Friday, July 20, 2007

Holiday Target: Lisbon, Portugal

The capital of Portugal, Lisbon is famous all over the world for its narrow streets crossed by yellow trams, being one of the few European cities to still use trams as public transport means. Being a city built on 7 hills, don’t be surprised if the tram seems at times more like a rollercoaster!

If you only have 3 days in Lisbon, like I did, here are some things you must absolutely do:

  • Take a walk around the old center, starting in Praça do Comércio, and continuing on to Rúa Augusta, a pedestrian street with a lot of shops and nice terraces to sip a coffee and enjoy the buzz of the city around you. • Take the Santa Justa elevator, the only vertical elevator in Lisbon up to the Carmo Convent. This Gothic masterpiece was ruined by a major earthquake in 1755 and is today preserved as an Archaeology Museum.

  • Take a deep breath and climb the Castle hill for spectacular views from the Saint George Castle, located on the highest spot of the city. Every now and then take a detour off the main road and enjoy the view (or, indeed, the beer) from one of the small terrace bars scattered along the way.

  • Head down to the Tagus river to visit the Cathedral and the Alfama neighborhood, the oldest neighborhood of the city and one that has survived two major earthquakes in the course of the centuries. Lose yourself on the small streets, where locals hang their clothes to dry just above your head or take a tram to enjoy the views without getting tired.

  • Visit the neighboring towns of Sintra, Estoril and Cascais, to admire old architecture monuments, have a typical seafood meal or go to the beach. The last two are beach resorts where the sun shines all day round, although the ocean is still somewhat cold.

  • On your third day, explore the western part of the city, and go to see the Belem tower, a UNESCO heritage site that will stick to your soul immediately. Seems to be made of sand and will definitely have you thinking of childhood stories of knights and ladies…
    Take your time to explore this 16th century fortress with its romantic loggias and impressive views (that is if you manage to climb five floors on the narrowest spiral staircase!)

  • Not far from the Tower, you can visit the Jeronimos Monastery, a magnificent Manueline Gothic monument that preserves the earthly remains of Vasco da Gama and Luis Camoes. The impressive building also hosts an Archaeological Museum, and the Lisbon Maritime Museum.

  • Eat in the numerous restaurants scattered along the way, and don’t leave Lisbon without trying the delicious cream tarts known as Pasteis de Belem.

Boa viagem!

(Have a nice trip!)

*See my pics from Lisbon on Picasa!


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