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rmoss Lisbon - A travel report by robert
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Lisbon,  Portugal - flag Portugal -  Lisboa
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rmoss's travel reports

Lisboa Landing

  2 votes
The most westerly capital city on the European Continent may be a little overlooked by tourism ... thankfully. Perhaps because it is not on a direct route to somewhere else, or maybe it’s overshadowed by the beaches and golf courses of the Algarve.


View from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, looking south over Baixa and the Rio Tejo. 22/11/16
View from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, looking south over Baixa and the Rio Tejo. 22/11/16
Lisbon is located at a fortunate latitude within Europe ensuring sunny weather for much of the year. Its geographic location on the western Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula ensures a mild climate where cool maritime air stops visitors from baking during the summer. While this can also lead to heavy rain showers in winter months it is rain experienced in a mild climate that will be chased by sun shine sooner or later. Weather moves in quickly from the East Atlantic, and then on again. The light is also clear and unpolluted. This combined with Lisbon's south facing aspect, spread over numerous hills, provides even the jaded traveller with continuous reason to stop and photograph valleys full of architecture or tankers floating above rooftops upon the Rio Tejo Estuary.

Lisbon is certainly popular with visitors as a city break, whether they are arriving by aeroplane or cruise liner, the city offers plenty of affordable distractions for a few days and more. I would however recommend Lisbon as a base for a much longer stay, for exploring the city and its surrounding attractions. This could be a fine way to experience the natural history and heritage in and around Lisbon as the climate is kind, the prices cheap by European standards, and public transport is much more civilised than is the case in the UK where it is expensive, crowded, and dirty, or in Ireland where it often doesn't exist! Anyway I digress. Destinations such as Sintra and Monserrate would seem to demand more than a desperate one day return trip by train or bus, and if I return to Lisbon I would give serious consideration to spending a night or two in the town of Sintra. Also within easy reach of central Lisbon are the beaches of the Lisbon Coast. For €4.30 return from Cais do Sodre Station you can spend the day on the beaches of Cascais and turn your city break into a beach holiday.

Favourite spots:
Elevador de Santa Justa. A street lift to avoid walking up a hill since 1902!
16/11/16.
Elevador de Santa Justa. A street lift to avoid walking up a hill since 1902! 16/11/16.
Baixa is the centre point of Lisbon, with Rossio immediately to the north, where Avenida da Liberdade leads up to Parque Eduardo VII. Baixa is located within a valley where hills occupied by Bairro Alto lie to the west, while Castelo de Sao Jorge flanks the east of this valley. Baixa has the homogenised feel of “ground zero” within many a capital city. Many shops, many tourists, many shops for tourists ... traffic, pigeons, etc. However Baixa is noticeably cleaner, seems more cultured, and is certainly less expensive than the centre of most European cities. It also has better architecture, and presents an organic assemblage of history un-traumatised by post war town planning.

Bairro Alto to the west is an historic quarter of Lisbon, containing the World’s oldest book shop among other attractions. It is an area of wavering grid like streets offering budget accommodation and cheap drinks within countless tourist bars, their happy hour offerings chalked up on boards for the hoards.

What's really great:
Emerging from the Metro to look up along Praça Luís de Camões at the Autumn rain storms. 22/11/16
Emerging from the Metro to look up along Praça Luís de Camões at the Autumn rain storms. 22/11/16
Much is written about the history of the London Underground, Moscow Underground’s architecture, or the cultural significance of the Paris Metro, but seemingly nothing about the clean, efficient, and cheap metro under and around Lisbon. So cheap that it can be free! A tourist faced with the massive climb up from the canyon of Baixa to the heights of Baixo Alto could do a lot worse than walk into the Baixa-Chiado Metro Station, traverse the concourse, and ascend some eight or more escalators up thought the mountain to Bairro Alto. This commute is as unique an experience as walking around Parque Eduardo VII or traipsing to Belem. A huge tunnel extends upwards at a 45 degree undulating gate. The whole conduit, clad in pristine glossy white tiles, seems to go on forever. A vision of ascending, or descending into the future. You feel that you are being consumed or processed. It is like descending through the gullet of some monstrous antediluvian dragon, or in reverse ... being regurgitated.

Sights:
Plant Colony ... Inside the Estufa Quente, Parque Eduardo VII.
18/11/16
Plant Colony ... Inside the Estufa Quente, Parque Eduardo VII. 18/11/16
One of the finest views of Lisbon is from the top of Parque Eduardo VII. A pleasingly distant view looking down from the north into Lisbon, and its setting upon the shores of the Rio Tejo beyond. The park itself is a bit rigid and formal, and there is a lot of it ... all much the same.
Within this Park the Estufas - the botanic glass houses of Parque Eduardo VII, are probably the highlight. When I visited, the ticket booth was crowded with Portuguese students waiting to buy an entrance ticket. So crowded that I wandered away to find by accident the back entrance of the Estufas where entry is free. Within the Estufa Fria (cold house) it was still raining due to the open roof. Within the Estufa Quiente (hot house), I was out of the rain, and it was much more civilised. The grounds are landscaped with climbing terraces and footpaths overflowing with plants and trees, but still the vast open space of the former Dolomite Quarry that the glass house is built above remains and dominates.

Accommodations:
Not Stay Inn Hostel, but a modern take on ceramic tiled architecture around the corner.
16/11/16
Not Stay Inn Hostel, but a modern take on ceramic tiled architecture around the corner. 16/11/16
I stayed at Stay Inn Lisbon Hostel. This is clean and well kept being somewhere between a budget hotel, a guest house, or a more upmarket hostel. My room was booked with www.agoda.com and was fine for me but would be cramped for two people. The accommodation was great value at €47 per night for a twin room in a European Capital City.
The hostel is located on Rua Luz Soriano, off Rua do Loreto, the main thoroughfare within Biarro Alto. The hostel and street it is located on are fairly quiet. The only significant noise coming from the restaurant below my room, which got quite boisterous as the tourists tanked up on beer and vinho. This abates around 12:30 pm as the restaurant closes. The hostel is open 24 hours a day, with very helpful and relaxed staff on reception. The bathrooms are communal but kept clean. There is a clean fully equipped kitchen if you want to spend your holiday cooking and cleaning. Bringing take away food is allowed as is alcohol. Basically a hostel for adults.

Nightlife:
No red eyed girls drinking cocktails. Instead the view from Rua Dom Pedro V, on the road to Rato.
No red eyed girls drinking cocktails. Instead the view from Rua Dom Pedro V, on the road to Rato.
Plenty everywhere. There are scores of bars within Biarro Alto, scattered around five or six streets west of Rua da Misericordia. They come to life around midnight and most are open until 2 am or later. A large beer costs between €1 and €2. Many tourists favour the pint sized concoctions based on gin or rum that will set you back €5. Two of these should set you up for the night. Among the cocktail and sports bars are plenty of venues trading on Fado Song, and of course the obligatory Irish Bar with wide screen TVs, and Oasis turned up to 11. On the streets African drug pushers can be a nuisance, particularly if you are alone. Generally they are not aggressive but they can be persistent. Probably best just to humour them if they demand answers as to where you are from, or what football team you support. While the bars may close from 2 am, the night clubs are open until it’s time to get up. Many are located between Biarro Alto and Rato where there is a healthy student population.

Hangouts:
A photograph taken from the top of the staircase within Embaixada.
16/11/16
A photograph taken from the top of the staircase within Embaixada. 16/11/16
A public terraced garden called Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is located at the top of Rua da Misericordia, or is reached by taking the Elevador da Gloria (€3.60 return ticket) up from Rossio. There is a cafe there providing deck chairs for customers to lounge in and soak up the view while also people/pigeon watching. To the east stands Castelo de São Jorge, an 11th Century Moorish Castle. This lies beyond the gulf of Baixa, a valley of retail boutiques and tourist restaurants. The cost of a refreshment while enjoying the view is €2 for a coffee or €4.50 for a glass of wine. Almost Irish prices! Maybe best to move along where the prices aren’t as inflated as the views. By continuing to walk along the road to the west you pass many interesting shops and cafes along Rua Dom Pedro V. Among those worth browsing in are “Lost in India” and the upmarket “Embaixada” a former opulent townhouse now converted to an opulent shopping arcade.

Restaurants:
Pastelaria lies just to the right of this Lime Green Lion House, along Rua do Crucifixo.
16/11/16
Pastelaria lies just to the right of this Lime Green Lion House, along Rua do Crucifixo. 16/11/16
Lisbon is the perfect destination for gastronauts or hungry people. There is an abundance of cheap well prepared food available from countless cafes, restaurants, and bars. This comes with the caveat that vegetarianism is not an established main stream occupation. In Lisbon the role of vegetables is usually filled by a portion of chips with your steak. Beyond this vegetables mostly appear as decoration for meat, or as an ingredient in a meat stew.
Principe Calhariz, on Calçada do Combro; recommended by locals, tourists and their guide books. A main meal costs around €12 and a pint of Super Bok Beer is €2.50.
Restaurante Cabaças on Rua das Gáveas is boisterous and frequented by Portuguese students, many of whom stand outside waiting for tables. If you can get in it is well worth it. Mains €10-€15 and a pint of Super Bok is €3.50.
Pastelaria is located in a quiet corner of Baixo, on Rua do Crucifixo. This is only open in the day time and is frequented by workaday Lisboan's.

Other recommendations:
A Squadron of Trees in the grounds of the Casa das Historias Gallery, Cascais. 17/11/16
A Squadron of Trees in the grounds of the Casa das Historias Gallery, Cascais. 17/11/16
As already mentioned a trip to the beach is only a 40 minute ride away by train from Cais do Sodre Station in the centre of Lisbon. This is a pleasant journey through some rich leafy suburbs frequented by the odd embassy. The focal point of Cascais, at the end of the line, is Praia de Ribeira. With its clinical civic frontage of generic plate glass restaurants, it serves marina clientele and those attracted by a marina and its clientele. Immediately west of this beach lies the old fishing village of Cascais. A labyrinth of alleys, winding streets, and dog leg turns. There is only an incrustation of sports bars, Irish Pubs, and faux English Taverns on the beach side of Cascais. Once this is breached you are alone to get lost. This is an affluent resort, and the effort and money spent on keeping the village clean and pretty gives it the homogenised feel of a recently constructed high end tourist resort. Apparently this is not the case as the village predates the 1755 earthquake.

Published on Saturday January 28th, 2017


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Mon, Feb 06 2017 - 10:26 AM rating by louis

I really like your report. I have part of my family living in Lisbon, so I am visiting Lisbon quite often. It is such a lovely city, however I remember how lovely it was before LCC and cruisers arrived to Lisbon :)

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