In a nutshell – Lisbon, Portugal
“Hey Li, do you want to come and visit me in Lisbon? My company has a training trip there, so I have a free hotel room”
I jump at the opportunity, after all I was living in Amsterdam, and it wasn’t such a stretch to go. I’ve never been to Portugal after all, and I figured, getting a free hotel room definitely doesn’t hurt.
I was wrong, my friend was wrong – turns out he was in Cascais instead. Not that it was a super big bummer or anything, but Cascais is not Lisbon. And Cascais isn’t that close (though not that far) from Lisbon. Unfortunately I was there only for a weekend, which meant cutting down my travel day in Lisbon, to literally a single day.
From Cascais (with its beautiful sea side town) you can grab a train straight into the city. It’s a subway train though, which means there will be stops all along the way – totaling an hour journey. Or you could get a cab as its only 30 km away.
Arriving in Lisbon, I bought a day pass for the metro and busses and took a trip to my first stop the Place du Commerce right in the middle of the city, before grabbing Tram 28 to head to the Old City.
Slightly past the square, I stopped with all the other tourists to grab Tram 28. An infamous old tram that brings you through old Lisbon and up the hill. Be warned though, that it’s very small, and gets very crammed, and you have no idea where to start or stop. Be awed as it makes its way up super tight corners, and watch the scared faces of tourists who are caught in a sharp curve with the tram moving literally a hair away from their faces. Then do as I did and just jump off where the most number of people jump off. And make your way down the hill until you reach the famous St. George’s castle.
(St. George’s across the hill in the back. More details on What I Wore here)
Opposite the entry to the walkway to St. George’s (yes I know that was a mouthful) is a nice open viewing platform. Overlooking Portuguese rooftops and the sea, it’s a busy location for numerous Asian-peace sign-pictures. Cross over the main road and follow the path (and probably crowd) to St. George’s. I never got to go inside the castle compound area as my friend had limited time and it had started raining. But based on the pictures I’ve seen, it looks like it would have been a great place to get an audio guide and just walk around for an hour or two. (Entry Euro 7.50 per adult)
Walk down the old city of Lisbon
From St. George’s castle, I really recommend just walking down rather than taking the tram. Get lost in the small cobblestoned alleyways and take pictures of what would seem mundane to the locals. Washing drying out in the sun, vertical potted plants making its way up a wall. Enjoy the feeling of cobblestones under your feet and the old tiles on the walls.
This is the area you want to head to for fun nightlife activities. The small streets here are peppered with bars, pubs, and restaurants making for a really fun and lively night out. The narrow streets twists and turns into smaller alleyways making for a fun adventure to find a little hole in the wall place. Its also located very close to the shopping area, the famous (going up only) funicular as well as the Santa Justa Lift. Lisbon is also a very late night spot, and so people only really start heading to clubs at 3 a.m.
As part of your night time activity in Lisbon, you really should not miss out on listening to Fado. A lot of different restaurants and maybe smaller bars will have these singers invited for evening performances. The music is melancholic, nostalgic and usually quite sad. Almost all Fado songs are about some form of sadness which comes through even if you don’t understand the lyrics. I’m not a musician and so may not know the proper terms, but I would describe it as a deep singing, very throaty and guttural and very very emotional. The first song I heard was where the Fado singer was sad because her boyfriend didn’t know Fado.
Even though I packed everything into a very long Saturday, there really is more to Lisbon than just this. Who knows, perhaps I’ll head back and take it much slower… and this time, I’ll make my own living arrangements in Bairro Alto, LISBON