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!
After our wonderful visit to the Hammam Al Ándalus Baths the night before, we spent the majority of Saturday afternoon exploring the Alhambra.
First of all, after breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to the Alcaiceria, the Arab Market near the cathedral. It is easy enough to find, but the entrances are not very obvious and you don’t expect to find all these little market shops when you walk past! The passageways are so narrow, so if it is busy it can be impossible to walk around. I’d recommend getting there around 9-10am and you’ll have the shops all to yourselves! There are so many shops all selling more or less the same things but it is worth having a root around to find anything that strikes your eye. Tea sets, leather bags, jewellery and lanterns are probably the best buys but there are some strange things like boomerangs and sombreros thrown in the mix that are not very “authentic”.
I ended up buying some lovely earrings for 4€ but other than that, it wasn’t my day for shopping there. There are a few high street shops nearby though and I managed to buy a small blue daysack for only 20€ which felt like a bargain, especially as it meant I no longer have to drag around my massive daysack for sightseeing which I mostly use for transporting my laptop when I am flying. I also found some Moroccan Mint tea I had been wanting since the Hammam!
At around 3pm we met up with Floorke who took us to a bar she likes near uni. The great thing about Granada is that if you order a drink, you will receive a free plate of tapas with it, so you don’t even have to worry about ordering any food! After a Fanta orange and a tinto de verano, we received portions of Paella Valenciana, pimientos de padrón and cod croquettes. It was so good.
Soon, it was time to make our way up to the Alhambra. We walked to the Plaza Nueva and caught the C3 bus for 1€20 to the palace. We considered walking there but soon realised how far/steep it would have been in the heat when the bus drove up there. I’d recommend getting the bus up because there is no point being all hot and exhausted before you have even started to look around!
We spent about three hours around the Alhambra which is the recommended amount of time to visit. Our ticket allowed us entry between 2-8pm, but we arrived around 4:30pm. In hindsight, with the Alhambra being so big, I’d say three hours isn’t enough! If you want to just see the main sights, sure three hours is plenty, but we really enjoyed taking in the amazing views of the city, marveling at the intricate designs on the walls and of course, taking many, many pictures and time just flew by. We didn’t manage to see everything which was a shame but we saw the main points of interest (Generalife, Nazrid Palace).
Important to note: You cannot buy tickets on arrival at The Alhambra. It is recommended to book several weeks in advance as it can sell out!
Our tickets included a time for when we were allowed inside the Nasrid Palace, (6:30pm). This is the only place where you have to go in at a certain time though.
Overall, I would say I prefer the Alcázar in Sevilla over the Alhambra. The Alcázar in Sevilla is of course a tourist attraction and it can get pretty busy, but it feels less spoiled, less of a “tourist trap”. Entry is much cheaper (2€ for students, not 15€ at The Alhambra) and there is no time limit on entry and you can spend as much time as you want there. You feel less rushed. Still, the intricate designs in the Nasrid Palaces at The Alhambra and the panoramic views over the city were absolutely spectacular – you can’t compare it elsewhere and it is a photographer’s dream.
That evening we had take-away lasagna at the highly-rated Cacho & Pepe on TripAdvisor which I’d recommend. It is small though and the menu can be limited. The weather was still lovely so we found a nice bench by a fountain to plough into the yummy food. I don’t know why, but I am a bit obsessed with Italian food here in Spain…!
The following Sunday morning we walked up to the Mirador San Nicolás which gave an incredible view over The Alhambra – it was well worth the climb! It wasn’t long though until we had to catch our coach back to Sevilla, to then eventually get our night coach back to Salamanca. 2am, driver’s radio blaring away trumpet music and all lights on, it’s safe to say I am glad I will not be traveling by coach overnight for a while! I thoroughly enjoyed my extended weekend trip to Sevilla and Granada and I only wish it could have been longer to see more of Andalucía, but it gives me an incentive to go back in the future (Córdoba, I’m looking at you).
After arriving back to Salamanca in the early hours of the morning, I was up early to prepare for my Skype interview a few hours later. I was quite worried how it would go with being so tired, but the interview went well as I have since found out I have been accepted for the role! I will be working as an Information Assistant during Intro Week in Sheffield in September which was excellent news.
The weather has since greatly improved here in Salamanca, and I am currently hiding in my room, away from the heat (and pollen which is especially bad today). At the weekend, my flatmates put out the summer furniture on our sun terrace and I have been making the most of it by sunbathing during the last few days! I love our terrace because we have a great view of the cathedral and it means I can sunbathe without even leaving the flat:
Now, it’s time to focus on uni work mixed-up with a bit of sunbathing until I finish my university obligations here on 26th May. I have also been busy ticking things off to do from my Final Five Weeks in Salamanca To-Do list – mostly just the food parts so far though!
Although being a Sunday, I was surprised by how many places were open today, that being mostly the supermarkets and the Casa Lis museum, on top of all the food outlets. Walking around the city, it’s clear to see that this is a catholic country; everyone was out in their Sunday best, the ladies in their fur coats in the cold, walking back from church. I felt so underdressed in my converses and purple anorak.
Entry is 4€, or 2€ for students which is nothing. It is possibly one of the most stunning buildings I have ever visited and I would go back in a heart beat. The stained glass windows are artwork in their own right and I would happily spend hours feasting my eyes on the different colours and the light reflecting into the rooms.
The museum itself offers a variety of paintings, jewellery, glass, furniture and small sculptures, many of which I drooled over, they are just so beautiful. There was just so much detail in such intricate things. There was just one room I didn’t go into, and that was the porcelain dolls room, possibly the largest collection as well. Dolls just freak me out! There is currently an exhibition on, ‘Salamanca, 1900’, until March 2015 which gave some great insight into Salamanca’s past during this era and the growth and change it has seen in merely 100 years with a wealth of photographs, videos and artefacts from the city. Apparently in 1900, with only 23,000 inhabitants, only 5% of the population attained the age of 65.
Apparently taking photographs ise prohibited in the museum, however I didn’t realise this until the security guard had to come over and inform me of this unfortunate reality. Oops. It is such a beautiful building to photograph, so it was quite disappointing. He did say that there were postcards to buy in the gift shop, which I thought was great because I could send them to my family and friends. Were there any? Nada. However, I did manage to take two photos beforehand – phew! They did have some wall posters those which were quite cheap, so I may go back so I can adorn my bedroom wall with Art Deco/Nouveau beauty.
Suffice to say, if you come to Salamanca, even for a day, and you like art, the Casa Lis is a must. It has affordable entry, you don’t have to spend hours walking around the place (1 hour, tops) and the building itself is worth coming to visit. This is my first visit here, but it is definitely not my last. Jjust another thing on my list for why I already love this city!