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davidx Lisbon - A travel report by David
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Lisbon,  Portugal - flag Portugal -  Lisboa
15566 readers

davidx's travel reports

Lisbon, luscious and multi-levelled

  18 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Before my trip, I simply couldn’t understand the different ‘levels’. In particular the Santa Justa elevador fascinated and mystified me. Since, the fascination, based on the STEEP hills and vastly varying levels applies to the whole city.

Praça de Comércio
Praça de Comércio
BASIC CHARACTERISTICS: At river level or near enough is a large square, the Praça do Comércio with walls and entrances separating it from the Baixa. The square contains the ferry terminals giving short or longer crossings of the Tejo. The Baixa doesn’t contain a building older than 1755, when most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake, and precious few much newer. On both sides are high and absurdly, though fascinatingly, steep hills. To walk straight up is an act of, stamina, bravado or sheer lunacy, depending on your viewpoint. THE BAIXA: This consists of a number of parallel streets from the Comércio towards the nearest thing to a ‘city centre’, Rossio a square without dramatic beauty but bustling with life and energy. These streets are intersected at right angles, thus forming a perfect geometrical grid. It’s enjoyable to stroll around here, appreciating the streets named after the separate types of shops that filled them; silversmiths, cobblers and the like. GETTING UP [AND TRANSPORT GENERALLY] Portuguese ‘elevador’ encompasses two quite different things. The first is the amazing Santa Justa lift (elevator in USA) [see photo] which has a connecting passage to a higher level near a ruined church. The second is a funicular. There are three of these, of which the best is probably the Elevador da Gloria, going up from near Rossio station. Again the trams are effectively divided into two types, ancient and modern. Whatever you miss, please take ancient tram 28 up to its terminus on the castle side and back from there at least until you are up in the Bairro Alto on the other side. A modern tram gives easy access to Belem from P d Comércio. Do get a transport map of Lisbon [vital] and note that ‘all-day’ tickets expire at 02.00. These are superb value. MUSEUM If you see no other, try to see the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, not that big but outstanding quality.

Favourite spots:
From Castelo San Jorgio
From Castelo San Jorgio
An endearing feature of Lisbon is the number of terrific views. I select just two of these, that across to the castle from just to the right of the top of the Elevador da Gloria and that from the castle itself. Both are particularly spectacular when the sun is going down. The Castelo de São Jorgio is splendid. Even the less fit can get a lot from just going to the terrace level and enjoying looking both up to the walls and turrets of the castle itself and out from it over the city centre and up the Tejo to the huge and immensely striking Ponte de 25 Abril with a large statue of Christ above it on the far bank Talking of bridges, this is tops for sheer beauty but loses on length to the fairly new Vasco da Gama bridge higher up river, probably at its best when seen from the air on a flight into Lisbon. Also be sure to see the Oceanarium and other survivals of the 1998 exhibition. A previously derelict area has been turned into something with huge appeal

What's really great:
A SINGLE tree,
Botanical Gardens
A SINGLE tree, Botanical Gardens
1.] BELEM: This is an area of great historical significance, not much affected by the 1755 earthquake. The place that HAS to be seen is the Jeronimos Monastery. I can’t say I formed an addiction to Manueline architecture but in a building as grand as this one, it comes off. Other attractions of the area, covered more fully in Mistybleu’s report, are the Torre de Belem and the Monumento dos Descobrimentos. The Coach Museum is said to have particular appeal for children. Don’t miss the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem on the city side of the Jeronimos. Their Pasteis de Belem are wondrously delicious flaky tarts filled with a custardy kind of cream. [Best fresh] 2.] OPEN SPACES a) Botanical Gardens – about 10 minutes up from the top of the Gloria, delightfully shaded and with plants and trees from all over the world. b) Eduardo VII Park and estufas [glasshouses.]. The estufas, which are terrific, are top left of the park as you look up from the city.

Fishing harbour, Sesimbra
Fishing harbour, Sesimbra
If you only go to one place for a day out, it HAS to be Sintra. For a second here’s a possibility, a round trip with river and coastal scenery. 1.] From the Praça do Comércio take the longest ferry route to Montijo. Good trip - look out for the godwits if it’s muddy.] Get onto the next stage ASAP.
2.] Bus to Setubal, a pleasant enough city with a Manueline church that should be seen [I don’t like it!]. After this the trip becomes a series of delights.
3.] Bus to Sesimbra – very scenic even though the road nearer to the coast may be even more so.
4.] This is a great little town with a fort high on the hills above. Try to take the local bus from the seaside to the surprisingly active fishing harbour.
5.] Bus to Cacilhas. The later part of this becomes a bit tediously urban but it’s always cheering to know you won’t have to join that dreadful traffic crawl to the bridge.
6.] Short ferry back to start. Fabulous view of 25 Abril bridge.
N.B. Day tickets valid on ferries.

Elevador Santa Justa
Elevador Santa Justa
We stayed at
Pensao Alegria (Residencial) **
Praqa da Alegria, 12, r/c
Tel. (01) 3475522 Fax (01) 3478070
Good English, cheap, well positioned near Avenida de Liberdade which runs from Praça dos Restauradores to Eduardo VII Park, very friendly, large en-suite rooms, nearby cheap restaurant for breakfast –anything else you want? It may be short on swimming baths, saunas and the like.
Some time after I had been there I received a strange e-mail from a man who had intended to stay there but had been told it was ‘creeping with prostitutes’, and very noisy. Could I comment?
Well, I dare say I’m a bit dumb but I didn’t notice any prostitutes [do they ‘creep’anyway?] and I certainly know a noise when I hear one and the only noise was on building repair during the working day. I’d happily go again.

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum grounds
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum grounds
I’m way out of the age group for this but you can hardly fail to realise that the best area for both pubs and clubs is the Bairro Alto. There are masses of them and also places to hear Fado, some of which are, mercifully, more accessible to my age group.

Cloisters at Jerónimos
Cloisters at Jerónimos
The food is good, plentiful and simple but for sheer joy of the experience the Rei dos Frangos [chicken place] would take some beating. It’s worth the trouble of finding it in a little alleyway between the Praça dos Restauradores [next to Rossio] and the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. You can eat outside. There are some pretty crumby drinking places round about and you may get the odd ‘interesting’ interruption but the restaurant’s bouncing department leaves no room for complaint. Don’t go alone, though, to eat chicken here because a portion is a medium sized whole chicken – meant for two. Sucking pig or fish if you prefer!
We also enjoyed a more conventional restaurant of casa Faz Frio in Rua Dom Pedro V 96.
The Rough Guide gives a good write up to Va e Volte in the Bairro Alto. The Rough Guide was very helpful but no guidebook is perfect! When is a chicken not a chicken?

Other recommendations:
From top of Gloria, Rossio [centre] and castle [far right]
From top of Gloria, Rossio [centre] and castle [far right]
We spent six nights there and had two days out and there’s so much we missed. Other reports on this site cover places I missed – or sometimes cover well where I have skimped.
I should also recommend the official tourist website –

Published on Sunday January 9th, 2005

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Tue, Jan 11 2005 - 12:41 PM rating by christianj.

Hi David,

congrat's for this report. For me it's the best one of all of these really good reports you wrote.

Just SMILE, Christian

Mon, Jan 10 2005 - 08:06 PM rating by italian-link

Very well done. I like the pictures that you added. There is a lot of good detail in the report.

Mon, Jan 10 2005 - 11:51 AM rating by mistybleu

David, your report is great, even better than mine. (However thanks for giving me credit.) It's nice that even though it’s the same place, your report has a different emphasis, which has sparked some nostalgia.

Mon, Jan 10 2005 - 05:48 AM rating by magsalex

Great report!

Mon, Jan 10 2005 - 05:42 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii david ,
excellent report

Sun, Jan 09 2005 - 07:36 PM rating by mtlorensen

Excellent information, David! I plan to follow in your footsteps as I'm convinced by your reports that I won't be disappointed in your Portuguese itinerary!

Sun, Jan 09 2005 - 05:12 PM rating by rangutan

Another charming place! Who likes this kind of stuff, read Davids other first class reports.

Sun, Jan 09 2005 - 04:29 PM rating by kcheepv

Great report!

Sun, Jan 09 2005 - 03:49 PM rating by bootlegga

Great job! I think this is your best report yet! It sure makes me want to go to Portugal.

Sun, Jan 09 2005 - 02:43 PM rating by britman

Excellent full report and very well illustrated. You mention and picture Sisimbra which brought back happy memories too. It is my favourite Portuguese working fishing town - it has some excellent fish restaurants! Everything from cheap sardine grill shacks to top notch eateries can be sampled. Sisimbra’s excellent lodging allows you to break from bustling Lisbon and experience a bit of real Portugal at non city prices!

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