A WEEK IN PORTUGAL (PART TWO) – LISBON

Lisbon Portugal  |  October 28 to November 2, 2017

Do you like beautiful landmarks, riveting history, charming people, and tasty pastries? I know I do! Because of this (well, mostly the pastries) I was so happy to spend the better part of a week in Lisbon—Portugal's capital and Western Europe's oldest city. Lisbon is an eccentric and unique city that sits on seven hills: Castelo, Graca, Monte, Penha de Franca, S.Pedro de Alcantara, Santa Catarina, and Estrela. Because of this, everywhere you go you'll find a gorgeous view of the neighboring hills and the Tagus Estuary. If you love views like me, this is a great reason why Lisbon is the place for you!

My first stop was to Bairro Alto—a central district in Lisbon—and was able to get my first classic Lisbon view. Barrio Alto is one of the most charming parts of Lisbon, and you can find tons of Pastéis de Nata, the Portuguese pastry that is full of custard goodness. You can find them almost anywhere. For a pleasant afternoon, grab a few Pastéis de Natas and enjoy the atmosphere in Bairro Alto.

Next, you have to check out something you can see from every Lisbon view, and that is Castelo de S. Jorge, a thousand-year-old Moorish castle that sits on a hilltop overlooking Lisbon and the estuary. Not only are there stunning views, but there is also an archeological site, a museum, and local wine vendors. For a cheap entrance fee, you can go all over the castle and enjoy the vantage point. It's a popular attraction with a lot of tourists all around, but it is an enjoyable experience nonetheless.

You can't help but notice something from every single Lisbon view, and that is the Tagus Estuary! Along the coast are some famous landmarks that bring tourists from all over the world. The first is the Comércio Square (Praça do Comércio), a square full of shops and restaurants. The next one is Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a magnificent monument that celebrates the 500 year anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. Henry is a significant figure in Portuguese history and explored the Madeira and Azores islands and parts of West Africa. Henry would have been proud of the magnificent monument erected in his name.

Just a little over a half mile west of Padrão dos Descobrimentos lies the famous Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), the medieval fortified tower on the estuary that's comprised of stunning architecture. While it's a bit of a walk from the central part of the city, you will not be disappointed if you make the trek out and enjoy the beauty of this old defensive structure.

Quick Tips:

  • Eat as much of the Pastéis de Nata's as humanly possible. You really can't find these anywhere else but Portugal, so enjoy them! For the best ones in Lisbon, go to Manteigaria, located at the Plaza Camoñes.
  • In downtown Lisbon at night, there are a lot of drug dealers walking around asking you if you want marijuana, hashish or cocaine. Just reply "no thank you" ("não obrigado") and move on. Regardless of the decriminalization of drugs, police do still arrest people for drug possession. Also been known to happen is a friend of a drug dealer coming up to you after buying drugs, and then extorting money from you, telling you he or his boss and friends will kill you if you don't pay him. Just stay away from the whole drug scene.
  • As I mention in most big cities, watch for pickpockets! This is especially true on the subway.

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