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Rise and shine! Get ready for a fun day in this gem of a city and assess your hunger level. If a quick coffee sounds just right, hit up the closest A Padaria Portuguesa. It’s a chain of traditional Portuguese bistro-style cafes with a sweet little breakfast deal. Just for €2.99 you can get a big glass of fresh juice, a coffee, and a sandwich of your choice.
If you feel like you could eat an elephant, well, don’t. There are plenty of places in Lisbon where you can get a big wonderful breakfast without breaking the piggy bank. Heim Cafe in Santos, Fauna & Flora in Arroios or Cafe Janis in Cais do Sodre will all leave you full and happy. Or you can go straight to the city center and have breakfast in Basilio or Nicolau, which are located very close to Baixa-Chiado. That’s the very heart of the city and it happens to be just where you’ll start your day.
Full and caffeinated, you can start exploring what the city has to offer. If you’re still not at Baixa-Chiado, get there and walk down to the riverfront to Praca do Commercio. It’s the main square of the city and perhaps the whole country. There might be people trying to sell you some magnets or selfie-sticks, but that still doesn’t ruin the vibe of the place. After you take your time to admire Arco da Rua Agusta and the Tagus river, get ready to walk uphill for your first meeting with the magical Alfama district.
Many centuries ago, Alfama was a quarter for poor people and fishermen. Now, however, it is an essential part of Lisbon. Walk from Praca do Commercio to Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa and carry on to the Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa), which dates to the 12th century. Keep walking straight and find yourself amongst the little houses and narrow cobblestone streets. Tourists love Alfama, so there are many little shops, bars, and cafés tucked in there, but some locals still live in Alfama too! Get lost in the streets for a little bit and then find your way up to some of the best viewpoints of the city – “miradouros”.
First, head up to Miradouro das Portas do Sol and don’t miss the History of Lisbon Mural on your way there. Soak up the panorama and walk just around the corner to my personal favorite, Miradouro de Santa Luzia. The flowers, the river, the beautiful azulejo tiles glistening in the sun, and – quite often – musicians playing live music. I know, I could stay there for hours too. But there are so many wonders waiting for us today! The final stop of our Alfama tour – Castelo de São Jorge. Wander around the castle walls, learn a history lesson or two, take some more pictures, and head back to the city center.
Quite a walk, wasn’t it? Time for lunch! Head to Cais do Sodre (no hills this time, don’t worry). Today you’re going to get lunch at Time Out Market, the most famous food market in Lisbon. Although the prices are a little high, it’s a unique place with tons of great food to try. At dinner time, especially on the weekends, it is so crowded that you might not find a place to sit. That’s why it’s better to come here for lunch.
There’s plenty to choose from at Time Out Market. Many famous restaurants have their stalls there, so you’re really getting the cream of the crop. Seafood, Italian, Japanese, burgers – everyone will find something they’d like. Since there’s always enough room for dessert, top it off with some Santini ice cream. It is quite addictive, but luckily, it’s a chain, so you’ll see it all over the country. Pastel de nata is always a good idea too, but we’ll get them later today.
Alright, time to make our way to Belém, another historically and culturally important part of the city. It takes a little time to get there, but it’s a must-see on a trip to Lisbon. Besides, there are trams and buses going there straight from Cais de Sodre, the area where you just had lunch. Get off at Mosteiro Jeronimós station. When you arrive, you will see a big gorgeous building straight away. It is Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – Jeronimos Monastery.
The monastery is not only an artistic and architectural masterpiece but also a symbol of the Age of Discoveries, a very important period of Portuguese history. From the very place where the monastery was build started many voyages by famous navigators such as Vasco da Gama. Portuguese King Manuel decided to build the Monastery so that there’s a place for the seafarers to stay before heading off and so that the monks can pray for them and their travels.
At the riverfront across the monastery, you’ll see a big monument – Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Originally, it was built to honor Henry the Navigator, another famous Portuguese navigator. The next stop is the Belém Tower. It is a pleasant 15-minute walk, but if you’re feeling adventurous or you’re not a fan of extra walking, there are plenty of electric scooters right next to Padrão dos Descobrimentos. For a sweet finish of your Belem tour, head over to Pastéis de Belém. You might have already heard of pastel de nata – Portuguese custard tarts that have been driving people crazy for more than 200 years now. Sometimes there are terrifying long lines to get in there but don’t worry, they move fast, and boy is it worth the wait.
After a long day getting familiar with Portuguese history and culture, it’s time to go to one of the most modern places in the city. LX Factory is an artsy market full of little shops, street art, cafes, and restaurants just a short bus ride away from Belem. Roam around the market and check out some clothes and gifts made by Portuguese artists. Dinner won’t be a problem either — there are many different cuisines represented at LX Factory. For a dessert, get the famous Landeau chocolate cake or a cheesecake at LXeese cake. Or skip dinner altogether and just get two cakes! Both of them are really worth the hype. Now what you shouldn’t skip is the sunset from Rio Maravilha rooftop bar. Go to the end of the market and take the elevator to the rooftop. The drinks are quite affordable and the view is one of the best ones in the city.
It’s been a long day, so after dinner, you can head back home and get your well-deserved sleep. Or you can stay out for a little longer and experience some Lisbon nightlife. First, get back to the city center and head to Bairro Alto. During the day, it’s just a cute narrow street with historical buildings, but at nighttime, it turns into the liveliest street of the whole city. As the sun goes down, the bars start opening up and young people flock to Bairro Alto for cheap drinks and party vibes. The bars, however, close around 2 am, and that’s when everyone starts moving to the night clubs at the Pink Street, which is located just a few steps away from Bairro Alto. Just like many other things in Lisbon, Pink Street is very addictive, so don’t be surprised if you finish your night at dawn. Then, wish the city a good morning and go get some rest. And, of course, start planning your next visit as soon as possible.
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20 October 2020 5 min. Ani Vardanyan
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