Lisbon is one European city we have been eager to visit and we were not disappointed.
Graham and I were astounded, because Lisbon was so clean and we hardly ever saw litter on the streets and there was absolutely no dog dirt fouling the pavements, unlike one particular European city. Yes, Paris, I am talking about you! You could have eaten your lunch off the platforms on the Metro underground. I really enjoyed the street art and loved how the city actively promoted it.
2. TILED STREETS
The tiled streets are truly beautiful, but make sure you have comfortable, non-slip footwear. I saw one lady in high heels and she looked very uncomfortable tottering around on the tiles. Most people wore flattish boots or runners with good grip; the tiles did become slippery when it rained. We had a lot of rain on our last day and we saw several pedestrians ending up on the flat of their backs.
The tiles come in a variety of mosaic patterns and, incredibly, it is all done by hand. We particularly loved the three-dimensional effect of the tiles (below) representing the waves from the flood in 1755 which destroyed much of the city.
3. GETTING AROUND
If you do not wish to walk too much, Lisbon has an excellent transport system. You can purchase a one-day ticket for €6.40 which allows you unlimited use for 24 hours on the metro, bus, tram, funicular and ferry. We made excellent use of it and would thoroughly recommend that you take the trams, particularly the 28, which brings you on a wonderful journey through the winding streets and into the old Alfama district; you can get on and off as often as you like. We also walked for hours each day, but using transport meant we got to do much more.
4. EATING AND DRINKING
We indulged daily in the renowned pasteis de nata custard tarts; in fact, Graham became addicted to the tasty pastries. We visited the Belem area (where the famous pastry was originally made in 1837 at Pasteis de Belem), but having looked at the crowds, we went on a further 100 metres to a tiny coffee shop to indulge in the treats there. We don’t like queuing.
Four excellent dinners:
‘Sacramento’, housed in an old palace, was where we had an excellent meal on our first night.
‘Canto Saudade’ is a family-run restaurant and we met two friends who had just arrived in Lisbon at the end of a cruise there. The delicious seafood, friendly service, ambience and wonderful pianist made this a most pleasant evening.
We had to try a tapas restaurant and ‘Taberna Tosca’ did not disappoint and was great value.
‘Cantinho Do Avillez’, one of the many restaurants of Portugal’s best known chef (and TV personality) Jose Avillez was exceptional. Those scallops (below) were absolutely delicious.
5. WHAT TO DO
We enjoy soaking up the atmosphere and that is what we did. The old part has much to offer and walking or taking the tram will give you the perfect chance to explore. Beautiful tiled buildings make it a truly unique city.
There are lots of expansive squares to explore, a walk on the banks of the Tagus can help burn some calories and plenty of churches and museums to shelter from the rain. Yes, we had rain and the temperature had fallen about ten degrees from the week before.
GULBENKIAN MUSEUM (for culture vultures)
This is an amazing private collection left to the people of Lisbon by one of the world’s richest men Calouste Gulbenkian and entrance is free on a Sunday afternoon. It is well worth visiting, as there is a huge variety from Ancient Greek right up to modern art which is housed in a separate building. It is quite impossible to do it justice in the few hours we were there. We did see a Jack B Yeats and a William Orpen though.
FLEA MARKET (for shoppers)
‘Feira da Ladra’ (Thieves Market) is held on a Tuesday and Saturday and even if, like me, you have no room to bring anything home, you should go to soak up the atmosphere. You literally can buy anything there from bags and hats made entirely from cork to old mobile phones and military paraphernalia. The 28 tram will drop you nearby.
TIME OUT MARKET (for foodies)
A mecca for foodies, it was absolutely packed on the Saturday we were there and there was hardly a seat to be found so we went and found a tiny little eatery five minutes away which was quiet and friendly.
There is plenty to see in Lisbon including the Jeronimus Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and if you fancy a day trip head to Sintra, but give yourself plenty of time. It is about forty minutes away on the train. We went and discovered we did not have enough time to do what we wanted. Long story!
We travelled with Travel Department and stayed in the 3-star Hotel Roma.
It is conveniently situated about two minutes walk from the Metro which brings you into the centre in less than ten minutes.
We were very impressed with the breakfasts and the rooms, though small, were perfectly comfortable and none of us had any complaints. A morning tour of the city by bus, where our guide Margaret gave us some of the history and showed us the main sights, was excellent.
One of the benefits of travelling with Travel Department was that when our return flight time was changed by Aer Lingus from 11.00am to a full 12 hours later at 11.00pm, the company arranged for us to have a late afternoon check-out from the hotel. You know they always look after you and it always gives me a feeling of security when I travel with them. We have travelled numerous times with them and been as far away as China and South Africa!
We were guests of Travel Department in Lisbon, but, as always, I give you an honest and truthful review.
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Until next time. Thanks for reading.