Since our arrival in Lisbon, we haven’t really visited the paying attractions (except Sintra & the aquarium). We are reserving them to do so with friends who will come to visit them with us in the next few days.
Today, I will take you to visit – free of charge – several neighborhoods:
- La Baixa
- The Chiado
- Cais do Sodré
All these visits were made over several days, but I group them together in one day to facilitate understanding & location (if you ever feel like doing the same thing as us).
All these places can be easily visited in a long day.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
I don’t often show you what I look like when I go sightseeing. I look like this:
My camera is in my comforter pocket, money and phone are in my Eagle Creek pocket. I can carry a backpack (Osprey) or not (usually not). It looks touristy, but not pigeonish (well, I hope).
In front of our subway station there are many electric scooters. Having left Europe a long time ago, we do not know that they have been invading the European capitals for a few months. We choose the Hive brand which has the most comments on the App store 🙂
The registration is done on the application in a few seconds (more info here), you indicate your credit card and it’s done! To take a scooter, you just have to find one thanks to the geolocalization on the map and scan a QR code. Rates : 1€ of pick-up + 0,15€/minute. There is a red zone in downtown Lisbon, where you cannot return your scooter.
It’s super fun, fast. Unfortunately in Lisbon there are a lot of cobblestones and hills! And driving on the pavement isn’t at all pleasant. We only do routes where there are flat bike paths, i.e. from Santa Apolonia (near us) to Terreiro do Paço. This trip would have cost us 1.3€ by subway, but 2.5€ by scooter. Not necessarily economical, but it’s more pleasant and super fun, and we get 30 minutes free when we register with the code DVbUMQ4Q
Terreiro do Paço
As soon as we arrive, we are struck by this strange facade with spikes. It is the Casa dos biscos (House of Spikes), built by the son of the Viceroy of India in 1523. It now houses the José Saramago Foundation (Nobel Prize for Literature).
In the past, there were ramparts protecting the city of Lisbon, but that no longer exists today. The Casa dos biscos and the buildings next door are now on the site of the old walls.
Right next door is the restaurant Cais na Preguiça, so much praised in the tourist guides that I had to give it a try. Unfortunately the menu “la pêche du jour” at 10€ isn’t proposed at the week-end, but the whole is still delicious and expensive (38€ for two – dessert dish and drink).
In the same street, you can stroll and discover 3 interesting stores.
First, that of Benamôr. Created by a pharmacist, this Portuguese brand with a very vintage packaging was adored by the queen of Portugal Dona Amelia. I bought her two best-sellers: the face cream adored by the queen, and the hand cream. If the face cream was quickly thrown in the trash (too many allergenic actives giving me pimples), the hand cream is excellent, makes hands soft and not sticky.
Secondly, that of Silva e Feijoo, where you can find canned fish of many different types. The prices are very high (between 7€ and 15€), but it is a feast for the eyes. They also sell preserves in the shape of gold ingots 😀
Third, that of the Conserveira de Lisboa, with the old counter that seems to be frozen in time. The saleswoman knows the products very well. The factory is scattered all over Portugal, their location depends on where the fish are caught.
Portuguese caviar (sardine roe) is no longer sold and produced there because there are fewer and fewer sardines. Their fishing is now limited to 3 months/year (in summer). So if you go to Portugal, avoid eating sardines outside the summer, otherwise you will be entitled to frozen sardines.
The saleswoman however encourages us to buy canned mackerel, because mackerels eat sardines and the more mackerels we eat, the more sardines ahhahaa
Price: between 2€ and 4€/box
We tested all this, and we much preferred the mackerel box (Minor blablabla you see on the picture).
Let’s leave this very tempting area to go to Time Out. It is here that you can taste the chefs’ kitchens, for an exorbitant price (count 20€ per person for a small plate).
I ate tartar at Tartar-la, it’s super good, but too expensive (18€ for 150g of beef). There are long tables in the center, but you can go behind each restaurant and sit at the back, there will always be room and it will be much quieter.
The Portuguese tell me that they go there mostly in the evening for a drink, and the tourists go there at noon to eat.
The Mercado da Ribeira is right next door, it’s here that I could buy very nice (and cheap) flowers.
After this expensive mini-tartare, I’m still hungry so we end up in a Peruvian restaurant and opt for a trio of ceviche (fish tartar). A slaughter! Admittedly, it’s expensive (23€) but it’s worth the price. They could even serve us some Peruvian corn(choclo). It is as good as in Cuzco, that’s to say!
Tip: If you have time and money to lose: Take the funicular “Elevador da Bica” right next door.
Retrosaria Rosa Pomar
After a good meal, make digestion easier by going up the hill to Retrosaria Rosa Pomar, a store known by all knitting enthusiasts. The store is on the 2nd floor. There they sell wool of all kinds. Quite a lot of Portuguese wools, some of them made in the traditional way. If you aren’t interested in knitting but you have an Instagram account, go ahead anyway.
A few meters away is one of the best pastries in Lisbon. You can buy pasteis de nata to take away (or to eat on the spot). It’s very very good (so good that I didn’t even have time to take a picture of them :D). I highly recommend it! If I remember correctly, it cost me 1€ per pasteis.
Statue of Fernando Pessoa
About twenty meters further on is a statue of the famous poet – and the terraces of the cafes. The place is really nice, especially when it is sunny. One can sip a coffee there, while watching the yellow streetcar 28E passing by (with its share of tourists and pickpockets).
A few meters further on, you will come across a barber store with a super vintage style. The service is excellent (JB was used as a guinea pig), but a bit expensive (12,50€). The 2€ to be shaved in Morocco are already a distant memory 🙂
Loja da Burel
A street away, you will find a Portuguese wool store. In the basement there is a weaving machine, which is still functional. You can even test it (I didn’t dare). They sell scarves, bedspreads, coats… The quality is there, but I warn you, the Portuguese wool scratches a little, it is better to buy decorative items than clothes.
In Vida Portuguesa
This is the gift store that every city should have. You will find only quality and Portuguese products. Between the Benamôr brand creams, pencils of je-ne-sais-qui, cork notebooks, soaps, tile glass holders, woollen bedspreads… you will always find a nice gift to take back to your friends.
JB fell for a notebook with a cork cover (Portugal is the 1st cork exporter in the world). There are no lines in thisn’tebook but… a cardboard (with lines or squares) that is put behind each sheet. That way, no ink is wasted and you can still see the lines (or squares) clearly. It’s a great concept!
Top paying visit to do in the neighborhood (I’ll talk about it in another article)
:Carmelite Convent(half destroyed by the earthquake)
The Santa Justa Elevator
Iron lace” way, with access to the watchtower. This elevator used to run on steam! Imagine the show
Today, there is still a long queue of tourists waiting patiently for the arrival of the elevator – to get to a footbridge.
To have passed in front of it 4 times, I have never seen this elevator move a centimeter!
There is a trick to get to the top, free of charge, without queuing, is to go around the Carmelite Convent, up to the Bellalisa Elevador restaurant. Cross the terrace of this restaurant (don’t worry, anyone can pass through there), to reach the iron lace footbridge.
The view from the footbridge is already very satisfactory. If you can climb the spiral staircase to reach the platform 5m higher, pay 1.5€ (very little waiting).
It is the oldest pastry shop in Lisbon, oversold by tourist guides. The pasteis de nata (1,15€ each) are cold, and not as good as at Manteigaria. The interior is retro, take a look, but that’s it.
Right next door is the terminus of streetcar 12E. We took it with the intention to make a small tour (without getting off the streetcar). This streetcar makes a loop passing by small alleys, and by the miradouro of Santa Luzia.
We preferred to take this streetcar rather than the 28E (the mythical streetcar from the movie “A streetcar named desire”) because there are too many people and waiting.
Cortiço & Netos
On the way, you will pass in front of this very nice store, where Portuguese tiles are sold. But not just any tile! A gentleman has kept the discontinued products from his factory for more than 40 years, and his sons had the good idea to finally put them on sale in this store. You can buy the tiles by unit. And even broken tiles.
I bought some quarter tiles (1€ each) to use as coasters.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
The view is really exceptional, there are many restaurants. Streetcars 12E and 28E stop here.
A few meters further down, you will find this pretty store, ideal for those who love beautiful materials. Here you will find lots of hand knitted woollen clothes, bedspreads, coats, scarves in Portuguese wool. It gives too much envy, and it’s not that expensive.
After this long day’s walk, you can go back to the Baixo district, to watch the sunset. First you will have to cross the Comercio Plaza, passing under the triumphal arch (you can even climb to the top of the triumphal arch)
On this place, many cannabis sellers are looking for potential customers. At first, we wondered if we really looked like cannabis consumers, but then we realized that they were offering it to everyone (well, that’s what I tell myself to reassure myself) 😀 Cannabis consumption is legal in Portugal.
All you have to do then is cross the street to be rewarded with this extraordinary view of the April 25th bridge.
Last surprise of the evening: this restaurant recommended by Aurélien (with whom we went to the desert in Morocco). He told us to order the beef cooked on stone. The experience is very fun! But we badly managed the cooking. We should have cooked the meat properly and then put it aside, instead of letting it rest on the heating stone. We will know for next time! Thank you Aurélien for the good plan!
Part 2: Practical Tips
The above route can be completed in one (long) day.
It will cost you about 4€ in public transport + meals + shopping.
All the addresses cited in this article have been tagged on my personalized Google Maps. You can also access them here
See also our practical guide to Lisbon here