On our second day in Lisbon we got another day of beautiful weather (actually we pretty much had mid to high 80s and sunny the entire trip) and our day consisted of even more walking around and sightseeing. Here are a few of the highlights:
A good starting off point for a day in Lisbon should probably begin at the central area of Praca Dom Pedro IV or better known as the Rossio which is what we did. Located in the heart of the city, in between the historical Alfama region and the restaurant/bar scene called Bairro Alto (I’ll talk more about this area next blog post), the main square is loaded with shops and cafes. Walk down the pedestrian street Rua Da Augusta towards the water and you’ll find even more outdoor restaurants and pastry shops. Most are touristy and you’ll be hounded by restaurant workers left and right trying to convince you to stop and eat, but it’s a pleasant walk nonetheless. Note: Although safe, keep an eye out for the numerous shady characters trying to sell you weed and cocaine on the street. Once you get near the water, you’ll end up at Praca do Comercio where we just happen to luckily come upon a free Joss Stone concert.
Note: The best way to get your bearings back if you get lost in Lisbon is to just head towards the water. With all the unmarked crisscross streets, and maps that aren’t able to label every little alley, it can be easy to lose your way. But if you head down towards the river, you’ll eventually end up on the main road along the water and that can guide you to where you need to go.
You’ll notice very quickly that the city has an admiration for blue tiles or Azulejos, as you’ll see them on several of the churches and government buildings throughout Lisbon. One place to see one of the more impressive arrays of Azulejos is at the Monastery of Sao Vincente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) in the Alfama (It’s a bit of a hike uphill to get there FYI). The entrance fee is 4 Euros (Note: Cheaper if you’re a student, but you have be under 25 years old) and once you get inside you’ll be struck by the mass array of blue tiled artwork. In particular, check out the exhibit upstairs displaying the azulejos of La Fontaine’s fables. There you’ll see depictions of 38 of the fables, along with the actual fable written next to it in English and Portuguese, including: The Donkey and Dog, Hawk and Cockerel, Upbringing, and Bear and Man Who Loved Gardens. Make sure also to see the remains of the 7 Portuguese and Spanish missionaries that were martyred in Morocco and the crazy, freaky mausoleum with a marble cloaked woman weeping over a coffin in the center. It’s really, really creepy – like hairs will stand up on the back of your neck creepy.
Here are a few more places to check out:
-If you’re looking to get a peek inside what life was like in the Middle Ages you should definitely check out the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Located at the top of the hill in the heart of the Alfama and overlooking Lisbon, this medieval fortress costs 7 Euros to enter. On a good day like we had, the castle provided some fun, childlike behavior as we bounced from tower to tower and the views from the top were more than camera worthy. If you’re lucky enough you’ll also notice the several peacocks that have taken residence in the courtyard and roam around with their baby birds.
-Although Lisbon is known more for its seafood and desert pastries, if you can find it there’s a great steak house to try. Located near the Parliament building, this local place is so hidden it blends right in with the residential apartments – you have to know the exact address. The place is called Cafe de Sao Bento and it’s on Rua de São Bento 212, north of the Bairro Alto. Now this place is old school – you actually have to ring the doorbell to get in. We actually rang the bell on accident not knowing for sure if someone would answer. We were more than a little stunned when we were greeted by a man in a tuxedo who led us into the small restaurant. The place has a weird mafia hideaway feel to it and we definitely felt awkward the first few minutes we were there. That feeling quickly subsided however when we saw several other “normal” looking groups of tourists, families, and local businessmen. The wait staff was very kind and hospitable and the seats were plush and comfy. The steak was phenomenal as well, plated in a no nonsense way – just the meat and sauce with a bowl of either fries or homemade chips. The steak melted in our mouths and was reasonably priced at around 14-20 Euros. For vegetarians, the only other thing on the menu besides steaks were small sides of creamed spinach and salad. One mark against the place however was their ant problem – we had a few of the critters crawling around our table. For that, it gets bumped down from an A- to a Grade: B+
What I saw:
Praca Dom Pedro IV aka Rossio
Monastery of Sao Vincente de Fora
Largo de Sao Vincente
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Where I ate:
Cafe de San Bento
Rua de São Bento 212