The top places to visit in Lisbon part one

Lisbon is a thriving, buzzing City with oodles of charm and character. I’d long heard about this dynamic place which has many parallels with South America and San Francisco but also a distinct culture which was built on the diverse colonies it once formed around the world as the first mighty empire.
There are Dutch, Moorish, Spanish, English, Roman and French influences that are evident in the architecture, food, music and more.

Not only did this sound like a fascinating proposition in itself but I’d also heard that it offered a buzzing nightlife with trendy and quirky cocktail bars, beautiful food, the chance to sample Port in its home land and the shopping wasn't bad either.
As I mentioned before, we were staying in Estoril but there was a direct train running every half an hour to and from Lisbon which took around 30 minutes.
Lisbon is made up of various districts which have a unique charm of their own. One of our first ports of call was to hunt down the local delicacy of ‘Pastel De Nata’ which was absolutely delicious. The district of Belem was the birthplace of these yummy custardy treats and so we visited the original Belem café and bakery from which they are famous. The queue was out of the door and we thought we’d be in for a long wait but after a bit of investigation, we discovered this was just for the take out bakery and the tip was to put your name down for a table. After just a moment hesitation we were in and seated at our own buzzing corner of the café. Here we watched hundreds of the tasty morsels coming and going out of ovens through a large window. We supped coffee and ate far too many Pastel de Nata, even taking some for the road. On the way out we discovered huge display racks full of various kinds of port but as it was first thing in the morning we decided not to sample any!

Located at the mouth of the River Tagus, Belem also houses many buildings of historical interest such as Belem Palace, the home to the president, churches, museums and other buildings dating back 160 years or more. There were also parks, green spaces and Belem Tower which was instrumental as a fort and an exploration point from which pioneers set sail for the Orient, Americas and Africa. It was easy to reach as a stop off on our direct train route from Estoril to Lisbon, taking only around 20 minutes. After some exploration, we just hopped back on the train and into Lisbon.

Another area of great note in Lisbon is the Bairro Alto, an absolutely buzzing area packed with trendy bars, open area tapas restaurants and live music. Resembling something you might find in Brazil it positively teamed with life come sun down and festivities didn’t end until well into the early hours of the morning. We sampled many a potent cocktail here, my favourite being the Caipirinha – a heady mix of fire water, sugar and lime. The measures are not slim here either, let me tell you.

We found delightful tapas restaurant situated on a set of stairs, which formed the basis of outdoor seating, where food was served on mini trays and came as it was hot and ready. One of the famous dishes of Portugal is ‘Bacalhau’ or a salted cod that features heavily in a lot of the menus here. During the day this area was very sleepy, with washing hanging on the line and barely a soul to be seen but the nights brought out bands galore, and we were never spoilt for a new act to see. The artists combined traditional Fado, a melancholy form of Portuguese singing with more contemporary or uplifting tracks in between. The Fado was really unique and soulful, making a beautiful accompaniment to a meal.
Nowhere did Fado quite like the Alfama district which is a very old part of Lisbon, winding high up into the hills and beyond. Beautiful, mournful voices emanated out of quaint old buildings in the narrowest of alleys, sat between hole-in-the-wall restaurants that teamed with locals and street art graffiti. Lisbon is sited on seven hills the same as San Francisco, lending more familiarity to the city and characterful yellow cable cars ride up and down ferrying tourists to the top of the hill to St George’s Castle, which has tremendous views out over Lisbon, the River Tagus and that distinctive red 25th de Avril Bridge. The castle has served as a fortress and a Royal Palace in its medieval past but the ruins are lovely to see and there are roman remains in remarkably good condition.

Here we watched the sun go down with a couple of beers and toasted the end of an amazing day in Lisbon but we returned not too long afterwards for more sightseeing... I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

No comments

I love to hear from people so please don't be a stranger and say hello!