I was once told that you should ‘get lost on purpose’ at least once in your life. Well, Lisbon is certainly the place for that. Luckily the city is fairly small, so you should always be able to find your way back. Each turn was a Labyrinth of winding roads, crazy alleys and hills……lots and lots of hills. Every building is so unique and different from the one it stands next to. There are so many shops, restaurants and monuments to see around every corner. It truly is quite the place to explore.
Castelo de São Jorge (St George’s Castle)
One of the first things you will notice in Lisbon is the amazing view of the Castle gazing down at the city. It is lit up when it gets dark which makes it much more magical. Be warned though, there is quite a trek uphill to reach it. No wonder everyone in Lisbon seems so fit! It’s well sign posted though, and you end up pretty much following the crowd anyway. We went around 10:00am and didn’t pre-book any tickets. The queue looked quite daunting at first, but it went down quickly enough. The entrance fee for an adult was €8.50. You could go for lunch and explore the surrounding area and shops etc. and then return later in the day. You just need to rescan your ticket.
Lisbon’s breath-taking castle dates back to the 6th century for some parts and was named after St George, the patron St of England. Tourists can climb the stairs and towers although some areas are cornered off understandably. Much of the castle structures were destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. Once you climb to the top of the castle you will be met with the most spectacular view of the city. The red roof tops and vast array of colourful buildings was everything I hoped it would be. Unfortunately for us the wind was especially strong that day, but we could have quite easily sat and enjoyed the view for hours.
There is a small café inside if you wanted to get a snack and a drink (€1.50 – coffee/€4.00 – fruit pot).
The castle is a must do for any trip to Lisbon.
Praça do Comércio & Promenade
Once you are in the city centre there are so many shops and restaurants to choose from you will be spoilt for choice. You do get approached to ‘buy this’ or ‘eat here’ in the usual fashion. But not too many times it made a negative impact. Just politely say no. If you carry on walking towards the water from the city centre you will come to the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square). This Square overlooks the Tagus River. This is where the Palace used to sit before it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755.
If you walk along the Promenade you will come across the beginning of a 7km path which specifically takes you along the river, down past the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge, Discoveries Monument and ends at the Belem Tower. Although it is 14km there and back you can certainly take your time and make a day of it. You can stop at each of the sights and take a break in the many restaurants and cafes located along the path.
Lisbon has amazing architecture and buildings everywhere you turn, each as unique as the one before it. The walk is therefore quite a sight.
Ponte 25 de Abril
Lisbon’s Suspension Bridge (2.3km) crosses Lake Tagus at the narrowest point. The name is taken from the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974. It took 45 months to construct.
When I first saw Ponte 25 de Abril I thought I was looking at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I forgot I was in Lisbon for a moment. It leads on to Alameda on the south bank where The Cristo Rei (Christ the King) sits proudly. There is an impressive metro train that runs underneath the bridge. The bridge is for cars only and you are not able to walk across it. The view from beneath however is still very much worth the visit.
From Ponte 25 de Abril you will be able to see the Discoveries Monument as your next stop.
This incredible monument was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry – the Navigator. The statue depicts a ship ready for departure with Prince Henry the Navigator leading the way. Various important historical figures are sculpted into the sides such as the king, poets & monks. Price Henry’s mother is also sculpted.
You can go inside for €5.00 where there is further historical information on Lisbon’s Discoveries Monument. You can also ride the elevator up for a better view of Belem Tower which you can now see and will be the end of the 7km walk.
The Torre de Belém (Belem Tower)
The construction of Belem Tower was completed in 1521. It was used as a defence mechanism to control access to the city via the sea. The Tower was originally completely surrounded by water but over the many years the Tagus River has receded making this easily accessible.
The design and architecture are quite something to take in, I found the balconies to be especially beautiful. Unfortunately for us it was another extremely windy day. Otherwise, we would have stuck around for much longer. You are also able to tour inside of the Tower but that was also shut off to us due to the weather. I believe the entrance fee is roughly €6.00 but I imagine it would be worth a visit.
This will then conclude your 7km trip along the Promenade and you can turn around and head back with the fantastic view of Ponte 25 de Abril now on your right. There is a small internet café between The Belem Tower and The Discoveries Monument if you want to stop for a snack/coffee/toilet break. This was perfect for us as we didn’t want a meal. A coffee was only €1.60, and this allowed you to connect to the Internet and use the bathroom facilities.
One thing I have noticed on my journey around Lisbon is all the graffiti. There seems to be an abundance of graffiti artists here and the city seems to accept it. In a quirky way it kind of fits in with the uniqueness of the city itself. As each building is different, each piece of graffiti is also different, and some really are works of art. The city itself has a very laid back artistic vibe which you can’t help but fall in love with.
In stark contrast
However, if you walk towards the more commercial area of Lisbon you will soon forget the narrow streets. The main high street is filled with expensive shops such as Prada, Rolex and Armani. Here you will find your McDonalds, Burger King and Ritz hotels. It was a beautiful walk which lead to some lovely gardens however.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Lisbon and will be sure to make a second journey.