My absolute favourite European destination, so unique but so underrated!
Which is your favourite European capital?
My absolute favourite European destination, so unique but so underrated!
Which is your favourite European capital?
Lisbon is a beautiful city. That much is clear from climbing up to its breathtaking miradouros to tasting the delicious food you can find here. It’s also got a quirky-ness and vibrancy which is also worth discovering and you can find some of that in the street art which covers the city.
A few weeks ago, I took part in a walking tour with Vero at Street Art Tour Lisbon, who provided the group with an invaluable insight into the inside world of street art which I admittedly don’t know much about.
Not only were were taken to locations with some fantastic street art that I would never have stumbled across on my own, we learned about the unspoken rules of the scene, the history of how it all began, the appropriate vocabulary (of which there seems to be a lot) and even took our hand at (legally) having a go with some spray paint, although it’s harder than you may think and I only managed to paint a basic smiley face!
The tour lasted just over three hours, with the meeting point at Largo de Camões. Payment is by donation, usually 10-15 euros but it is up to you on how much you decide to pay. The tour may have lasted for three hours, but we took our time at each place and even had a much needed break half-way through at a café for some tasty ginjinha. We were not rushed from place to place.
One of the highlights was walking around a car park located in Baixa. Each floor was dedicated to a different “writer” and it was interesting walking from top to bottom and learning about their different techniques and inspirations.
We also went to the Galeria de Arte Urbana, an area located on the street where there is the Elevador da Gloria. It’s a place for street artists to do their thing. Proposals are put forward and those which are accepted get to put their ideas into a reality on large billboards on the hill. These change often apparently, so every time you go you should expect to see something different. On the street adjacent, you’ll also see walls covered in graffiti, where anyone can have a go legally. By creating spaces like this, people are less likely to go do it elsewhere on private property.
Unfortunately, the tour did not cover some of the most impressive street art that can be found in Lisbon. However, this is understandable, as these are mostly dotted about the city and it would be challenging to cover on a walking tour! Luckily for me, I had time on my hands, so jumping on and off the metro to discover some of the highlights I wanted to see was easily accomplished last Saturday afternoon.
The Crono Project in 2010 gave Lisbon international attention, putting the city on the street art map, by inviting international names to collaborate with local Portuguese street artists. If you are taking the bus or a taxi from the airport into the city center, it is impossible to miss these particular boarding up buildings as they easily grab your attention for all the right reasons.
If you want to get a bit more of a look than just a glance through a taxi window, get off at Picoas metro station on the yellow line and direct yourself towards the main street, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo, where the buildings are located.
My personal favourite is found between the two metro stops, Terreiro do Paço and Santa Apolónia on the blue line, on a building which has art covered on three sides by VHILS and Pixel Pancho. Vhils, also known as Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, carves into the wall which makes his works unique and stand out. His website goes into more detail here
If you’re in Lisbon, keep your eyes open, as you never know what amazing street art you may find!
Today I completed an 80-hour B1 Portuguese Language Course at A Universidade de Lisboa! This has been my main motive for coming to Lisbon this month, and now that it’s over, I will be flying back to the UK again on Friday.
I am pleased to have completed the course with a high grade, but what I am most impressed with, is how I managed to get up and into class for 9am every morning! Nevertheless, both this course and living in Lisbon in general for the last four and a half weeks, have helped put me in good stead with my Portuguese knowledge for when I start final year in September. I have brushed up on my tenses, improved speaking, writing and even learned some new grammatical points I didn’t know before,
We also focused on listening exercises (the horror). Fortunately, after having tuned my hearing quite a bit to European Portuguese in the classroom and on the streets of Lisbon, the voices on the audio recordings don’t scare me as much as they used to. Instead of going totally blank and pleading my teacher for the Brazilian audio equivilent (as the accent is easier to understand) when I was in second year, I can now pick up a lot more than I used to. And that, is progress.
After listening to the European accent more and more during my Year Abroad, especially during the Portuguese classes in Perpignan and Salamanca, I have lost any form of Brazilian accent I had originally picked up in Sheffield and I am now a true European Portuguese speaker, “shhhh”-ing and all. I still have a way to go with my language learning but this course was a great way to revise topics I already knew and move on from there.
There were some aspects of the course I didn’t enjoy; for example, there was no computer in the classroom, and most of our activities were based out of a grammar book which was extremely dull at times, yet still effective. The teacher made it clear she would rather have a room with a computer and projector to make our classes more interesting, so this was a problem concerning the organisation of the course and who assigned the classrooms. It was difficult to stay focused as the activities were not as varied as they could have been and I feel we could have improved more if we could have watched videos, read online articles etc. in class for discussion, instead of gap-filling pages upon pages of grammar sheets. Despite this, I still feel I benefited from the course but it’s something they need to improve upon for the future, especially with demanding such high course fees.
Another major factor was that there wasn’t much energy in the room; there was a general lack of interest from some people, which all in all gave off a negative vibe. Very few classmates seemed interested in contributing to discussions, which made some awkward silences at times. I would just sit there wishing someone else would speak up instead of the same 4 people. It is nice to hear varying opinons and voices once in a while as otherwise the 4 hours of classes just dragged.
Moreover, it was the final day of classes today, yet disappointingly only half the class had turned up. It was a shame more than anything as we didn’t all get to say goodbye before we went our seperate ways across the globe, but rather shocking too, as we all had individual assessed speaking presentations still to do, and this would have affected the absentees’ final grades (but that’s not my problem).
On a happier note, to celebrate finishing the course this evening, Sarah, Helen and I went to the Hard Rock Café for a meal. This was my first time at a Hard Rock café and I nearly fainted when our server decided to casually sit down at the table with us to ask us for our order. So American and I am so not used to this familiarity. I was such a confused and awkward Brit in that particular moment. The portions were absolutely huge, we admitted defeat and didn’t order dessert after sharing a platter of nachos to start and then I had the ‘fiesta burger’ which had the most amazing jalapeno/salsa/pico de gallo sauce. We could barely roll up the hill to Bairro Alto afterwards, where we met Susana at A Tasca do Chico to listen to some fado for an hour.
I went to A Tasca do Chico in February on my weekend visit to Lisbon on a Saturday night, as that was where our hostel recommended us to listen to fado. We learned the hard way, that their fado nights are exclusively on Mondays and Wednesdays. We ended up going somewhere else for a different experience which I blogged about here.
This evening, A Tasca do Chico was packed when we arrived at 9pm, but there was some space at the bar where we ordered ourselves glasses of vinho verde (green wine). It was so hot and packed and it was uncomfortable to stand after eating so much food. I couldn’t see the fadista sing from my position at the bar, but as ever, the music was beautiful and worth being there just to listen. I’m glad I had a second opportunity to listen to fado and I would recommend it to anyone coming to Lisbon; I’d also advise you not to get scammed into paying for an expensive meal to experience it. There are places in Lisbon, like A Tasca do Chico, where it is possible to listen to fado for free, and just pay for food and/or drinks, but I understand everyone is looking for different things.
Tomorrow is my final full day in Lisbon, but I haven’t decided what I am doing other than going out for lunch and packing my suitcase. I am making sure I consume at least one pastel de nata every day, because I don’t know how I am going to be able to cope without their deliciousness in my life back home.
A visit to the Mercado da RIbeira should be essential for any visit to Lisbon.
It’s not somewhere I had even considered on my first weekend trip to Lisbon, which I regret in hindsight. I had even left it until two weeks into my stay here this month to finally see what the fuss was all about. Now I have finally experienced it, I would say that the Mercado da Ribeira is a must if you would like to taste a variety of good quality food on low-medium budget.
The Mercado da Ribeira is Lisbon’s historic market hall. Since 2014, it has been run by Time Out who have totally revamped the market so that it now includes an indoor Food Court, home to 35 permanent stalls offering some of the best gastronomic delights that can be found in the city.
My first experience of the food court at the Mercado da Ribeira was last Thursday for lunch. It was James’ first day of his trip to visit me in Lisbon, and we went straight there after I got back from my language classes at 1pm. I had a class test that morning and it was something I was very much looking forward to in the afternoon.
We walked from my flat in Bairro Alto, which is only 10 minutes downhill to the market. You can alternatively get the metro or a bus there to Cais do Sodré, which is opposite the market hall.
We loved the market so much, that we returned for lunch on the Friday AND the Sunday. It’s fair to say that I am a bit market-ed out now, and should probably cook from home for a few days before I consider eating out again!
It was great, especially because there was so much choice: from local Portuguese cuisine, to sushi, pizza and even places specialised in desserts. It is sometimes difficult to find a restaurant with a menu which we are both happy with (which I am happy with), so having plenty to choose from meant that I knew I was going to find something easily that I liked. On the Thursday, we both ate at Chef Miguel Castro e Silva, which specialises in Portuguese food. I opted for Time Out Lisbon magazine’s recommendation, the Iscas de bacalhau, fried cod pieces accompanied by tasty tomato rice, while James tried a Francesinha, a speciality from Porto.
On Friday afternoon we both tried chicken dishes at Miguel Laffan – Chicken All Around, which as you may guess, is a stall offering everything chicken. I had the Chicken Ramen which was lovely, and James had the Piri Piri chicken which I also ended up having on the Sunday, because it looked and tasted that good! On Sunday, James had the Prato do dia (Plate of the day), which happened to be Veal with potatos AND rice, because all the carbs, at Chef Marlene Vieira.
When you order your meal, you pay first and are given an electronic buzzer, which will sound when your order is ready. All you have to do is find somewhere available to sit and wait 10-20 minutes for your food to be prepared. At busy periods, like weekends, it can be near impossible to find a table, so make it your priority to grab somewhere to sit and then get a friend to order the food, saving you hassle later.
What I like is that the market is more upmarket than street food. You are given proper cutlery and crockery to enjoy your meal and you are not left hanging around in a queue waiting for your meal to arrive. The way the chefs present the food on the plate makes it all the more worth your money. It’s quality.
On the Friday, we shared a chocolate meringue cake from Nós é Mais Bolos which is both one of the most delicious and expensive slices of cake I have ever eaten. I would have taken a picture but it looked too tasty to simply look at. Maybe I should go back and get another one, you know, just for photographic purposes…
After a trip to the Mercado da Ribeira, walk along the waterfront to Praço do Comércio and enjoy this view:
In Lisbon, everyone has their favorite miradouro (panoramic view). Locals and tourists alike, day and night, no one can resist stopping to admire the staggering views you can find dotted around the city built on seven hills.
You can discover a miradouro simply by chance, especially when wandering around the narrow, steep cobbled streets and staircases in the old neighbourhoods. The miradouro is one of the many aspects which makes Lisbon such a charming and romantic city. Sitting on a shaded bench in a hilltop location, sipping a refreshing freshly-squeezed lemonade all whilst marvelling at the historic monuments and the Tejo below… Welcome to Lisbon!
Below is a list of 9 miradouros where I have been able to enjoy Lisbon from above. Let’s start the countdown to my ultimate, personal favourite at number 1:
9. MIRADOURO DA GRAÇA
This was in fact the first miradouro I experienced, during my first visit to Lisbon in March 2015. I went on the Chill-Out Lisbon Free Walking Tour which finished here. It is located right by the Graça Church and is easily accessed by the Tram 28. It has a great view over the Castelo de São Jorge and over central Lisbon.
8. MIRADOURO DE SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÂNTARA
This is located at the top of Bairro Alto and right by the top of the Elevador da Glória, so is easily accessed by public transport. I stumbled across this whilst walking home on Sunday evening, I do love stumbling across a good miradouro…
Although a very popular miradouro with views over central Lisbon and the castle, it is a side view and there isn’t much to see for the River Tejo. Still, there are drinks available and even a little park/green area where you are welcome to sit and relax in. There is also a fountain which makes the viewpoint even nicer.
7. MIRADOURO DO ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA
This miradouro can be found at the top of the arch on Rua Augusta at the Praça do Comércio. This viewpoint is not free and costs 2.50€ for the priviledge of getting up there. There is a lift which takes you most of the way and then there is a flight of steps to take you up to the roof. The view shows central Lisbon in a way no other miradouro can show though, as it runs parallel down Rua Augusta and there is also a unique view onto the Praça do Comércio and the River Tejo. You can also see the castle, Convento do Carmo ruins and the Elevador Santa Justa not far away either. This miradouro is as central as you can get.
PARK is the name of a rooftop bar located in Bairro Alto above a multi-storey car park. It gives great views over Lisbon and has a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy the view with some tasty refreshments in the afternoon and evening. Easy to get to by public transport (Tram 28 or Metro Baixa-Chiado).
5. MIRADOURO DA SANTA LUZIA
During a trip on the Tram 28 through Alfama before going to the Castelo when my boyfriend was visiting, I spotted a terrace with tiles, foliage and a pond which looked very much like this miradouro I had seen online. We decided to hop off the tram earlier than we anticipated to check it out. Luckily the castle is not far to walk from here (less than 10 minutes uphill). The tiles are in somewhat of a disrepair which made them look a little sad, but I believe they are starting to fix them. There is a café here and a few nice places to sit and enjoy the view in the shade. Worth the nice detour.
4. MIRADOURO DO PARQUE EDUARDO VII (Marques de Pombal)
This miradouro is located at the top of the hill of the Parque Eduardo VII. The easiest way to get here is by getting off the metro at Marques de Pombal and walking up the hill (5 mins walk).
You will find yourself in one of the busiest round-abouts in the city and you wonder why you are here the first time, but I promise, it gets better. After walking all the way up, you turn around to face the park and Marques de Pombal below, and you find the most unique view of Lisbon, with the River Tejo in the distance and the castle on the left. I really, really loved this view and although it is out of the way of the historical center, I would recommend getting the metro and climbing up a hill especially for this. Did you know, Shakira filmed the video for the song Dare here?! #funfact
3. ELEVADOR DA SANTA JUSTA
This is not just a miradouro; the Elevador da Santa Justa, located in Baixa, is also one of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments. It is the last remaining elevator which is still in service in Lisbon and is therefore worth the visit for that in its own right! The architecture is Neo-Gothic and you can admire the lift as it transports you up to the top for the miradouro. Return trip (up and down), costs 5€ in cash, or as it is run by the CASSIS network, if you have a Viva Viagem card, you can swipe that which is cheaper. Better yet, if you are a local resident (like me) and you have a Lisboa Viva card with a monthly pass, the ride on the elevador is free! This definitely helped make me like this miradouro more!
In order to get to the roof which is the offical viewing deck, you have to pay 1.50€ to get up there. You can stay on the level of the elevator which is more or less the same, but the viewing deck is open-air and gives better opportunities for photography and allows you to appreciate the view more. We of course paid the 1.50€ for the privilege of climbing up to the viewing deck and we were not disappointed, it was indeed a fantastic view. I would very much recommend it, but I can understand it is one of the more “expensive” miradouros, but worth it if it is something you are interested in. The miradouro gives a glimpse of the castle in the distance, the ruins of the Convento do Carmo right next door and even a look down onto Rossio Square. There is also an Italian restaurant/café which you can enjoy on the level with the lift.
In order to make your visit to this miradouro more economical, you can actually bypass the elevator experience. Instead, walk up Calle Sacremento to Largo do Carmo and follow the bridge to access the viewing terrace.
2. MIRADOURO DO CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE
The Castle offers one of the most beautiful miradouros in the city, plus it also doubles as an important monument, so you’re hitting two birds with one stone here. The panoramic view stretches a long way around the castle, which means you can walk along the castle walls and climb the castle towers to find different angles to see Lisbon. There are many places to sit and relax and soak in the panoramic views on benches. There is a restaurant/café which boasts the view as well and even a vendor selling glasses of wine for you to sip whilst enjoying your visit around the ruins. The castle is definitely a must during any visit to Lisbon, but you have to pay to get in (5€/students).
1. MIRADOURO DA NOSSA SENHORA DO MONTE
Finally we have come to the final miradouro in this list which also my personal favourite!
Nossa Senhora do Monte is perhaps one of the least visited miradouros – due to the fact it is not close to public transport links and is also the highest point in the entire city! The easiest way to get there is to walk up from Martim Moniz which you can get to by metro or the Tram 28. The walk is about 15 minutes uphill but what awaits at the top is definitely worth the climb.
There were several stalls offering fresh drinks to replenish our thirst, and we opted for a fresh lemonade whilst sitting on a bench and enjoying the magnificent views whilst we got our breath back!
On an old, forgotten wall to one side of the viewpoint are some tiles which reflect the country Portugal used to be: men going off to sea during the age of the Discoveries: “Boa viagem, Lisboa espera por ti” / Have a safe trip! Lisbon is waiting for you.
It’s true that Lisbon is not lacking in dazzling panoramic views but the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte is by far my favourite.
Yes, you have indeed read that correctly, Lisbon has an illegal Chinese restaurant scene.
You won’t find this out in your trusty guidebook, no. Instead you need to know someone who knows what to do and where to go. And luckily, we had just the person who had already been living in Lisbon for quite a while!
See Natassa’s blog here where you can follow her Lisbon adventures!
It’s not like these restaurants have a TripAdvisor page with full directions and fantastic reviews on what to expect. There isn’t even a sign at the main entrance to reassure you’re in the right place. This restaurant didn’t even have a name, people just know it as an “illegal Chinese Restaurant” and that’s the way it is. You know exactly what you’re getting into that way and therefore they are by no means deceiving you. Enter on your own discretion; I guess there is a somewhat thrill to it too.
We met at Martim Moniz by the Rooster statue and made our way to a nearby side-side/alley.
Walking down the badly-lit cobbled street, dodging the odd bag of rubbish, we came to a door. This was just a normal door to a residential block. “I think this is it,” Looking around, there was no sign to hint that what lay behind here was delicious Chinese food goodness. We pressed the buzzer and were let in immediately. Okay, this seems promising.
We entered a dodgey-looking entrance hall with low ceilings and which smelled rather grim – decaying rubbish. Still, rubbish seems to be an issue everywhere at the moment in Lisbon in my opinion, so it’s nothing new.
Ignoring the smell as best we could, we climbed up a few flights of stairs until we came to a door which was left slightly ajar. An invitation? This door also had some paper cellotaped to it with Chinese words written on it. We breathed a sigh of relief as we realised that we must be in the right place, and we gingerly opened the door.
A lady ushered us into the room with all smiles and greetings “Olá, boa tarde!” to try to make this situation a bit less awkward – well done, you have found us!. There were seven tables and it was not very busy for a Thursday night. We sat down and she brought over a menu with a writing pad. The menu was in Chinese, Portuguese and English but the waitress/owner conversed with us fine in Portuguese when she got us our drinks. Looking around the room, it’s interesting to think “wow, so this is what an illegal Chinese restaurant looks like!” They must get this expession of intrigue a lot. There was even a TV. Other than that, it was just your typical, cheaply furnished restaurant. This restaurant just happened to be in an apartment block, totally normal. I started to wonder how annoying it might be to be neighbours with this place; random people coming in and out all the time, the constant smell of food cooking… no thank you. The owners must own the flat next door where they live. This flat was only big enough for the restaurant and the kitchen.
The menu was quite extensive but it didn’t give a great explanation for things. One option was “Drunk ribs,” another was “cow something.” I’m sure they taste better than what the menu lets off though. I settled for a vegetable spring roll *best I have had) to start, followed by the “Sizzling Chicken” which was pretty amazing compared to all of the Chiense food I ate during my time in Spain, so that’s something. We also had chicken noodles and rice to share and were even given complimentary watermelon to finish. Watermelon!
For a drink, spring roll, a share in the rice and noodles and a dish of Sizzling Chicken, 10€ was not bad for some pretty tasty Chinese.
Helen’s food was the last to arrive and we were wondering why it was taking so long. I understood how she must have been feeling, seeing everyone else’s food arrive but her plate remaining empty sucks. This always happened when I was younger and my parents never failed to reassure me that it was because I was “special” and that because of this, the chefs were taking extra time to make sure my meal was perfect. It always worked on me but it wasn’t really helping the food appear..
We inquired to see what was the issue (maybe they forgot?), when the lady pointed to my Sizzling Chicken dish and explained she was “waiting for this.” When I had eaten as much as I could of my food, the waitress returned and scrapped my leftovers into Sarah’s Sizziling Chicken Dish and walked away with my plate. It suddenly all made sense. Basically, they didn’t have enough dishes for all of us and she was waiting for me to finish, so she could use the same plate for Helen’s food. She came back a few moments later with Helen’s much anticipated Sizzling Beef on my old plate. It was quite strange but then again, this is an illegal Chiense restaurant and are you really going to complain? Give them a bad review? It was more amusing than anything, really. I wonder if they washed the plate in between though?
It was interesting to do “something different” and discover somewhere off the-beaten-track.
Lisbon doesn’t pretend to be perfect. It is beautiful, full of charm, falling apart and accepts its imperfections. It doesn’t entirely act upon all its problems and yet we’re still here, loving it.
I previously visited beautiful Sintra for a day-trip back in March, during my first visit to Lisbon. I loved it so much that I have been eager to return ever since! There is so much to see and do there: palaces, gardens, castles. Despite spending two days there now, I still have not seen everything and Sintra deserves time to be fully appreciated. I’m intending to go back in two weeks time, when James comes to visit so I can finally see the Castel dos Mouros and return to my absolute favourite for him to appreciate too, Quinta da Regaleira.
We arrived in Sintra at 3:30pm and bought some tasty queijadas (pastries from Sintra) from a pastry shop on the walk from the train station. We decided to go to the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra, the palace in the town center which is characterised by its two very big, white chimneys. We ideally wanted to go to the Castelo dos Mouros, but we would have had to go up the hill to the Castelo, come down for dinner and then go back up again for the Pálacio da Pena later on, so this plan seemed more ideal.
Like almost everywhere it seems in Sintra, entry for the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra was not cheap (10€) and there was no student price. The Pálacio Nacional does not take long to look around and it would be a dissapointment to visit if you were to compare it to the likes of the Pálacio da Pena on the hill, which is simply magnificent. If you have only a short visit to Sintra, I would not include this on the itinerary, as Pena and Quinta da Regaleira are much more enjoyable.
After our visit to the palace, it was time for an early dinner. Sintra is extremely touristy and there are plenty of places to eat. We opted for a small restaurant where I ate Bacalhau à Lagareiro, my favourite Portuguese cod dish, which has onions, garlic, potatos and which in this instance was swimming in olive oil!
The main attraction of going to Sintra yesterday (04/07/15) was for a charity evening being run at the Pálacio da Pena for the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Sintra. Yesterday evening, the Pálacio da Pena was exceptionally open from 8pm-midnight in solidarity for this charity. The usual entrance fee of 14€ was waivered, instead tents were set up outside the entrance to the Palace which housed food banks and a donation of foodstuffs allowed you free entry!
I just handed over a can of chopped tomatos I had brought from my kitchen, but if you didn’t bring anything, you were able to give a donation of 3€.
Thousands of people turned up for the event – thousands! We expected there to be a lot of people trying to get to the Palace, so instead of waiting until 8pm to get the free bus from the Train Station, we took a tuk tuk from the town center which climbed up the hair-raisingly steep and winding road. The traffic to get there was a nightmare, there were obviosully a lot of locals from the region who had come for the event and were trying to park near the palace. The event had been soley advertised in Portuguese, not English, and maybe this explains why we heard hardly anyone at all speak any language other than Portuguese all evening/saw any tourists.
By the time we reached near the palace, we noticed there was already a queue forming all the way up the road to get in! We jumped out of the tuk tuk and joined the queue which managed to move very quickly. It wasn’t long before we were inside the palace grounds, climbing up to the fairytale palace.
The weather turned out to be just as foggy as it had been as when I visited in March. The fog makes the park and palace seem to be surrounded in some magical mist…
We waited until sunset for the lights to go on, but we couldn’t really see the sunset as it was so foggy and cloudy. By this point, the grounds were heaving with people and it was difficult to move around. We ended up walking back down to catch a bus to the train statiion at 10pm. All the way down through the palace grounds, we went past the longest queue of people waiting to get inside! It was absolute madness. We found another queue for the free bus which came every 20 minutes, but there were already so many people waiting for it, we would have had to have waited at least an hour to get on one, and we were worried about missing the last train back to Lisbon.
Suddenly, another tuk tuk came around the corner and we managed to secure a ride before anyone could even think of getting the idea. We descended the winding road amongst loads of traffic. Some people were even walking down the road, without any street lights on! It was very dangerous, many even had small children and babies in push-chairs which was insane but, that’s Portugal for you, I guess?
Overall, I had a wonderful afternoon and evening exploring more of Sintra and I’m looking forward to returning very soon.