Friday, 10 August 2012

VISIT: Lisboa, Lissabon, Lisbon...

Summer in Germany is not too pleasing this year. It's even that bad, that one could get seriously depressed over it. Even though I just overstated the whole situation, I am quite happy that I was able to spend at least a week in the sun. And yes, people who visited this blog more than once before will probably already guessed what I am writing about today: I will share my favorites spots and tips evolving around Lisbon with you.
And even when you did not plan to visit Lisbon... you should read on since this is a place you should definitely want to visit.

A tile decorated house
Golden Gate bridge?
Lisbon is not only a city with really nice weather but was also built on supposedly seven hills (seeing the connection to Rome...?), which gives the city its face. You will find many small streets and find yourself walking a street up just to find out that your effort was senseless since you have to walk all the way  down again once you went around the corner. So besides the leg training the whole city looks partially more than a village than the capital it is. At least as long you do not look at the house fronts too closely since many of them are covered in beautiful tiles showing flowers and Arabic inspired patterns. The latter is easily explainable: Portugal is quite close to the African continent and when the Moors came to Spain and Portugal a really long time ago they did not only shape the Portuguese language but also brought their lifestyle and architecture. By the way, the Arabic influence on the language will prevent you from understanding a word and you will never get the names of the sights right, but most of the people are used to that and they speak a pretty good English.
In addition to that Lisbon offers quite a good copy of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.. just bigger and with nicer decoration... Oh, and less suicides.

Sightseeing + Tips
I guess nearly every bigger city has them already: Free tours. And I am a big fan of them because when you do not really know the city just then they give you an overview and normally the guides work on tip basis, so you can decide how much money you want to spend. Plus normally especially young people take part since they advertise them especially in (youth) hostels. So we did the Free Walking tour at our first day seeing really nice parts of the city. They start (right now..) at about 10.30 at Rossio, but Portuguese people and timeliness ain't the best friends, so turning up at 10.45 should be early enough.
Another way of doing sort of a round trip is catching the infamous tram line 28, going up Castello and to the beautiful Estrela park.
 When you want to see the city in its panorama look out for some so called "Miradouro"s, places with a "beautiful view"... and maybe you will be able to spot the Golden Gate bridge fake. Go there when the sun is going down, the atmosphere is great, but bring your own drinks to the ones in fancier parts of the city because the bars there have horrendous prices.
So after doing all these sort of things you will know at least a bit of the city itself... but that is not everything: You can do quite nice trips around the city. Firstly there is Belem, mostly famous of its Natas and the fact that this was the harbor where explorers as Vasco da Gama did depart for the unknown sea, here you find a lot of museums and sights and even though it is packed on Sundays you should try and get there till 2 pm because this will save you some money since all the public museums are free on this day.
When you look at a map you will see that Lisbon is quite close to the sea, but to spot water besides the river Tejo you will have to go on a 30 minute train ride and hit the beach at Estoril or Cascais. Many people advised us to get off at Estoril and simply walk along the promenade so we were able to find the perfect spot and it was quite beautiful there.

Sintra is up in the mountains and was the holiday residence of the royal family. Therefore on the top of the mountain around Sintra you find a Disney-looking castle, but the entrance fee was too high for someone not even liking the whole design style, so we went to the  Palacio Nacional, the building with the massive smokestacks, not the worst swap.
But one of my absolute favorite was the MUDE right in the center of Lisbon, the museum of designs and fashion. Even though they planned a overloaded building after the restoration the money ran out and therefore it has its very special atmosphere with bare walls. Plus the entrance is free and you find great exhibitions.

Feira de Lada
Of course you will find the typical stores in the very city around Rossio, but two of these typical sites caught my attention. Firstly Zara. Zara is a Spanish brand and it seems like they have special prices in Spain and Portugal, so make sure you go there and enjoy yourself. But my absolute love goes to Seaside. For most of you nothing more than a normal shop with shoes, for me paradise because I am a size 34 to 35 and cannot find shoes anywhere, but there. I left with three pair of really affordable leather shoes, one of them being my beloved pair of red loafers...

What I love even more in most of the cities are the markets, I try to find some everywhere and after finding a few not so good ones I enjoyed the Feira de Lada, taking part up at the Campo de Santa Clara every Tuesday and Saturday, offering clothing and other stuff. We went also to the LX markets, a newer event in Lisbon. It was not as good as expected, but there were some nice cafés and we combined our visit with Belem. They take part very Saturday and Sunday in Alcantara.

Overall Lisbon is a great city for fish and meat lovers. The fish is really fresh since it is close to the sea and the people love a good piece of meat. I was really thankful we had a kitchen in our hostel, because the few restaurants offering at least something vegetarian were the really touristic one I wasn't too keen on visiting. 

A real Nata... with cinnamon.. nomnom
There is one vegetarian restaurant in the city we tried, the Jardim de Sentidos, but the food there was not too exciting and for that quite expensive, so don't go there.
During lunch time it was easier to find something, you should go (whether veggie or not) into the Pastelarias, a kind of bakery offering also salty snacks, which are sometimes even filled with vegetables. Only vegetables.
When you want an actual hot meal go and check out the arco iris (Rua de S. José, 95), even though we did not understand a word, the food was amazing, so its worth the walk.

So just in case you get the chance to visit Lisbon: Go there, it was great there and I enjoyed the stay. Plus it is really affordable to young people (poor country... Euro crisis *cough*) and they have the best hostels in the world. And of course they got the Golden Gate bridge...


  1. Lisbon bridge is not a "portuguese" copy of golden gate, since it was made by the same american company who built the SF-Oakland Bay bridge. Only the color is similar.

    If you pay attention, in between the pillars the X shape structure is different from the golden gate, and looks more like the Bay bridge.

    1. I am totally aware about these facts, but since the Golden Gate Bridge is way more iconic, most people still associate the Ponde 25 de April with the Golden Gate Bridge and not with the Bay bridge, therefore all the nitpicking won't lead to a logic conclusion.
      And there were certain cooperations between the planing office and one of the consultants. Just saying.