Travel

Portugal: Lisbon

We are back from our Portugal trip, overflowing with their culture, Belem cream cakes and vitamin D, and ready to share our pictures and experiences with others!

My mother told me months ago that she wants to go to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Of course, I immediately said YES, we’re going! We bought tickets through Lufthansa page in May (we searched in Momondo first) and in September we flu to Lisbon. Tickets cost around 400€ per two people. The flight started from Tallinn with a layover in Frankfurt. Flights to Lisbon are typically more expensive than, for example, to Faro or Porto.

Accommodation

We decided to book our accommodation through Airbnb. It’s an online marketplace which lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. I have used it a few times, and have been very happy with my hosts. The only downside is that you always have to pay in front for your stay when booking (in Agoda, you can decide and cancel/pay later with no extra fee). Airbnb is a safe company, but it’s always worthwhile to read people’s reviews and comments to get the best experience. We stayed in two different places, both were clean and tidy, and the hosts were very friendly. Since it was so hot in Lisbon our whole stay, the only thing we really missed was an air-conditioner. The price of our room was around 27-35 € per day for two people.

Lisbon Card

Immediately after landing, we bought a 3-day Lisbon card at the airport. This card allowed us to use metro, bus and tram for unlimited times in these three days in Lisbon (also a train to and from Sintra and Cascais) and free entrance to some of the most famous places in Lisbon and Sintra area or just a discount for some tickets. We calculated later that a 3-day Lisbon card, which cost € 40 per person was cheaper than buying all the transport and entrance tickets separately. Also, it is so much more convenient if you don’t have to worry about your transport ticket at all times. Of course, we tried to fit as much sightseeing and travelling in these three days as we could to use this card for the maximum. For more information, visit www.lisboacard.com.

The second option we used in the second half of our trip is a Lisbon 24h transportation ticket, which cost € 6.50 per person. There are such good metro, bus and tram connections all over the city and it’s so easy to travel around!

Metro station near to our Airbnb.

 

LISBON is Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, as you have to climb up and down a lot in this city. Trams and cable cars help you move around though!

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN LISBON?

  • Carmo convent

Carmo convent is a former-Roman Catholic convent located in Lisbon, Portugal. These haunting ruins are a permanent reminder of the devastation and destruction that was caused by the immensely powerful 1755 earthquake that killed thousands of people that were inside buildings and churches on that day.

Carmo convent drawing from 1745, before the devastating earthquake.

At the Rossio square, Carmo convent in the background.

You can get to Carmo convent by the famous Santa Justa elevator, that is the only vertical (conventional) lifts in Lisbon. It was meant to help locals to get from one suburb to another, but nowadays it’s just a tourist attraction and waiting in the line to get up may take hours! I personally think it’s not worth waiting, so I would recommend taking the walk up to see the ruins of Carmo! However, with the Lisbon Card, the elevator and Santa Justa platform are free of charge.

The Santa Justa lift in its whole glory- including the long queue of tourists.
Santa Justa platform.
  • The Rua Augusta Arch 

It is a stone, triumphal arch-like, historical building and visitor attraction in Lisbon, Portugal, on the Praça do Comércio. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. You can go up on the Rua Augusta platform and have a view over the square and the city. You will also see the sculpture up close, as you can see in the picture below!

  • The Lisbon Cathedral

Often called simply the Sé is a Roman Catholic church located in Lisbon, Portugal and is the oldest church in the city.

  • Jerónimos Monastery

The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. The construction of the monastery and church began on 6 January 1501 and was completed 100 years later. The ticket cost 10€ (free with Lisboa Card), but because the queue for the ticket office near to the main entrance is so long again, I recommend going to the museum next door and buy your ticket from there. You can then save your precious time and go straight in! You have to print out your (free) ticket with the Lisbon Card as well to get in.

The Monastery is absolutely amazing! So many details and beauty. Pictures tell more than words!

  • Pasteis de Belém bakery

Pasteis de Belém bakery is famous for its Pastéis de Belém cream cakes. The “secret recipe” has remained unchanged since the very beginning, when, during a time when all convents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down following the 1820 liberal revolution, someone from Jerónimos Monastery began selling sweet pastries in the general store beside it, which was also attached to a sugar cane refinery. They became known as “Pastéis de Belém,” and in 1837 the bakery was officially founded.

In our opinion, the Belem cream cake tasted the best exactly in this famous bakery!

  • Belém Tower

Belém Tower is a fortified tower located the bank of the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal. The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery) because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.

  • Ajuda Palace and Botanical Garden

Only a few stops by bus from the Monastery of Jeronimos, you can visit the Ajuda Palace and botanical garden. The Royal family lived in here until the end of the Portugal Kingdom existence in 1910. The palace was huge, very reserved on the outside (compared to the rest of the architecture in Lisbon) but very detailed, dark and majestic on the inside. It was free of charge with the Lisbon Card, but the botanical garden entrance was 2€

  • Águas Livres Aqueduct. 

It is one of the most remarkable examples of 18th-century Portuguese engineering. The main course of the aqueduct covers 18 km, but the whole network of canals extends through nearly 58 km. The city of Lisbon has always suffered from the lack of drinking water, and King John V decided to build an aqueduct to bring water from sources in the parish of Caneças, in the modern municipality of Odivelas. Construction started in 1731 and in 1748, although the project was still unfinished, the aqueduct finally started to bring water to the city of Lisbon. The aqueduct was completed in 1799.

Diogo Alves was a Spanish-born Portuguese serial killer. Between 1836 and 1840, he killed several dozen people. The crimes he committed were all in the area of the Águas Livres Aqueduct, thus earning the “Aqueduct Murderer”. He robbed poor passers-by and then dumped them from a height of 60 meters to simultaneously avoid identification and present the deaths as suicides, which he initially succeeded in. He was sentenced to death and hanged on February 19, 1841. After his hanging, in an attempt to study his brain, Alves’ head was cut off and studied. To this day it is still preserved in a glass vessel, where a solution of formaldehyde has perpetuated the image of calm man – quite contrary to what he really was. Scientists could never explain what led him to buy a false key for the Aqueducts, where he was hiding, and how many people he had robbed and killed.

Diogo Alves

 

  • The Alfama

The Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon. The great 1755 Lisbon earthquake did not destroy the Alfama, which has remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares.

Visiting churches in Alfama.
  • Tram 28

It is a vintage yellow tram that crisscrosses the city centre, through wide esplanades and narrow streets, taking in many of Lisbon’s most important sites along the way. Because it’s so popular among tourists, it’s always jam-packed!

I and my mom took the tram once, even though we saw it was full, we still wanted to hop on just to check it off our bucket list! As soon as we step onto the tram, the tram driver said others in his broken English: “Sardines, sardines!” And people who already stood tight together made room for two more people. Just like sardines in a tin… For a better experience, there are many more similar trams, which routes are not so popular, but they are much emptier than the tram nr 28.

  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe with a total length of 12.3 kilometres. You can get there by taking metro until Vasco de Camo stop and walk about 20 min until you’ll see the bridge.

Picture from Wikipedia
  • Shopping in Lisbon

Of course, we went shopping almost every evening! Our favourites were Colombo and Vasco da Camo Shopping Centers. Both were open until 00.00 every day! Woohoo!

In the next and also the last post about our trip to Portugal I’ll write about Sintra, Cascais and Azenhas Do Mar!

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