Taking advantage of living near an EasyJet hub I headed to Portugal’s capital for a few days in February 2017. Over a year has passed since then and while I do remember the trip, the details escape me. So I’ll just rely on my travel journal from back then (yes, a PAPER journal 😉 *gasp*) and give you a glimpse of Lisbon in winter:
Saturday, 4 February 2017
Woke up at 7, had breakfast, then headed to the airport. Got there around 9 and used BluePark’s parking lot and shuttle to the airport. Annoyingly long way to the gate and a pretty bumpy flight landed me at Lisbon airport. The first thing I did was buy an umbrella 🙂 then took the subway to Cais do Sodre station. After about a 10 minute walk (in the rain and extreme wind) I got to the hotel. Room was ok for the price, except the heating didn’t work. They gave me an old electrical radiator. It worked, but I just hoped it wouldn’t burn the whole place down when I left it running while I was out… (It didn’t 😉 )
I didn’t really have any set plans so I just started walking up and down hills, to a viewpoint, through alleys and over squares. The tiles in this city, which cover most of the houses in never-ending variety, were so amazing. You could probably spend days looking for duplicate tiles on different houses and not find any.
My meandering walk eventually lead me to Praca do Comercio, the big square by the water and from there to Time Out Market. I heard about it in one of Mark Wiens’ travel videos and decides to check it out.
It’s basically a very stylish market hall with a bunch of food stalls that let you explore tha variety of Portuguese food.
I ordered Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with an aioli-like dip) and a glass of white wine for €5,30.
They weren’t particularly spectacular and to be honest I didn’t really enjoy the vibe of the market. It might be cool to hang out with a group of people, but solo it was just too noisy for my taste. When you have no one to talk to you automatically register other people’s noise so much more.
Sunday, 5 February 2017
Breakfast at the hotel was pretty good. I headed to Belem to see the famous tower, with a forced detour into a grocery store to change my 20€ note into coins, because the tram in Lisbon only accepts coins, apparently. Got to the tower before it opened and just watched all the Asian tourists with their selfie stick trying to fit their whole group into a picture as well as the tower behind them. Pretty funny actually. I managed to be one of the first ones inside when the gates opened and therefore had a bit of peace and quiet to explore, before the hordes of tourists behind me climbed the steps as well. All in all I spent about a half hour inside, which is enough to take about a hundred pictures from all angles ;).
Afterward I headed to the archeological museum (not worth it) and then to the Jeronimo Monastery, where a full choir performed traditional and also modern songs. Really awesome. The famous Pasteis de Belem (vanilla custard pastries) had to wait, because the place was crazy busy. Instead, I headed back into town to find lunch at the tiny, secret Chinese place (thanks again to Mark Wiens).
After that delicious lunch of soup, fried dumpling and some vegetable dish I can’t exactly remember for a total of 17€ I walked around town a bit more and found that famous institution called A Ginjinha. This is a really local hangout where they sell shotglasses full of Ginjinha, a slightly sour cherry liqueur. The price varies from 1,10 to 1,40€ per glass and the only choice you have is ‘with cherries’ or ‘without’. It’s really delicious, but packs quite a punch at 23%Vol. alcohol. So be careful after the second one 😉
Monday, 6 February 2017
In the morning I took the rickety yellow tram to Castelho Sao Jorge, an old fortress which overlooks the city and where you can explore all the battlements and nooks and crannies inside the walls. I was still almost the only visitor (hint: if you don’t mind getting up early, head there really early to have the place almost to yourself) and spent quite some time wandering around and taking pictures. Every half hour they also offer the ‘Camera Oscura’ experience. You walk into a black room with a huge round cloth set up in the middle. With a series of pulling mechanisms and a curved mirror on top of one of the towers, the light is reflected on to the cloth and allows a LIVE 360° view of Lisbon. You can even see people walking, cars and trams driving around, and so on. It’s really amazing. Get in line early, because there’s only room for about 20 people at a time. You can easily spend half a day here and there’s some great views of the city from atop the walls. Also, there’s peacocks 😀
Outside the fortress a girl was playing the handpan and I stopped to listen for a while. The sun was shining, it was not too cold or warm, there was meditative music and I just had this moment of pure bliss that sometimes happen while out traveling. Where you feel like everything will be okay in the end and that the world isn’t such a cruel place after all…
This feeling of utter peace was even stronger at my next destination, the ruins of an old church that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1775. The outer walls and part of the roof beams are still standing and they have not been restored, giving the place a really eerie and at the same time very peaceful feel. There’s a small entry fee (~2€ I think) and I highly recommend giong there, it was magical.
The last thing on the agenda was a visit to the Roman ruins under the BSP bank….yes, you read that correctly…UNDER THE BANK. The archeological site is located in the cellar of the BSP Bank building and is open to the public on registered FREE tours. Simply get to the bank a day or two before you want to do the tour to register for a spot and then show up at the appointed time. There’s a guide to accompany you, telling you all abour the Phoenician, Roman and Christian ruins which are all layered on top of each other. Pretty awesome and a half hour well spent.
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Woke up at 7 and started packing. Before checking out I dashed back to Belem for the famous pastries and OH MY GOD…..they really are as awesome as everyone says…and that coming from me, even though I am not a sweets person at all.
After I checked out of the hotel I took a bus to the Oceonario, the Lisbon aquarium. I had pre-booked my ticket online and I knew that they even offered luggage storage. Although it’s a pretty nice aquarium it is just waaaaayyyy overrun. Too many people, especially screaming elementary school classes for my taste. Awesome sea dragons though.
After a quick lunch I took several buses heading to the airport and ended up timing it perfectly with only about a 20 minute wait to board my flight home. Smooth sailing to Basel, where I picked up the car and headed back hame…with a head full of new experiences and my energy reserves restored.