After reading a lot about how Lisbon, Portugal was the new place to go, we decided we needed to go there. My report will be a little different than most, as I liked Lisbon but I didn’t love Lisbon.
I liked Portugal but I didn’t love Portugal. I liked Lisbon, but I didn’t love Lisbon. In fact, if I had to pick a big city in Portugal, I actually liked Porto better than Lisbon. And my favorite thing in Lisbon was actually to leave Lisbon for the day and go to Sintra.
So if you are looking for an alternative to all the glowing reviews of Lisbon, here you go.
Alfama District and St. George Castle
I had read that the Alfama district, with it’s narrow cobblestone streets, was the one area spared the ravages of the great earthquake of 1755. So I was most excited to visit the Alfama, and headed there first.
I was actually a bit disappointed. Instead of it feeling old and cool, it felt old and rundown. Nothing signified this more than when we were trying to find the entrance to St. George Castle. We were having trouble finding the way but eventually noticed this.
Note on the left where it says castelo with the arrow underneath. That’s how we found how to get to the castle – not nice signs, just graffiti. Once we went through the gate, this is what we saw on our right.
It set a bad tone for our perception of Lisbon. I know it’s a big city, and big cities have graffiti, but it just felt kind of run down and dirty.
The castle was all right. It costs €10. The view is nice, but I’m not sure it is worth the €10 to get in the castle. And if you are going for the view, there are many miradora around the city with similar views.
In contrast, I liked Baixa. It felt cleaner, and if for no other reason than that, I liked it better.
Take a stroll down the Rua Augusta, a long pedestrain street lined with shops and restaurants.
Pass through the Arco da Rua Augusta and come out into Praca do Comercio.
Head all the way down to the river. Here you might catch some street performers
or even an artist making sand scuptures.
At the opposite end of Rua Augusta, is Praca Rossio.
Avenida da Liberdade
Around the block from Praca Rossio is Avenida Liberdade. If you are looking to shop at Gucci, Prado or Versaci, this is street for you. But it’s also great for a nice stroll.
Ride a Trolley
Riding a trolley is one of the iconic things to do in Lisbon
Line 28 takes you past many of the top tourist sights and is the trolley that gets you closest to St. George Castle.
It drops you about 5 minutes away. Hopefully you can find your way to the arch with all the graffiti all over it. We just followed the crowd and eventually got there.
The Cathedral of Lisbon is worth a visit. Hopefully you don’t find construction next door like we did.
There are plenty of other churches in town.
I’m including Sao Domingos here to give it a little love since it survived the great earthquake of 1755, but was devoured by fire in 1959. Its scarred interior displays a unique beauty.
Mercado da Ribeira
This is the most famous mercado in Lisbon. Half the market has been turned into a modern day food court, but the other half remains similar to the way it was 100 years ago, with locals selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish.
Next door there is a little park BUT there was garbage everywhere and homeless people were taking up many of the benches. We considered eating lunch in the park, but quickly went back inside.
Thieves Market, Lisbon’s Flea Market
Faira da Ladra (Thieves Market) is a tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. It is held in the Campo de Santa Clara every Tuesday and Saturday.
At the one end is the church of Sao Vicente. As long as you are this close, it’s worth a visit.
Also, while you are in the area, head over to the National Pantheon, just around the corner from the flea market.
I can’t tell you much about it, because when I walked inside, as my attention was immediately drawn to the magnificent dome overhead, a guy started yelling at me, “Bilheto, Bilheto” (ticket, ticket) and pointing to the ticket window. That made me mad so I left. He didn’t get my €7.
You can take the elevador de Santa Justa for the most famous viewpoint in Lisbon. The line was huge, so we skipped it.
There are many other vistas all over town. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but I do remember that it was just below St. George Castle.
This may not be on everyone’s must do list, but if you like money, like I do, it’s worth a visit. Plus it’s free. The musuem sits in Praca Municipio, not too far from Praca da Republica.
There are displays of coinage and currency going back over 2,000 years and you get to touch a real gold bar (though it could have been a lead bar with gold paint and I wouldn’t have known).
You’ll never know what you will find.
We always find something that we didn’t see during our research, so that makes it worth it to us to just wander and see what we stumble across.
Summary: Things to do in Lisbon
I wasn’t as entralled with Lisbon as most people seem to be (this was on the walk back to our hotel)
However, you can always find things that make your trip memorable, and I am glad we went. Don’t let some of my comments deter you.