01/09/2017

TRAVEL | A City Break in Lisbon


A couple weeks ago, an unexpected trip happened, that took my to Lisbon for the first time. You may not know this, but I am from Portuguese descent. My mother was born of Portuguese parents, and my dad emigrated from Portugal when he was eighteen. I have thus spent many summers, when I was younger, in our little village high in the mountains, but I never really got the chance to see the capital.
Now that I've finally seen it, let me share with you some of the highlights of that short stay, starting with a walk to the heights of Lisbon...

Castelo São Jorge: the best views in town

Lisbon is a city built on hills and heights. There are numerous miradouros around, high points that give you multiple vistas on the typical orange roofs and colourful buildings. The best view, however, I found at Castelo São Jorge, the medieval castle that stands high above Lisbon. The climb up there involves a lot of stairs, and rather unusual streets.


Meeting the locals, too.
Go to the castle in the morning, ideally getting there before 10am. You'll avoid the queues that gather around noon, and have all the time in the world to explore. Once you arrive at the castle, you'll arrive to a big open space, greeted by a view over the whole city.


Once you've admired the view, you can learn about the history of the castle. The medieval fortress was built on top of the hill to have a good overview of the whole city and the river. In the museum, you'll find artifacts dating back to the Roman times, and around the fortress itself you'll have plenty of space to explore its courts, statues, and towers. And again, walk around the high defensive walls to see the city from above, in every single perspective you could imagine.


The Castelo São Jorge is a must-see if you've got a few days in Lisbon. You see if from below when you wander around town, and the views from above are truly worth climbing up all these stairs.

Go to Belem and try the original Pastel de Nata

Belem is a famous area or district of Lisbon, where you'll find beautiful landmarks and one of the most praised Portuguese treats: the pasteis de nata. They are little custard tarts, traditionally eaten with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on it. The pasteis were created in Belem, and that's where you'll find the house that makes the best pasteis de nata, according to pretty much everybody.


To go there and get some of the precious little pastries, you'll have to be patient. Queues there are a bit mad, and you'll feel bad for the people who work there as if they were in a factory, but eventually you'll get your hands on the pasteis. I'd suggest buying a little box of four.


Yes, we went to Starbucks to eat our pastries. Some habits are just too difficult to give up on.
Always try to eat the pasteis straight away, while they're still warm and soft. The custard inside was really good, not too sweet contrary to what I feared. The perfect mid-afternoon treat when you've been walking around under the sun and need a sugar kick. 


In Belem, walk near the river to admire the boats in the harbour, and you'll get to approach two emblematic monuments of Lisbon. 


This is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, literally the Monument of the Discoveries. Created in the 1940s but set up in Belem in 1960, it is tall, impressive white monument that celebrates the brightest spirits of Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries. At the time, Portugal a country of avid explorers, with navigators who discovered territories as far as America and India. There are statues on both sides, and they look as if they were going to come to life, lift their swords and march on.


Not too far from there, another monument stands tall on the river bank: the Torre de Belem. A medieval tower built in the 16th century to mark the entry to the harbour, and to protect the town from the river. It is a UNESCO classified site, and an eerie location to take photographs of. The light changes depending on the time of day, and gives you a different perspective on the tower.


You can visit the tower, but again be prepared for crowds, especially in the summer. If they're one thing I learned about Lisbon, it is that it's really popular destination at the moment. And that's for a reason, after all!
There's more to see in Belem, but that is coming right up in the next part of this post...

Lisbon, between old and new

During my trip, I found that there are two sides to Lisbon. The first one you see is the traditional side, with the crumbly buildings, the walls covered in old azulejos, the tiny restaurants from which you can smell grilled fish and sea produce, the churches and paved roads. Visit the Alfama district, behind the Castelo São Jorge, to find the narrowest streets, lively and loud, where locals and travellers alike meet and eat in the smallest restaurants, where, if you're lucky, you'll find fado singers in the evening. 
Lisbon is also full of beautiful buildings that show its glorious past. Among them, make sure to visit the Jeronimos Monastery, with its bright cloisters and intricate decors...


If like me you enjoy the typical porcelain tiles that, all over Portugal, cover the buildings, head to the National Museum of Azulejos. It is housed in a former convent, where you can still see a beautiful church, covered from the floor to the ceiling in gold and tiles. 
You learn about the history of the azulejo, with some examples of different styles and designs, from as early as medieval times to contemporary interpretations of the art.


This museum is a real feast for the eyes, and when we went there it was almost empty. The perfect place to escape the crowds, and that you wouldn't find anywhere else in the world.
Speaking of, the National Museum of Coaches in Belem, is also one of a kind. Makes you want to ditch the Ferrari for something more... theatrical.


(Sadly, I don't own a Ferrari. I don't even know how to drive, so I guess it's not a big loss on my part.)
In the museum, you'll find carriages from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century. Royal carriages used by Portuguese princesses, coaches given as presents from other countries, fire engines, children's cabriolets... Some of these look like they're straight out of a BBC period drama. I had never seen such an extensive collection of carriages, it is quite unique so don't miss it if you're in Lisbon.


But Lisbon is not a city stuck in its past. It is resolutely modern, where young people (and older folks too) get together for drinks and to dance the night away, where the walls covered in tiles sit right next to walls covered in street art.


The place that impressed me the most in Lisbon was the Parque das Naçoes. It is an area built for the Expo 98, an exhibition that took place in 1998 and revolved around the ocean and its key role in the future of humanity. Since then, the place has expanded and is now a district where you'll find skyscrapers, a big shopping centre, an oceanarium, gardens, and so on.


Parque das Naçoes is a wide area, so I'd suggest to take a whole afternoon to explore it. You could always go shopping afterwards, and have dinner in one of the restaurants facing the cable car and the river. By the way, if you're fine with heights, I highly recommend the cable car. It gives you the nicest view of the whole area, and takes you from one part of the Parque to the other.


I feel like no matter what you're looking for, you'll find it in Lisbon. The city has developed and grown, and with it the possibilities of entertainment and leisure - you won't get bored there!
If there was one piece of advice I would give, it is to avoid visiting in the summer. Seems obvious, but I never thought Lisbon was such a popular destination and that it would be so crowded. But that's for a reason - it's an awesome city for a little holiday break!

Have you ever been to Lisbon? Would you consider visiting?
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27 comments:

  1. So many interesting things to see. First of all, I would love to try those pasteis, then visit the tower, it looks amazing. The carriage museum would be high on my list of things to see too. I love carriages.

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    1. Oh yes you would love the carriage museum, it's something I can see you talk about on your blog! xx

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  2. I have never been to Lisbon, but it looks like a place to see. Currently I am excited to visit Valencia in the next few days!

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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    1. Lucky you, I've heard great things about Valencia! There's nothing better than sunshine to feel better. xx

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  3. Buying a little box of four pastries sounds like a VERY good idea, yum! The architecture in this post is truly beautiful, perfect daydreaming material - thanks Julia :)

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice | Worldwide Giveaway: Mon Dessert Macaron-Making Kits! x

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    1. You know, there were even bigger boxes - I'm pretty sure you could just go and buy twenty if you wanted! :D xx

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  4. Awww, so nice to see Obama is enjoying Lisbon ;)

    I've never been to Lisbon but I wish I can one day! Just looking at the architecture, it's so beautiful! And the artwork, both in museums and in the city. Just wow <3

    with love, Bash   |   HEY BASH

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    1. I know right? No wonder he's been off the radar for a while, he was just enjoying Portugal haha. You'd love the city too I'm sure! xx

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  5. Lisbon is always on top of my travel list with Porto! I am dying to see Portugal with all its colors and culture. I have tried the pasteis de belem once in brighton (weird but my Portuguese friend said they were original) and they were SOO good<3

    xx from italy
    Cate ღ 35mm in Style

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    1. Oh I really want to see Porto too! I think you can find Pasteis de Belem in some other places, in Paris too - it's a chance to try them out without going all the way to Lisbon! xx

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  6. Lisbon is a place I would really, really love to visit, and these photos are making me really jealous. I need to go here!

    Amy;
    Little Moon Elephant

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    1. You should totally go, it's a lovely place and must be even better outside of the summer months! xx

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  8. Beautiful photos! I'm going to Lisbon in a few weeks time so thanks for your recommendations! B x

    bethwaldron.co.uk

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    1. Thank you Beth, and have a great time in Lisbon! xx

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  9. I've been wanting to go to Lisbon for aaaages! These photos are gorgeous - I'll have to put it at the top of my travel wish list for next year :)

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

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    1. Since you seem to enjoy Spain and that type of destination, you'd definitely love Lisbon! xx

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  10. That must be so cool to be of Portuguese descent, it is such a beautiful place! Ohhh those beautiful ceilings and walls, so dreamy, one could take endless photographs there! I have never been before but I'd love to go! PS thanks for thinking of me with the Chip purse, that's so kind lol xD I also have those moments where little things remind me of my favourite bloggers! :D xx

    elizabeth ♡ ”Ice Cream” whispers Clara

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    1. The walls are particularly beautiful, and so unique! Oh haha that purse is just so like you, I knew it was the kind of thing you'd love to add to your collection too :P xx

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  11. Lisbon is such a beautiful city! I went last summer, and it was amazing.

    zeynab x
    The Beauty Load

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    1. Oh yes it is, I loved it! xx

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    1. I'm not surprised so many of us like Lisbon, it's such a special city! xx

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  13. Portugal is such a lovely country! I loved looking at all the pics!

    Have an amazing day!
    xx Kris

    https://dreamingofpink.wordpress.com

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    1. It really is, I feel the need to explore more of Portugal now! xx

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  14. I never knew you were of Portuguese descent.. can you speak the language by any chance?! Gah, thanks to your globetrotting and city break blog posts featuring such picturesque views, meandering streets and history saturated photographs, my travel bucket list is forever expanding !

    Vintagonista|Sumeyye

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    1. Oh I can understand it better than I can speak but I'm not too bad, my family often speaks Portuguese so I just picked it up ever since I was little. I'm glad your travel list is expanding - we should take every opportunity to explore new places! :D xx

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