Top 10 to do in spectacular LISBON, Portugal!

Lisbon is quite often overlooked when It comes to European capitals but we think that is exactly the reason it’s so special! You can visit this beautiful, intriguing and historic city and feel a million miles away from the all inclusive resorts of the Iberian peninsula.

Lisbon has retained it’s authenticity and individual culture which is reflected in the fact not many people there speak English, especially the large older population of areas like Alfama. But don’t let that put you off, this is where it’s true charm lies, this is the real Portugal and instead of being a city engulfed in tourism you get to experience the heart of this wonderful country and it’s people.

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Lisbon was our first trip abroad with out any parents or tutors in tow. Our first trip out into the wild world of travel and in many ways we were quite unprepared for what we found. We chose Lisbon because we wanted to go to a country we have never been. All we knew was that we hated beach holidays and felt comfortable getting around cities having grown up in Manchester and taken recent trips to London on our own and Paris with college.

 

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Us two in 2008 on the cable car at Vasco Da Gama!

Looking back now and having another look at what the city has to offer I almost laugh at how naive we were. There are some glaring things we missed and I honestly don’t know how! I did some speculative research beforehand but nothing like the process I go through these days!

But what I also realise is that we ended up visiting many places which don’t make your average Lisbon top 10, but yet are still some of the best travel memories I have even 6 years later, so maybe we were on to something! We really felt we saw the country most miss when they only visit the beach resorts. We left with this desire to really explore beyond just the sights when travelling and it really kicked off that wanderlust for us.

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Ha ha, not sure Shorty would wear that vest these days!

General impressions:

Firstly is the language barrier. Ok, so I don’t want to sound like the typical English tourist but generally speaking within Europe English is spoken to some extent by many locals and you can usually get by if you get lost and if I am honest I expected this to be the case in Lisbon. But this most definitely wasn’t the case! And as much as it made it a little tricky and resulted in an ill advised game of charades with a train conductor and many unwanted bread rolls this all added to the experience and made us feel like we were really on an adventure!

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Extract from my Lisbon scrapbook!

The metro system might seem quite small but it is great, really clean and also very simple to use. The trams are also a must do as they are a classic feature of the city and also will spare your legs on the many hills of Lisbon. But don’t forget, this is a capital city and is busy, OK not to the extent of New York or London, but let’s just say flip flops on the metro during rush hour are a really bad idea!

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The city also has a very youthful and energetic feel to it, we enjoyed hanging out in the squares at night watching the local skaters or hunting down graffiti on the outskirts of the city, not only that but it’s very friendly and easy to walk around. There is also a real connection to Brazil which I never expected, Brazil flags all over and add this the fact they have their own statue of Christ and you really get a sense of connection between these two countries.

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The city also has many different sides to it, there is the beautiful architecture of some of the cities main streets, classic and timeless. Then you have the winding streets of some of older districts with their ramshackle houses and pottering old women. To the modern mega-structures of the Vasco Da Gama bridge and the glass paneled financial district. A truly diverse and fascinating city to explore and one which is also surprisingly cheap!

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These are in no particular order!

Statue of Christ (Cristo Rei)

This imposing statue is a replica of the famous “Christ the redeemer” of Rio and stands across the bay from the city above a small church. From the main train station this is only a few stops away or you can take the ferry too. We decided to walk but most take the bus, the area itself is interesting being mostly residential and showing you yet another side to this city. The view from the top is not one to be missed, truly breath taking!

LOCATION: Almada

TRAM/ METRO: Take the boat in the river station of Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas. Then take bus No 101 of the company TST.

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25th April bridge 

Much like the statue of Christ this bridge’s design is taken from another famous landmark: The golden gate bridge and that also happens to be the best place from which to see this impressive span. The name “25 de Abril” commemorates the Carnation Revolution of 1974 which is now celebrated by the Portuguese as “Freedom Day”. Upon completion in 1966 the bridge had the longest suspended span and the longest main span in Continental Europe, the world’s longest continuous truss, and the world’s deepest bridge foundation and was originally named after dictator Salazar.

LOCATION: Almada/ Pragal

TRAM/ METRO: Take the Cascais train from Cais do Sodré, getting off at Alcantara-Mar station and take exit in the direction of the river, or see from the statue of Christ.

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Estradio da Luz (Stadium of Light, Benfica)

As massive football fans this was a not to be missed experience. First was the choice between sporting Lisbon or Benfica, well as they play in red and I support Arsenal and Shorty supports Liverpool we went with Benfica! Their stadium also has quite a resemblance to the Emirates Stadium. The tour was amazing, we visited the changing rooms, media centre and got to sit in the dug out… the only problem was that the tour was all in Portuguese, but hey, we saw the eagle too!INFO: Tours run every half an hour between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. Apart from matchdays. Tickets can be bought at the stadium or by emailing visitasestadio@slbenfica.pt.

TRAM/ METRO: 

Colégio Militar/Luz (Blue Line)

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Santa Justa Elevator

Lisbon is a city of hills and as such over the centuries several elevators and funiculars were built in order to save the legs of the locals. The Santa Justa elevator connects the Baixa area to Bairro Alto above. Completed in 1902 Santa Justa is the only remaining vertical elevator of Lisbon and offers splendid views over Lisbon from the cafe at the top. This Neo-Gothic tower was originally powered by steam when first built by one of Gustave Eiffel’s apprentices and is one of Lisbon’s most treasured features.

LOCATION: 

Rua de Santa Justa, Baixa
TRAM/ METRO: Baixa-Chiado Station
OPENING TIMES: Every day 7AM-9PM

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St George’s castle (Sao Jorge castle)

With parts dating from as far back as the 6th century and occupying a commanding hill top position over looking Lisbon this is one of the cities main tourist spots and also a great place from which to take in some breathtaking views of the city. It has strong ties to the history of Portugal having paid host to the Romans, Moorish Royalty, the Crusaders as well as being the royal palace for a period of time. The castle was names “St George’s” after the patron saint of England to commemorate the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating back to 1371.

Info

OPENING HOURS: 9AM-9PM (March-Oct.), 9AM-6PM (Nov.-Feb.)
TRAM/ METRO: Walk up from Alfama or bus 37.

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View from the Castle

Miradouros (viewpoint terraces)

Lisbon is a city spread across seven hills facing the Tagus River and as such has many “miradouros” or viewing terraces in which to sit and contemplate these staggering vistas. Most have benches and cafes to admire the city from, resting and relaxing after hiking up those hills! Some of most beautiful and popular include Bairro Alto’s Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara and Alfama’s Portas do Sol but as you wander though out the city you will also discover others by chance often framed by the narrow streets and staircases.

TRAM/ METRO:

São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado.
Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28.

Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28.

Miradouro de Santa Luzia: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28.

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Vasco da gama – bridge and Cable Car

Built in 1998 (for the ’98 Lisbon World Exposition) the Vasco Da Gama bridge is the longest in Europe with a total length of 10.7 miles and was opened on the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Vasco Da Gama of the sea route from Europe to India. Its vastness even forced engineers to factor in the curvature of the Earth during its construction and it’s honestly one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen, pictures just don’t do it justice. The Parque das Nações area also includes the Vasco Da Gama tower, Oceanarium and Cable cars – which are definitely worth a trip on!LOCATION: Parque das Nações

Info

TRAM/ METRO: Oriente Station

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Alfama

Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest districts and as such is one of it’s most picturesque and characterful areas to visit. The area is a maze of alleyways, narrow streets, view points, tiny squares, stairs, churches and white washed tile paneled houses and is a great place to wander around, get lost and stumble upon some great hidden treasures. There is also a great atmosphere to Alfama and you feel as though you are really seeing the Lisbon of old as it was one of few areas to survive the 1755 earthquake. The quarters many elderly residents create a strong sense of community and create a real feel of authenticity.

Info

TRAM/ METRO: Tram 28 is a classic Lisbon experience and a great way to see Alfama.

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Arco da Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta is Lisbon’s main pedestrian street complete with mosaic pavements, outdoor cafes, street artists and many international shops, this lively street is not to be missed. Leading down to the Triumphal arch and Praça do Comercio – the monumental riverside square where the Royal Palace previously stood for over two centuries until the earthquake of 1755. The area is again great for walking and one of the best routes goes from Commerce Square over to Rossio square in the heart of the city.

LOCATION: 

Baixa
TRAM/ METRO: Rossio Station

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Squares and Downtown

Baixa (Pombaline Lower Town) is the area covered by central Lisbon and was constructed after the 1755 earthquake and is one of Europe’s first great examples of neoclassic design and urban planning. During our time in Lisbon the area was one our of favourites to wander and is also a great place to find somewhere to eat due to it’s many cafes and Restauradores Square. Not only does this area feature many of the sights mentioned above but it is also full of a host of elegant squares in which to sit and admire this charming city. Some of the best include: Marquess of Pombal Square, Praça da Figueira ,Terreiro do Paço, Rossio Square and Praça do Comercio.

Info

TRAM/ METRO: Baixa

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Also:

Cascais is also a great day trip from the city taking only 40 minutes on the scenic Cascais line originating from Cais do Sodre station and costing around €3. It is a nice change of pace from the hectic city centre and one of the closest beach resorts to the capital. It also has some lovely squares and architecture of it’s own to be explored.

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Things we didn’t do but you should check out:

I am really not sure how we managed to miss these, especially Belem, but we did! But hey ho, it gives us a great reason to re-visit one of our favourite city’s! I can’t offer much advice about these but I recommend doing some research and adding a few to your itinerary!

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  • Belem Tower
  • Jeronimos Monastery
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos
  • Monastery of São Vicente
  • Lisbon Cathedral
  • Church of Santa Engrácia
  • Estrela basilica
  • Mafra national palace

A few other photos of Lisbon just in-case you’re not convinced you should visit yet!

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

Lisbon, Lisboa, portugal, views, vasco da gama, vasco da gama bridge, vasco da gama tower, cable car, statue of christ, christ the king, travel, travel blog, top 10 lisbon, to do in lisbon, things to do, scrapbook, travel blog, travel tips, the roaming renegades, paul short, nicola hilditch-short, chriso Rei, almada, 25th April bridge, 25 de Abril Bridge, Estradio da Luz, Stadium of Light, Benfica, Santa Justa Elevator, St George's castle, Sao Jorge castle, Miradouros, São Pedro de Alcantara: Elevador da Glória or walk up from Chiado. Portas do Sol: Walk up from Baixa or tram 28. Miradouro da Graça: Walk up from Alfama or tram 28. Miradouro de Santa Luzia:, Alfama, Arco da Rua Augusta, Baixa, Cascais

A great website to check out is the Lisbon tourist board page:

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.