After cruising for the last 21 days from Miami, Florida it was time to take a break and wait for the next cruise in about 6 days from now. I had booked a nice little 1 bedroom apartment via Airbnb in the convenient neighborhood of Cais de Sodre below Barrio Alto. It was important for me to have a safe and secure place with a grocery store nearby as I planned to prepare at least 2 meals a day at home and eat out just once per day. This apartment provided all of that the convenience of being 1 block away from the Time Out Market, an upscale food court with unlimited choices. I was also just around the corner from Pink Street, a gay nightclub area. I pre-ordered the Lisboa Card to get some discounts, free entrances, and free public transportation for a few days. I suggest you do the same or purchase it a one of the Tourist Centers.
So I will begin with my choices ranked in order of importance to me! I was able to take a brief overview tour from the NCL cruise ship that gave me an oversight of the city and normally ended at the airport but I was able to leave the bus right in the center of the city.
1) The Ascensor Bica and Elevador de Santa Justa-The city of Lisbon is a combination of 7 hills and the effort to get up to the upper parts of the city is made easy and simple via the funiculars and trams. The Elevador de Santa Justa provides mainly a great view of the city. (All Free with Lisboa Card)
2) The Food-Portugal and therefore Lisbon has some unique food items, some of which come from Spain but it also has unique items that should be tasted. There are lots of pastry shops and the most common item is these custard-like tarts called Pasties de Nata. I tried them in several locations and my favorite was at Fabrica de Nata which happened to be the first place that I tried them! Then there is this unique way of doing their “drunken” sandwiches called Francesinha, which involves 2 pieces of toasted bread any kind of meat filling like pork, beef, chicken, sausages, cheese, ham, etc., and then is covered with a rich beer infused tomato sauce. Definitely a fork-and-knife type of sandwich! Another specialty item is grilled sardines which should be tried at least once. There are lots more things to try like the fresh fish choices, but I will just say try the food!
3) Trams, trams, trams-Of course Lisbon is famous for its yellow and white trams that take you around the city and up into the hills. I decided to go on a round-the-city tour with Hop On Hop Off company and then later I made the rounds on the famous E28 that connects the east and west sides of central Lisbon and then the E15 makes its way from the central district to the Belem district. These older trams are only 1 car, so they can get very busy in the middle of the day.
4) Belem-This is a district located to the west of downtown and can be accessed via the E15 streetcar or bus. It includes Mosteiro dos Jeronimos a wonderful monastery (Free with Lisboa Card) with some great architectural stonework features and mosaics. Then it is a nice walk further along the water to see the Padrao dos Descombrimentos a huge monument to celebrate the seafaring history of Portugal. There is actually a staircase to access the upper portion for great views. Next of course in Belem is the Belem Tower, famous as the fort that protected the access to Lisbon. (Free with Lisboa Card) It has some great sculptures with its drawbridge and ornate details.
5) Day Trip to the North-These side trips usually involve the cities of Sintra, Cascais, Palace of Pena, and Cabo de Roca. My tour took us first to the Palace of Pena which was built from an old monastery in the mid-1800s and transformed into a Palace for King Ferdinand II. Now it is a UNESCO world heritage site and museum tourist center. Usually, great views are from here, but unfortunately, my day was overcast and rainy. We go back down the hill to the charming city of Sintra where there is a 10th-century Moorish castle and some fine shops with mosaic tiles and linens. Onward to Cabo de Roca considered the westernmost point of Europe along the coast of Portugal. Massive waves could be seen from the cliffs and that is why this area is best for surfing those monster waves. Continuing the circle tour the final stop was in Cascais a beachfront town to the rich and famous. A wonderful place for lunch is located right in the middle of the main street, Cervejaria LuzMar where I enjoyed a delightful Shrimp Curry dish. Of course, right next door is Santini Gelato since 1949!
6) Tuk Tuk Tour-Why not? It is a rough and tumble ride in the Tuk Tuk but it also goes to the highest point of Lisbon, far higher than the trams do. Fantastic views to boot!
7) Walking, walking, walking-Of course the best way to see everything is to simply walk around and see everything. I was only about a 10-minute walk from The Praça do Comércio main square and this led to the Tagus River on one side and then into the shopping district on the other side. It is the way I found many different restaurants and shops including the Paul French Bakery. I admittedly stopped there a few times! The main square is the location of a big monument dedicated to King Jose I who was attributed to rebuilding the city of Lisbon after the great earthquake, tsunami, and fire on November 1, 1755. Most of the buildings surrounding this square are government offices including the Tourist Office to the left where I activated my Lisboa Card.
8) Time Out Market-As I mentioned before, I was renting an apartment right nearby and so I had occasion to go over there a few times during my stay. Due to the World Cup Soccer championship games, the place was always packed with people because they had a huge TV screen in the center showing all the games. But the perimeter was the exciting part with about 50 different restaurants represented by 50 different kinds of menus and food specialties. From pizza to seafood, to Portuguese specialties, to beef, to massive doughnuts, to breakfast, to burgers, to gourmet foods. I believe several top-notch restaurants and chefs in Lisbon, also had a presence here to entice the guests to come to their food establishments. Then of course there was a bar right in the middle serving all alcoholic beverages and the center core was also a massive area of long tables, tall tables, benches, and chairs. What a culinary delight!
9) National Tile Museum-As everyone knows, Lisbon is known for its tiles and tiled buildings. No better place than the National Tile Museum to see the history of tiles in the region. Housed inside an old convent from 1509, it is a fascinating walk-through with an amazing amount of paintings and tiles paintings. There is one room dedicated to a 75-foot-long panel of Lisbon cityscape before the 1755 Earthquake.
10) Lisbon Oceanarium-Located in Eastern Lisbon as a part of the 1998 World Expo, it is considered one of the largest aquariums in Europe. With over 160,000 individuals from 450 species, it has you captivated with the large center core tank providing the illusion that you are in the ocean. A little bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth a visit.
So was 6 days enough? You just barely catch most of the high lights of Lisbon, Portugal, but there could be much more especially if you venture outside of the city to Porto and inland to the wine regions. I would recommend at least 5 days and enjoy the nightlife entertainment a bit more than I did!