we could at least get to the terrace before we had to pay but the ticket booth starts at the very base didn’t want to pay the 8.5 euro entry fee so we didn't go in at all. Instead, we went to a gelato place nearby (Gelataria Portuguesa) where I had 2 scoops and Diem had their cafe con gelado (delicious, like an affogato!). We walked to Praca do Comerico to catch the bus back to the apartment.
The next day, we took Bus to Belem. Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In particular, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497 and Pedro Álvares Cabral departed for Brazil in 1499. Perhaps Belém's most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém, whose image is much used by Lisbon's tourist board. The tower was built as a fortified lighthouse to guard the entrance to the port. Belém's other major historical building is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), which the Torre de Belém was built partly to defend. Belém's most notable modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) built for the Portuguese World Fair in 1940.
Our first stop in Belem was the Palace of Ajuda. The entrance to the palace cost 5 euros but it was really worth it. We don’t go to many Palaces/Castles because the entry fees really add up and they would tend to blend together but this one had good reviews. The palace began to be used as a Royal Residence in 1826, when the Infanta Isabel Maria, the Regent of the young Queen Maria II, who wanted to turn Ajuda into a habitable palace. The throne room and the dining room were really impressive. After the Palace, we went to get lunch at O Prado Restaurant where we had some great seafood rice and salmon. We went by the Padrao dos Descobrimentos which was being refurbished, the Belem Tower and then walked to the Colecao Berado Museum which has free entry. The collection at the Colecao Berado Museum was pretty impressive for a free museum and had works from Picasso, Warhol, and Dali. It was a pretty hot out so we just walked by the Jerónimos Monastery and then headed back. It was our last day in Lisbon so we had to pack up for our early bus the next day. Dinner at Mercado de Campo Ourique.
We took a train at 8:30 AM from Lisbon to Faro. We actually wanted to go to Lagos, Portugal but booked Faro by mistake. Faro is a pretty small coastal town but it more of a jumping off point for tourists wanting to visit the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa (Nature Park of Ria Forma). We got to Faro and grabbed lunch then walked around the old town and the river. We didn’t have time to go visit the Nature Park so I just went for a run along the coast then we got dinner at a burger spot.
Lisbon has been one of those cities that we could really see ourselves living in. It is a capital city but isn’t as large as some of the other European capitals. The food is delicious, the public transportation is pretty good, and it has some of the best weather in Europe. We definitely think we’ll be visiting again and I highly recommend, especially if you’re visiting Spain.
See the full gallery of our time in Lisbon and Faro here: Portugal