I have to admit that Lisbon had never featured on my travel list. This is mainly because I don’t actually have one. Still, the point I’m making is that I hadn’t seriously considered it as an option before. Les and I each had a week to take off work and wanted to get away. We decided our destination had to fulfil the following criteria:
- Somewhere with direct flights from Edinburgh or Glasgow (we lived in Stirling at the time)
- Somewhere within a 2-3 hour flight time
- Somewhere with even the slightest chance of sun (again, we used to live in Scotland…)
- Somewhere I could aimlessly wander around, smiling to myself and generally looking a bit odd.
Clearly, I can wander around anywhere looking a bit odd (and often do), but the other criteria were equally important. And so The Lisbon Plan was hatched. As my regular job involves me sleeping in serviced accommodation, I’m always keen NOT to do that when I’m on holiday. I like the freedom of self catering and after searching through Way to Stay’s website, we found a lovely little apartment in the Historic Alfama neighbourhood. We had a quick look at local transport options, attractions, airport links, etc., and booked ourselves in for a week of relaxation. Yay!
As with any city, it goes without saying that there’s tons to do in Lisbon. It all depends on what your interests are, really. These are a few of the highlights we experienced during our visit:
A quite stunning Roman Catholic Cathedral which we stumbled upon, by chance, on our first full day in the city. Lisbon Cathedral just happened to be a short wander from our apartment. It was a very pleasant surprise to turn a corner round a wonderfully cobbled street and be faced with the back end of a big ol’ impressive pile of bricks. And It was.
The Cathedral’s history dates back to the 4th century (although I have found a few differing opinions on this), and is free to enter. Visiting at particular times of year (February for us), the façade was fabulously enhanced by the large orange trees growing in the grounds outside. The interior is very impressive and I even managed to pick up a new set of decorative Rosary beads from the small Cathedral shop. Score!
The Tram and Funicular
Lisbon trams are fabulous. Not like the trams we have up in Edinburgh; all sleek, shiny and prone to electrical faults. Oh no, these trams are old. Like, very old. However, they are also very awesome, if you try your hardest to ignore the ‘beware of pickpockets’ signage within. This instantly makes you immediately pat down all your pockets and begin eyeing up other passengers with some suspicion. I guessed they were all desperate to get their hands on my dog-eared city centre map and Dorothy Perkins account card. They’re only human, after all.
The trams are an excellent way to see parts of the city at a relaxed pace and the funicular trams, of which there are three, are ideal for reaching the peak of some of Lisbon’s hilliest climbs. Seriously: steep hills, people. The city’s pretty overlooks, known as mirardouros, wouldn’t be so impressive without the hills.
We hopped on the Gloria funicular from the bottom of Avenida de Liberdade. I say hopped on, but the reality was that we did a fair bit of loitering around outside the car. We initially wondered if a) it was operational and b) where in the world the driver had sloped off to. After hanging around for 15 minutes with the knowledge that we could’ve just walked up the hill and been there already, the driver appeared. And besides, it’s all about the experience, right? Indeed. In the end, the journey only lasted a few minutes and was inexpensive.
Miradouro de Graca
At the start, I thought we might need to get out and push as it really was that steep. However, I fear my lack of engineering knowledge is shining through here. At the top of the hill, we filed out to Miradouro de Sāo Pedro de Alcântara. This overlook has sensational views across Lisbon.
The overlook was quite busy late afternoon, with a mixture of selfie enthusiasts, ‘normal’ tourists, and locals. It’s a beautiful spot for taking in the sights before you navigate your way back down the hill.
While I’m talking about scenic views, back at the ranch in Alfama, we found another glorious miradouro. We discover this while making the daily pilgrimage to the local supermarket to stock up on wine. And food, obviously. But mostly wine. Next to Miradouro de Graça is one of the oldest churches in the city. The overlook has a café, where you can relax with a glass of wine and bask in the panoramic views. This miradouro is a lovely place to stop on your travels. Especially when you’re struggling down the hill with all the bottles you just purchased at the store…
Part 2 coming soon…