The Perfect Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal

Lots of cities in Europe seem to have an “identity” from Paris, Milan, Geneva Switzerland, Amsterdam, Brussels, Denmark etc… Just like these most amazing European cities, Some sites to see on your weekend in Lisbon Portugal has formed its own identity. My gateway city explorers to discover new lands, flavors, and tastes from across the globe. Lisbon is simultaneously a coastal and a river city. A cultural crossroads and commercial hub, this prestigious capital of a relatively small country were for many years overshadowed by dictatorship. Today Lisbon is a symbol of nation’s dynamism and, after two decades of major works, gives an impression for modernity, creativity, and enterprise. The city of Fado and Saudade(a mood of nostalgic longing) invites visitors to stroll and daydream through its streets.


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1.)Torre de Belém (Belem Tower)

Landmark medieval defensive tower. The tower was originally built in 1519 in the middle of the Tagus to defend theHieronymite monastery and to serve as a lighthouse. Since the earthquake altered the course of the river,  this-five storey Manueline tower now stands next to a beach. The Romanesque-Gothic structure is adorned with Venetian-style loggias and small domes like those in Morocco. Jutting out from the tower, facing the sea is a platform. On the ground floor, visitors will see the openings through which prisoners were thrown into the pits below.

2.)Castelo de Sao Jorge and Alfama
Sao Jorge Castle, the bulwark protecting the city from whatever angle it is observed, was once a fort and theater, as well as a prison and arms deposits.It was nearly destroyed during the 1755 earthquake and only in 1938 was it transformed into a landscaped space, following a major renovation project. The Castle never lost its greatest quality being the privilege lookout point from there, starting in Largo de Santa Cruz, the neighborhood displays other attributes besides its views, with potted flowers on the verandas, fragrant washing hanging on the line, traditional restaurants and the pride of being Portugal’s first village, a claim still unrecognised in history books. This is the attitude of the Castelo quarter, tall and proud, with no fear of the unknown and open to all, as if the dragon were St. George best friend.
3.)Chapel of St. John
The work of architect Mario Botta, this little chapel is reached by walking across the Mogno Bridge.Built from Peccia marble and Valmaggia granite( forming alternating white and black bands), the current truncated cylindrical building stands on the site of a church destroyed by an avalanche in 1986.

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4.)Ride the famous trams
Trams run on 5 lines in the center and west of the city. The old Tram 28 is a fun way to see the parts of town, with stops near Lisbon Cathedral, Sào Jorge Castle, and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia lookout point, among other iconic sights. Between April and September, since I explore this place perfect for the month of April, it gets extremely crowded during the day. For a more peaceful ride, you could take an evening trip, uses the more expensive tourist tram run by Yellow Bus Tours or try the 25, which does the western half of the route.

Trams start around 6 AM and have different end times, the latest at 11 PM. Timetables change regularly and are displayed at stops. Travel cards must be validated on the reader at the start of the journey.

5.)Eat Bacalhau(cod fish)
When dining out, you can enjoy not only time-tested local fare but also the cuisines of Portugal’s former colonies, such as Mozambique and Angola. The city’s nightlife starts late and rarely slows down before dawn. Portugal’s trademark fish is bacalhau(cod), for which there are countless recipes. Popular dishes include Bacalhau com Natas(cod in cream) and Salada de Bacalhau com grào(cod and chickpea salad). Mouraria is the best area in terms of variety of cuisines offered.
During the June festival, sardines are everywhere, though this is the beginning of their season they’re at their best a little later.

6.)Ancient Alfama neighborhood
While the St. George, the city’s leading cathedral, is made up of diverse styles blended by centuries, Alfama is the only neighborhood determined to achieve architectural perfection. From its viewpoints, Lisbon transforms the Tagus into its mirror. Seen from the river, it is only in Alfama that Lisbon reveals what it once was and always will be. The quarter grew up beyond the Moorish Wall, it was the dwelling of Jews fated to uphold their faith, its springs and fountains provided the city with a font of refreshment and it has long been the haven of Fado houses, alleyway commerce, daytime street calls and night-time gossip. Above all else, during the month of June Alfama becomes the “sanctuary” of Santo Antonio, hosting festivities in his honor with red wine, sardines, and toasts made at the window when all of Lisbon gathers to dance, drink, and eat, transforming Alfama into a stage for the best life has to offer.

7.)Padrao dos Descobrimentos
The Monument to Discoveries by the sculptor, Leopoldo de Almeida, was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. It represents the prow of a ship with the prince pointing the way to a large group of Portuguese heroes, including King Manuel carrying an armillary sphere and Camoes holding verses from the Lusiades. From the top of the 52m monument are a panoramic view over the Tagus, the Belém district, and a closer range, the mosaic at the foot of the monument.

8.)Elevador de Santa Justa
Heritage must see off the beaten path. The lift was built in 1901 by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a Portuguese engineer of French origin who was influenced by Gustave Eiffel. Prior to the 1988 fire, it provided direct access to the Chiado quarter. Long closed for repairs, it has now reopened. From the café on the upper platform(32m above street level), there is a good view over the Rossio and Baixa.
The ornate cast-iron Santa Justa Elevator between Rua do Ouro and Largo do Carmo is a considered a must-see, boasting a viewing platform/cafe on top with city vistas. It runs from 7 AM to 10 PM, costs €5 for 2 trips, and often has long lines. The more mundane way to get up the hill between Baixa and Chiado is to use the escalators inside the Baixa-Chiado metro station. Other useful and free elevators from Baixa towards the castle run between Rua dos Fanqueiros and Rua da Madalena, and between Largo Atafona inside the Pingo Doce supermarket car park and Costa do Castelo.

9.)See Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
This magnificent 16c Hieronymite monastery was built in 1502 and is a glorious result of the great discoveries of the period. Vasco de Gama had returned from India with his vessels laden with riches, thus enabling the architects to embark on a very ambitious project. Initially constructed to a Gothic design, it subsequently subscribed to various interpretations of the Manueline style. The buildings added in the 19C detract slightly from the overall effect of this Unesco World Heritage site.

10.) Eat a Pastel de Nata
Lisbon’s traditional cuisine is based around fresh local ingredients-particularly seafood- prepared and cooked in a simple way. Local specialties include salt cod and sardines. Snacks and cakes from simple toasted sandwiches to Lisbon’s signature pastel de nata custard pie can be enjoyed in traditional cafes, accompanied by local-style coffee and tea.

In simple cafes, bars and kiosks, tostadas(toasted sandwiches) and tibornas (bread with toppings) are the staple cuisine. These range from the basictosta mista (ham and cheese toasted sandwich) of traditional bars to the gourmet tibornas prepared in more upscale locales.

The Portuguese love cakes, of which the best known is the pastel de nata or custard pie and which I convinced myself to try. The most famous nata shop, Pastéis de Bélem, has queues down the street. Less well known is Pastelaria Aloma, in Campo de Ourique, whose pastel de nata is regarded by many custard pie aficionados as the best in Lisbon.

NIGHTLIFE

Nightlife starts late and often carries on until breakfast. Small clubs and bars are found in Bairro Alto. Larger discos and live music venues cluster around Cais do Sodré railway station, particularly on Rua Nova do Carvalho, also called the ‘Rua Rosa'(pink street). The Martim Moniz/Intendente area has a more casual, alternative scene. Nightclubs aimed at LGBT people are mostly in Principe Real and Sào Bento, west of the center. Many venues are free to enter.

Fado, Portugal’s traditional music (melancholy tunes sung to a backing of guitars, including the Portuguese 12-string guitar, is a key part of Lisbon culture. You can watch a polished professional singer and band, or go to a local bar and hear regulars belting out their favorite numbers.

BEER AND SPIRITS

A specialty of Lisbon is ‘vinho verde’ or green wine referring to the immaturity of the grapes. It’s light and fizzy and comes in red, white and rose versions of which the white is the most popular.

Ginjinha is a popular liqueur made with sour cherry, served in a shot glass with an optional cherry, or a chocolate cup. It’s drunk at the counters of kiosks like the historic A Ginjinha.

Beer is ordered by size of the glass, the most common being an ‘Imperial(200ml). A 500ml glass is a ‘caneca’ and the rare 1-liter vessel is known as a ‘girafe’. Craft beer is tasty but comparatively expensive. You can find Guinness and other imported ales at Irish and  British pubs.

COFFEE AND TEA

Portuguese coffee is bracing especially if you drink it like the locals, in a small, strong shot called a bica. A carioca is a weaker version of bica. For coffee with milk, options in traditional places are a pingado(a bica with a dash of cold milk) or a galào(like a latte)

The Portuguese like lemon tea (just hot water and lemon) and the herbal teas cidreira(lemon grass), luca lima (lemon verbena) and Tilia (lime blossom).

LOCAL SPECIALTIES

Meat is typically cooked over hot coals. Pork is the dominant meat, popular in sausage form(linguiça or chouriço) or as a cutlet in a sandwich(bifana). Iscas (liver) is a classic Lisbon dish, sautéed with white wine, garlic, and potato.

Portuguese cheese is often made with a mixture of goat’s, sheeps and cow’s cheese. There are soft and hard varieties. It tends to be fairly mild, but stronger varieties include queijo da ilha from the Azores.

ON FOOT

You may have no need for motorized transport while in Lisbon unless you’re venturing out to the beach. If you don’t mind hills, Lisbon is ideal for exploring on foot, and since it can get congested, walking is often quicker than going by tram, bus or taxi. Take care on the uneven sidewalks, especially downhill and in the rain(which can be very heavy). In older parts of town, the sidewalks are narrow and almost impossible to navigate with strollers.

SHOPPING

More than two decades after its opening , the Amoreiras Shopping Center won, definitely a place as a Lisbon’sight-seeing icon. Place  in the center of the Portuguese capital, with a very bold architecture for its time, it early became a meeting point for the upper middle and upper classes, always demanding quality and attentive to the last fashion trends.