Somebody warned me that my calves would hate Lisbon. Well, fortunately, they’re pretty resilient, but I get the sentiment.
This is a city of hills. Lots of them. The upside is that, from moment to moment, you’re blessed with wonderful street views and, if you know where to go, can look out at the whole city from one of its many miradouras. Downside is you might get a bit tired. Which doesn’t help when you’re waking up tired.
Frankly, had too much wine yesterday, which resulted in trying to sleep through a headache, which resulted in a few hours of no sleep, which resulted in the second later day of the trip. Not that we’ve set an itinerary or anything that we had to keep, but we just happened to start the day a little bit later. Still, once we were up and at it, we made the most of it.
Convento do Carmo
Much like all of Lisbon, this monastery was a victim of the 1755 earthquake that levelled the city. Here, though, the pillars and arches managed not to collapse, leaving a “ruin” that might actually look nicer then what once stood in its place. It houses a wonderful archeological museum with finds from the region and featuring oddities like ice mummies from Peru. If you wander to the right of it, you get some of the first great views of the city and, as we found out later, a relative shortcut to the Elevador de Santa Justa (more on that one later).
We had planned on visiting the Church of Sao Roque, but it had limited Monday hours, so we wandered up to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântra for a view of the city, though that was also partially shut due to some renovations. We wandered through Restauradores and Rossio on the way back to our place to drop off some gift shop purchases before going up again.
Elevador de Santa Justa
Established in 1902 and run by Carris, Lisbon’s public transit entity, you can actually pay for the elevator for the same way you would the metro or a tram, either with a Via Viagem card (the equivalent of a Presto or Oyster) or with the Lisboa pass. There’s typically a line to go up the actual elevator which, like everything Carris does, is Wifi enabled, and while that is a neat experience, if you’re just looking for the view, there’s a restaurant to the right of Convento do Carmo that leads you to the stairs for the observation tower. However you get up top, the views are great and shouldn’t be missed.
Igreja de São Domingos
This church is an absolute survivor. It barely made it through the 1755 quake and then was ravaged by a fire in 1959. The end result is a church that is still standing and breathtaking on the inside, though also broken and burnt. It’s not going to match other churches for traditional beauty, but for originality and a regality in ruins, you can’t beat it. Probably my favourite church in Portugal so far.
So this is Lisbon’s famous “mini-streetcar”, the one you see in most of the pictures, and the way we chose to enter the Alfama, Lisbon’s hilliest but possibly most scenic sector. I had read that the cars were a bit chaotic, rammed to the gills with sharp turns and people trying to hang off the side, but we must have got it during a quieter time, since it a pleasant, if not jerky ride up the hill.
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte & Miradouro da Graça
Two great views of the city and the upcoming Castelo de São Jorge, connected to each other by winding streets with little shops, cafes and restaurants. We ducked into one called Marcelino, where I had a fantastic “Black Sausage” sandwich and Daina had a chicken Caesar salad that didn’t look like any Caesar I’ve ever seen, with prosciutto, maybe pasta noodles, tomatoes and field greens. Looked and tasted fantastic, though.
Castelo de São Jorge
Built in the 11th century, this is supposedly Lisbon’s most-visited attraction and it’s… fine. The views are great, the courtyard is pretty, and walking its ramparts is fun, but if you’re going to see the city, it’s a bit of a letdown after visiting the other miradouros. I think it hits the “worth checking off the list” box, but not the most spectacular part of the day.
Sé de Lisboa
Probably Lisbon’s most well-known religious structure, it’s imposing and the inside is nice, and apparently there’s a Gothic cloister that serves as a sort of archeological time capsule where you can see layers from Ancient Rome to the Islamic era.
From here, we started to wind the day down, passing by the beautifully carved facade of Igreja da Conceição and down to the water and Praça do Comércio, which is Europe’s largest square and the imposing view foreign sailors would have seen when heading into Lisbon. Imposing today was the dramatic orchestral music booming through the square. Less imposing were the ubiquitous drug dealers, who are now just getting disapproving shakes of the head when they approach. From there, we wandered back to our place to crash.
Tomorrow, we’re going to be covering some of the same area to see places that were closed today. Originally, we weren’t sure if we were doing two or three days in Lisbon. Glad we’re doing three. This city isn’t built for rushing.