Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal. About 3 million people live in Lisbon which is almost 27% of the country’s population. Lisbon is 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 one of the warmest winters of any metropolis in Europe, with average temperature of 15°C (59°F) during the day and 8°C (46°F) at night from December to February. The typical summer season lasts about four months, from June to September, although also in April temperatures sometimes reach around 25°C (77°F).
I visited the city this year in November together with my boyfriend. The weather was great around 25°C to 26°C during the day. Since we stayed at Estoril that is just 30 minutes away from the Lisbon by regional train we decided to visit the capital and spend one whole day there. We tried to explore and to see as much we could.
Our journey to Lisbon started at 10 o’ clock in the morning, after our royal breakfast at the Hotel Palacio Estoril, we took the train to Lisbon. We started from the Cais do Sodre train station. From there we walked to the Tagus River.
We wanted to see the famous The Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge closely. This massive bridge resembles that of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the date name remembers the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974. The suspension bridge connects Lisbon, on the north bank, with the commuter districts of Alameda on the south bank.
The bridge really looks a like Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, because the consortium that constructed the American bridge also constructed Ponte 25 de Abril. Both bridges are located in regions of high possible seismic activity and their designs are almost identical.
The road level is 70m above the River Tejo allowing cruise and container ships to pass easily beneath and enter the docks of Lisbon. The total length of the Ponte 25 de Abril is 2.3km. The bridge was originally named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar) but after the bloodless revolution in 1974 the name was changed to the date of the revolution and symbolically the brass name of the bridge was replaced.
At the opposite side of the river the huge statue of Christ stands high above the southern banks of the Tejo Estuary, and depicts Christ with arms raised, blessing the city. So you can get slightly confused where you are at the San Francisco or at the Rio. Lisbon’s Cristo Rei has many similarities to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, and the Brazilian statue was the original inspiration, the difference is that Lisbon statue of Cristo Rei is 2,5 meters shorter than Rio’s.
The Cristo-Rei statue was constructed during a deeply religious period of Portugal’s history, by a population who were grateful for avoiding the horrors of the Second World War. This religious outpouring was embraced by the nationalistic dictatorship lead by Salazar and encourage by the church. This important religious significance of the Cristo-Rei Christ Statue has continued through this day and the site is an important pilgrimage destination but most foreign visitors go for the impressive panoramic views over Lisbon.
The Cristo-Rei statue is traditionally thought by the Portuguese as being constructed to thank the church for keeping Portugal out of the Second World War but the original inspiration for Cristo-Rei came before the war when Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited to Rio de Janeiro in 1934.
The pictures of the statue that we took are not so clear because there was some fog above the river in the morning when we visited the city.
We continued walking alongside Tagus river towards Belem. That area is so beautiful and the weather was so sunny and amazing. There are a lot of nice bars, restaurants and cafes in the area. Especially by the marina Docas de Santo Amaro. The dock area below 25 de Abril Bridge along the river in Alcantara between Baixa and Belem. It is one of the city’s most pleasant places for a drink in late afternoon and with a lively atmosphere at night.
Former warehouses overlooking an attractive yachting marina and they have been transformed into a multitude of cosmopolitan bars, restaurants, and clubs for all tastes.
On our way we got tired from walking so, we decided to have small brake at the cafe by the river. My boyfriend ordered a toast, waiter asked him what kind of toast he said just a simple toast, expecting to get the regular cheese and ham toast. The waiter brought
a plate with few slices of bread toasted just with butter. So that may be a useful tip for you if you decide to order a toast in Portugal, you have to be clear when you are ordering what your toast should contain.
When we arrived at the Belem it was so crowded and full of tourists. We took some pictures of the monuments, and we visited the small market.
In general Belem is one of the must places to visit in Lisbon. Our first stop was at the “Padrão do Descobrimento”. The monument is on the shore of the Tagus river and celebrates the discoveries the Portuguese Navy did through history.
Across the street there is the museum of popular art and the Cultural Centre of Belém. If you want to see some arts and historical pieces you can stop by, we decided to just keep following the promenade till we arrived at the stunning Belém Tower.
You can get inside the tower, but the line to enter the tower was huge so we did not wanted to wait. The Belem tower was built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon´s harbor.
There you can see the project Inspired by the British Heart Foundtion, Give More Heart – Movimento Daniela has been implementing an innovative project in Portugal since February 2015, called “Amor em …”. This is a solidarity project, inspired by the Parisian bridges and consists of an installation with the word LOVE and a heart, a metallic construction where it is possible to hold thousands of locks with messages of support, love or hope.
Conceived by the nationally recognized artist Rui Miragaia, the LOVE structure is itinerant so that they can publicize and give opportunity to the maximum number of people to help their cause. When passing through the structure you can get your padlock, write your message to symbolize your love, similar to what happens in the bridges of Paris and put it in our LOVE.
Since we explored the river side, we wanted to go into the city, but this was our first time there so we didn’t know where to go. Therefore we decided to take a two hours tuk-tuk tour through the Lisbon. Tuk-tuk driver took us to the city’s top landmarks and monuments, it was a great experience for us. But it was really shaking. The driver was surprised that we walked from the Cais do Sodre to Belem. He said that the distance we walked was 6 kilometers. We didn’t even realized that it was so far.
The tour contained Downtown Lisbon, Rossio Square, Santa Justa elevator, Lisbon Cathedral, Saint Anthony Church, Portas do Sol view point, Graça neighborhood, Castle neighborhood, Senhora do Monte viewpoint, Mouraria, The Saint Vincent Monastery, Flea market (Tuesdays and Saturdays), National Pantheon, Alfama neighborhood.
It was an amazing tour with amazing guide and a great way to see the city from all of the sides.
The tour ended at the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira. This is the most famous food market in Lisbon. This place was launched by the Time Out Magazine in 2014. They offer to people the opportunity to try the best food from the best chefs, the trendiest and newest recipes.
We had a lunch there The food was amazing, fresh and delicious.
I highly recommend this place for visit. Do not miss the opportunity of experiencing it if you ever go to Lisbon! There you can find more than 40 spaces with the leading representatives in all the food categories that help make Lisbon what it is – and tastes – all together under one roof.
24 restaurants, some of them from very well-known Portuguese chefs, 8 bars, and a dozen shops with sweets, souvenirs, wines and cold cuts. The address is Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal.
We ate at the Miguel Castro e Silva Chef restaurant, they serve Portuguese dishes. After lunch we could not resist to have some Pastéis de Nata again.
There was no space to try some of this sweets but they looked so nice.
After great lunch we walked around the city. Visited the shopping area and took a ride with the Santa Justa elevator to explore the high area of the city as well. Later on we went back down by the Santa Justa elevator again. Since we had all day public transport tickets, with that ticket you are able to use the elevator as well.
The view from upstairs is amazing.
At the Rua Augusta the main shopping street of Lisbon we had a brake for coffee and sweets.
This is a pedestrian only shopping street with a variety of shops. The higher end shops are along the Avenida Liberdade, a short walk away. It is a nice street covered with the old basaltic stone, with a lot of restaurants around and it is very near from Chiado and Avenue da Liberdade.
Since we had the 24-hour public transport ticket we decided to take the famous tram 28 ride. The number 28 Lisbon tram connects Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique, and passes through the popular tourist districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. For visitors, this is the classic Lisbon tram journey, riding in the quaint yellow tram as it screeches and rattles through the narrow streets of the city.
The delightful Remodelado trams date from the 1930s and in any other city they would be housed in a museum, but in Lisbon they are an integral part of the public transport network. These historic trams are still in use, as the 28 route is completely unsuitable for modern trams due to its numerous tight turns and steep gradients.
We took nice photos from the tram and we discovered even more of the city. The tuk-tuk driver advised us to be aware of the pickpockets if we go by tram, that only target tourists. He said that the pickpockets tend to target very crowded trams and people close to the exits. The pickpockets are never Portuguese, but are gangs flown in from eastern Europe and are as equally likely to be men as women.
We didn’t have any problem since we were lucky enough to find free seats at the tram. You can really see many of attractions and nice monuments on the tram 28 route. I really liked that tram stops in front of the Basílica da Estrela with its ornate Baroque facade and huge doomed roof. Opposite the Basilica is the pleasant Jardim da Estrela, a popular park among Portuguese families and a great place to relax after a long day of sightseeing. Since it was already the evening we did not visit the park.
The tram also passes by the Sao Bento – The setting for the Portuguese parliament building, which is housed in the grand Assembleia da República. This is another underrated and little-visited district of Lisbon that is worthy of a detour from the common tourist areas.
Then it continues by the Praça Luís de Camões – The main plaza of Bairro Alto, Rua Conceição,. There is a tram stop outside the ancient Se Cathedral and Saint Anthony Church, Portas do Sol, a very popular and scenic plaza in Alfama. Then Graca, a district that is truly Portuguese, and a great location to experience normal Portuguese daily life. The last station is Martim Moniz.
Regarding the Martim Moniz square I would like to recommend to you to avoid it especially in the evening. There were a lot of strange people there and I did not felt safe at all, it is kind of shady and it is best to avoid it.
In Lisbon you can see great examples of the street art of graffiti and the city itself is the one big gallery and one of the top destinations for graffiti artists. You can even book the Lisbon street art tour if you want to see the best pieces. Or you can go to the Calda da Gloria, one of Lisbon’s steepest streets and an open-air art gallery. On the other side of the Baixa, the even steeper Calçada do Lavra has a generous spread of murals. At the Rua Rodrigues Faria is the LX Factory that has one of the artiest walls in Lisbon, with works by Bordalo II, Pedro Zamith, Gonçalo Mar (aka Corleone), The Caver and maismenos. It is worth spending a good half an hour here to absorb them all.
During our tuk-tuk ride we had a chance to see the Alfama neighborhood by the day. The Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, and is a delightful maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses, which lead up the steep hill from the Tejo Estuary to the castle.
Contained within this diverse and charismatic district are many historic buildings including the Se Cathedral, the Castle, the National Pantheon and Saint Anthony’s Church.
At the Alfama there are a lot of traditional restaurants that plays Fado live music. Since this performances usually start around 8 o’clock in the evening we decided to come back for diner at the Alfama.
Alfama’s labyrinth of streets are best explored by simply getting lost in, as around every corner or steep climb is a delightful tiny plaza, unique shop, funky café or wonderful viewpoint.
There is one interesting tradition regarding Alfama and the statue of Saint Anthony. It said that in the case you are not happy with the partner you have and if you wish to found a better one then you have to be able to throw and land a coin in the book of Saint Anthony on the statue in front of his church, the Igreja Santo Antonio. This tradition originates that Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lovers (and Lisbon) and this church was constructed on his birth place. I haven’t tried to do this because I am happy with my partner, but if some of you are not then you should try.
Alfama is the neighborhood where fado was born. We had our dinner at the São Miguel d’Alfama – Fado / Restaurante. A small and cozy restaurant with Portuguese style rustic interior design. The service was great, food was OK, nothing special, but the main reason that we went was not the food but fado and the atmosphere was unforgettable. During the dinner we heard 3 fado singers. They stop serving dinner around 10 o’clock, because the fado performances are usually going on until the midnight. After dinner they had a self-serving buffet with several fruits and sweets for the guests. We had a local wine it was quite nice and tasty.
I had a chat with one of the fado singers Milene Candeias. She is well known in Portugal. She had a lot of festival awards and TV appearances and a rising career at the fado scene. I bought her CD to take a bit of fado spirit back with me to Amsterdam. Here is one of her appearances in one of the fado festivals in Portugal. I think she is a great performer, and Voz Linda (beautiful voice), as the Portuguese say. The song ”Esperanca morta” is written by Maria de Lourdes Carvalho / Julio Proença and performed by Milene.
I think I said enough about Lisbon and this Milene’s performance is the best way to end this article. You don’t have to understand Portuguese language to like it. I think that no words are necessary, when the singer is good, Fado becomes the language of the soul. If your soul is willing and ready, you’ll understand it. I hope you enjoyed riding this article as I enjoyed writing. Obrigado pela atenção!