After staying in Lagos we headed up to Lisbon. If you’re driving be prepared to pay for the toll-booths (it cost us about 20 euros). My little brother and his friends took the direct bus and met us at the apartment, the bus ended up being quicker (and cheaper)!
If you’re planning to stay in Lisbon I would recommend you try to find accommodation in Baixa. It’s a very central neighborhood and is has public transport connections all over the city. We were able to walk to all the most of the attractions from Baixa; the only time we needed to take a tram was when we went to see the Belem neighborhood (the only place that is too far to walk to). Baixa is a busy neighborhood so bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper. We met at our awesome, enormous, and really well priced Airbnb apartment right in the heart of the Baixa neighborhood. The hostess and her sister were really nice and waited for us even though we were late (traffic and we got lost), they even prepared a typical pastry for our group of 7. The place is perfect for large groups; 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 kitchens…and really uniquely designed! WARNING driving in Lisbon is kind of ridiculous and finding affordable parking in the center is a joke. Luckily our hostess informed us of a place we could leave our car for a few days and only pay 10 euros (I’m pretty sure it was totally illegal, but the Senegalian guy we paid made sure we didn’t get a ticket!).
Belem is full of historical sites and monuments and is definitely worth a visit; keep in mind that many attractions are closed on Mondays when planning your trip! We went on a free Belem tour with Discover Walks, the tour was fine, although I think for Belem you could just see it on your own. There are lots of big monuments and historical sites in the area so you can just do a little research and be your own tour guide. The highlight of the tour for me was going to the original pastel de nata bakery, Pastéis de Belém, which appearently was one of the first to sell these typical, tasty Portuguese egg tart pastries.
There’s a lot of cool monuments to see in Belem, the Padrão dos Descobrimientos (Discoveries Monument) was my personal favorite. It’s a tribute to Portugal’s pioneering role in world explorations at sea.
After our tour and a nap we took one of the typical yellow trolleys of Lisbon up to Alfama for a view of the city and to check out the Castle of São Jorge (Castle of St. George). Alfama was my favorite neighborhood and it’s where a lot of the locals live. When you’re buying tickets for the castle try to get the family or student discount if you’ve got a group, I think with the discount each ticket was less than 5 euros.
We did another free walking tour with Discover Walks Alfama and we really, really enjoyed this tour. It’s the kind of place where you need a local to show you around because of the labyrinth of little streets and hidden treasures only locals know about. There were a lot of decorations left over from the the gigantic celebration of Festa de Santo Antonio (Day of St. Anthony), which sounds like a hoot; AKA a ridiculously big party involving food, singing/dancing competitions, and drinking (I made a mental note to attend the Festa de Santo Antonio in June 2014, hehe). Our tour guide Marta knew the area well and even took us to buy a local and delicious drink made by the women in the photo below…(don’t ask me what it was, all I know is it was good!). If you go to Alfama keep an eye out for shrines to St. Anthony, you can give him a coin and he’ll find you a husband apparently, really fun and interesting to see!
Barrio Alto and Chiado
Our last day we did another free tour with Pancho Tours in Lisbon’s Barrio Alto and our tour guide was great! We saw some really cool things and learned about the aftermath of the gigantic earthquake that hit Lisbon in the 1700’s and how it has really influenced the architecture of the city today. I think my family especially enjoyed all the shops located in this area, we did find some interesting statues and monuments as well!
So this was a bit about our trip to Lisbon in August 2013. The weather is perfect during this time of year; warm during the day and cool at night. I probably should have done a bit more research on the local food because there seemed to be a lot of tourist traps (YIKES!). If you’re planning on going to Lisbon my advice to you is avoid driving there if possible to avoid the expensive parking and toll booths, do as many free tours as possible, stay in or near the Baixa neighborhood because it’s in the middle of everything, find a shrine to St. Anthony and give him money, and read up on restaurants before you go!