Finding our feet in Lisbon
This is a city we want to live in. We heard lovely descriptions and read passionate reviews about how beautiful this city was but being there surpassed all expectations. We travelled in December and were delighted to be welcomed by sunshine and mild temperatures with only one spell of rain in 3 days. We chose to stay in the heart of the city just off Praça do Comércio in the Baixa District. We found our hostel in a gorgeous nineteenth century building and didn’t mind the climb to reach the upper floors to our room when we discovered the reward. We were given a beautiful high-ceilinged room with huge windows overlooking Rua Augusta and the famous Rua Augusta Arch. Being in the centre of everything does mean a lot of street noise but it’s totally worth it when you have views like that! The whole hostel was spotless with nicely decorated shared facilities and lovely hot showers. We highly recommend it, especially if you’re on a budget like we were - Lisbon RiverView Hostel.
Room with a view
It was early morning when we arrived so we decided the best way to get acquainted with the city would be a sunny stroll through its streets. We headed in the general direction towards the hilltop castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) and took it nice and slow. We are always inclined to get around a city on foot but hilly ones can be daunting. We are by no means fit as fiddles so we took it extra slow and there were plenty of excuses to stop. The city is very instagrammable to say the least and Neil had a great time putting his Sony to the test while I tried to pose as gracefully as possible without looking out of breath!
The Shoelace Express
We were going to take the famous Tram 28 up to the castle but the queue at the stop was long and two trams passed by absolutely jam-packed. To be honest we really enjoyed the walk and on the way we stopped numerous times at little cafes and bars to keep in mind for later in the evening. It’s a steep climb in some parts but well worth it when you turn the corner and take in the full eye-popping drama of Lisbon Cathedral. We always say “ah once you’ve been in one cathedral you’ve seen them all”, yet each time we have to check ourselves when we get a glimpse inside. Lisbon Cathedral is no exception and being the oldest church in Lisbon the architecture has had to survive countless rebuilds as a result of earthquake damage so it’s a really interesting mix of styles from its 800-year old history.
Not far from the cathedral we came to one of the city's many viewing points called Miradouros and the vistas they provide are stunning. Miradouro de Santa Luzia has a lovely pool that I’d imagine offers a lovely cooling paddle during the hot summer days and even in December I was sorely tempted to dip my toes! The red-tiled roofs stretching down to the blue Tagus River feature in pretty much all of these terraces but the views still catch your breath. It’s hard to drag yourself away but you are presented with just how much there is to see and you have to keep going!
Coming up to midday we could feel the sun getting hotter on our backs as we finally reached the castle. Passing through the gates we were drawn across the courtyard of beautiful cork and olive trees to the refreshing breeze coming from the heady heights of the castle ramparts. Between that and the view, needless to say, we lingered a lot longer than we thought we would! No wonder this hilltop has been a strategic fortification for over 2000 years, you just can’t get a better vantage to look over the city and to the river beyond. A leisurely stroll around the walls lead us to the interior which contains the remnants of the Royal Palace of Alcáçova. It’s a nice little spot to grab a coffee and a pastry. You’ll also be greeted by wild peacocks who aren’t afraid to share (steal) your meal! These guys rule the roost so to speak and you’ll see them in the pine trees above you or posing on the ground for a hundred cameras!
All that walking tired us out and we weren’t ashamed to retreat to our lovely room for a little afternoon nap! Being December it got dark at around 4p.m. so when we woke up we were a little disorientated! It didn’t stop us from getting excited though as we saw the pretty streets lit up in Christmas colours from our window. It was time for some Portuguese wine! And where better to find this wine than in Dr. Wine. What can we say? If you love wine and want to try the famous Douro Valley wine then I’ll stop saying wine and just insist you come to Dr. Wine! What complements that better than a feast of skewered meats? Look no further than Leitaria A Camponeza for traditional barbequed meat and fish served in a cosy, atmospheric restaurant. It is excellent value for money and it’s always busy so book a table if you can. Being the carnivores that we are we got a mixture of meats but in fairness I was a little jealous of the table next to us who ordered the prawns – they looked spectacular. I will have to be a little more adventurous next time and order seafood.
Positively stuffed after three courses of deliciousness we strolled slowly through a light rain along cobbled streets – the place is seriously romantic at night time even in the rain! We stumbled across a medieval-themed bar and couldn’t resist when we saw the clay goblets on the table and swords on the walls! Turns out we still had room for more wine and smoky chorizo that we got to cook on our table medieval style! We pretty much decided this would be our late night go-to spot for the next couple of nights. Trobadores has a great atmosphere and although it sounds touristy it really isn’t, the place had a mix of locals and visitors each night we were there. I might be a bit biased however, as three of my favourite things in life were combined in one place – goblets of wine, sausage and The Pogues! Bit of a headache on Day 2!