Our arrival with the rented car at Lissabon was an adventure. After spending time at the Algarve and a trip to Evora it was not only quite late that day but the traffic was also quite different. More … southern… There are traffic lights and lanes and roundabouts and everything but those things are sometimes not really taken seriously.
Our sat nav brought us to our hotel and there was an underground parking. After one single try to reach something within Lisbon by rental car we used the rest of the week the public metro, a tuk-tuk or a taxi. We can only recommend this. Especially if you are not really fond of turbulent traffic. Taxis are affordable and the drivers that we had were nice and fair.
Okay. Let’s go right into the center. Seven stations with the metro. We were (unfortunately) several times warned, to have an eye on our belongings and hold on tight to everything. We arrived in the middle of the old town and explored places and streets. We let ourselves drift until the harbour area along wide boulevards with shops and restaurants at the right and at the left.
Everywhere you will see this bicoloured paving with patterns in black and white. New figures and forms all the way. Even at the smallest paths there are again patterns. Unbelievable.
Everywhere are also these tiles. Fully tiled houses with squiggled balcony balustrades. Window sills, doors and door knockers. Everything is old. And very very romantic. Tipp: Look up more often. But be careful. The paving is not even. So rather pause and look.
We walk across huge place and look in vein for a bench to sit and relax and watch people. But there are none. Maybe it is not common in Portugal. On some places there are fountains. On others there are sculptures or other memories to old ages. Instead of a bench we recommend to stop at the small shops or cafes. There are many many of them. And you get a snack at every corner. There is always time for a ‚bica‘ – a small espresso. So you can at least sit. And watch people. We like to go to the very tiny ones, where the locals go to. Here you can also often get free Wifi.
Very many people do speak several languages fluently. So you will get along with English. Menus and signs are often in multiple languages. Otherwise try with hand, feets and whatever it takes. We had much fun.
Of course we also have been in Belem. A popular grand quarter with impressive palace and monastery. Here you are supposed to get the best ‚pasteis de nata‘. At least nearly everybody buys those here… The area is very well liked and there are very many people. Our tipp: Walk through the park and go to the alleys and streets in second or third row. There it is much more quite.
The distinct more modern expo area of Lisbon is the complete contrary to the old palaces. Situated at the other end of the town it offers completely different forms of architecture. The wildly protruding buildings are impressive and even today you can imagine that they must have been architectural pioneers at their time.
The area is constructed generously and profused. There is a lot of space and there are huge open areas between the buildings. And here you can find a lot of benches to linger. And there are kiosks with drinks and ice cream. You can see employees spending their lunch time here and joggers. As the area is right at the sea there is also a promenade. Between the different office buildings and residential buildings there are a couple of remarkable museums. But you can also just look at the sea. There exist some restaurants so that you can stay for a while.
Day trip to Sintra
When you are at the capital of Portugal you can make a day trip to Sintra. Here we went again by our rental car. In the village we found quickly a free parking space and walked to the different historic sites. Try out the small streets or stairs and alleys. It’s worth it. Look out for the signs stating „look down“ or something like that. Behind walls and entries there might be a nice view or a cosy terrace or inviting beer garden.
The touristic center is at the national palace. Here the police rules the traffic. And here are most of the people. You can only enter the palace with a guided tour. The area of Quinta da Regaleira you can explore on your own though. So we had to try that. There was a queue at the entrance. But it might have been because of a software failure. They had to write our entrance tickets manually.
Equipped with a map we strolled through the enchanted park. We reached different grottos and wells, went to see the waterfall and went to see the several stories high well tower. It is not that easy to take a picture here. We stumbled through dark tunnels and walked wondering through the many many rooms in the mansion. Nearly everything in the area is accessible and you can get lost sometimes with all these small paths and ways. But eventually you will come to a point or corner where you acknowledge something and you will find your way again on the map.
We were hungry and thirsty and wanted to visit the cafe. Therefore you have to leave the area. But with your ticket you can reenter. We stayed quite a while in the park because there is really much to admire. It is very impressive to see what people in former times invented for their amusement.
West coast of Portugal – Azenhas do Mar
We then went on and drove towards Azenhas do Mar. With a small detour because their has been a sing saying ‚Miradouro‘. Again it was worth the visit. Santa Eufemia. A really nice view. The street was an adventure in itself being very small and steep and old…
Finally we arrived at Azenhas do Mar. The small village sticks to a cliff and down at the beach there is a nice fish restaurant with a stunning view on the thunderous waves. Picturesque and a great photo motive. We did not try the restaurant. But it is supposed to be very good. The view is anyway.
We drove further along the coast and enjoyed the view. Our aim was actually Cascais but again we got distracted by signs. So we did another detour.
The most western point of Europe: Cabo da Roca
For example to the most western point of Europe. Cabo da Roca. With a light house, the obligatory museum and even a bus stop. Of course there is a sign with a lot of numbers and stats for the mandatory picture. The cliffs are breath taking and some brave people dare to go behind the barriers or even have a picnic at the cliffs.
Our next unplanned stop have been the dunes. They cannot be overseen from the street. There is a small restaurant and an information center and a parking lot. From there you can walk along very long wooden walkways. We would have loved to walk there but you would need some time for that.
Cascais – the coast town near to Lisbon
Eventually we reached Cascais. In time for the sun set. At the beach there have been some street food trucks because of a festival. So we tried some innovative Portuguese food and enjoyed it at the beach. Very nice!
Martim Moniz – Lisbon
After that we turned back to Lisbon and visited Martim Moniz. Very funny that there are some nice and cosy corners with street food booths. There were some fountains with water but they did not work. Here you can make yourself comfortable.
We took a tuk-tuk and drove through the old town. What fun! The small and mobile mopeds can get easily through the traffic and nearly everywhere. In some parts of the town they are not allowed though. But for a quick overview of the historic or touristic sites they are perfect. At some spots they even stop and you can get out and take a photo. They are a bit expansive but good. The drivers know a lot about the town and the history and speak good English.
The quarter Alfama in Lisbon
At the castle we left our tuk-tuk and walked through the labyrinth of alleys and stairs in the quarter Alfama. Here you can’t stop looking. Everywhere tiny houses and stairs and steps. Flower pots in front of the doors. Laundry at clotheslines. Here a cat sleeping. There an open door right to the living room and the TV is running. On a bench an older Portugues is sleeping while others gamble. You can easily get lost in the streets. But we headed downwards all the time so finally we reached the fado area and the water line. Absolutely fantastic!
Fado music in Lisbon
Our last evening we spent again in Alfama quarter and even enjoyed the famous fado music. Everywhere there are tiny tiny restaurants with only a handful of tables. In front of the restaurants there are two or three tables. But it doesn’t matter. Even when you sit outside you can listen to the songs. The music is loud enough even without speakers. The food is a little bit more expansive but you don’t have to pay for the music. You can just walk around the area and listen to this wonderful sentimental melodies. You can look into the restaurants and see the musicians. Great!
On our way out we did not only discover nice and tiny places but also the best ice cream parlor of Lisbon. It opened some months ago and has creative sorts of ice cream like ‚figs, walnut and port‘ or ‚Cafe Upa Upa‘ that is whiskey and Danish cookies.
That was a very special ending of our week in Lisbon.
You can discover Lisbon in very many ways. And the town is so versatile that everybody will find their special corners and spots.
all photos © WaltzingMeurers