As I looked out over the city of Lisbon from the Sao Jorge Castle, the sunshine blanketed mon visage with the warmth of complete and utter happiness. There is nothing like this city, filled entirely with colorful homes for miles, resting upon hill after hill. The world never ceases to amaze me, and Lisbon did not disappoint.
After our adventures in Sevilla, Spain, my travel companions and myself decided to pop over to Portugal for a hot second. After all, you cannot visit the Iberian Peninsula without putting at least one Portuguese city on your list.
When we initially arrived, it was 5:30am, too early to check into our Airbnb, too early to look for a café, too early for anything really. So, what did we do? Why, we slept in the freezing cold bus station, because what’s travel without a little bit of a struggle? After about an hour and a half, we walked the 40 minutes to our Airbnb, where able to set our bags down and nothing more until later that day, and thus began our journey into the city of Lisboa, looking rough and all.
The day continued roughly, with rain pouring down on us for the first hour or so, but hey, we were in Portugal after all and thus decided to stay positive. I think that’s why the sun eventually chose to come out from hiding for us. Thus, from then on out, you could be convinced that Spring had arrived.
Our first stop in this unique city was the Praça do Comerico, primarily to acquire a map from the visitors center, but this square proved a great first stop because the view: the bay on one side and the hills of Lisboa on another, as well as a fantastic opportunity to people watch.
Afterwards, the Sao Jorge Castle was calling our names from atop its high point in the hills of this beautiful city. If you enjoy a good hike, then I suggest you meet this castle by way through the many streets of the city, however, if you want to go back in time ever so slightly, take the well-known Lisbon tram. It’s an experience like non-other. Plus, if you obtain a day pass for city transport (I believe it was about 6€ for a day pass), you can ride this tram up and down the city streets as many times as your heart desires all day long.
It’s super old school, about a quarter of the size of a tram of these days, with old school pulleys to hold onto and old school manual doors. Looks like something straight out of the 30s to 50s.
The Sao Jorge Castle is not, unfortunately, free to visit. However, you can get a reduced fare with your student ID if you are under the age of 25 (they’ll probably also ask for your passport for proof of your age): 8.50€ for adults and 5€ for students. It’s worth the euros spent to get a glimpse of what the old Lisbon citadel looked like in Medieval times. At one point being a Moorish fortress, this castle displays a lot of history in its walls, many of which were either destroyed completely or damaged during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Its brokenness give it its charm though, I think. With your ticket, you receive a free brochure that explains each part of the castle, how it used to function in Medieval times. So, you learn a lot about the city’s history, if you have a great interest in history, and not to mention, you catch a glimpse of the most breathtaking view of the city.
While you’re here, you must absolutely put strolling through the city streets on your list of things to do, because not only do you get a glimpse of the culture of the city but also it’s FREE. There’s also a handful of street art and graffiti that you might appreciate.
Unfortunately, we only had one full day in Lisbon, for the next day we spent exploring Sintra, a small town about an hour train ride west of Lisbon, and our last half day we spent exploring Belem, a suburb of Lisbon.
So, after exploring the streets and catching a nap at our Airbnb, we ended the day with a quick dinner (sidenote: food in Portugual is actually rather cheap compared to many other countries in Europe. Just don’t eat the bread that they put in front of you at the restaurant, you know, the bread you think is free with the meal, because you will get charged for it), and by watching the sunset down by the bay.
Of all the cities thus far on our Iberian Peninsula journey, I loved Lisbon the most because it was a complete shock of cultural experience. I had no expectations of what Portugal might look like. Lisbon has an edge, a liveliness, a roughness, that gives it its character. The language alone is enough to surprise a person. Many people might think that Portuguese is similar to Spanish because of the way that it’s written. However, don’t judge too soon, for once you hear it spoken your previous notions fly out the window. It sounds more rough, more abrupt, and less fluid than Spanish, with much variances in the emphasis of words and syllables. I would also say that the Portuguese are the kings of a good cup of coffee. The best coffee that I’ve ever had during my entire time in Europe was while I was in Lisbon (or maybe that was just due to the fact that having traveled for a week and a half already, anything tasted absolutely amazing). Unfortunately, we did not come much into contact with the locals themselves, except for our Airbnb hosts, whom, even then, we did not see much at all. Tant pis.
I suppose that means that I just have to go back some day.