I think the thing that surprised me most about Lisbon is how big this city is! It is definitely one of the bigger cities I have been to in terms of geography. We were there for three days, and could easily have spent another three days there and still had tons to do and see.
Between flights and getting checked in on the first day, it was 2 pm before we were free to start exploring and discovering the lay of the land. At this stage, I was approaching hangry so we basically stumbled into the first place we saw down by the river on the train station side and had a lovely lunch.
We had a fabulous view of the April 25th bridge. Weird name for a bridge I know but the story behind it is interesting. It’s a 2278 meter bridge that spans the River Tagus (the longest suspension bridge in Europe) and resembles the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was originally named the Salazar Bridge after the Portuguese dictator at the time. Can you guess the date Antonio Salazar was overthrown? Yup, you guessed it! The date of the bloodless revolution was April 25th, 1974, and the bridge was renamed accordingly.
After lunch, we began the aimless wandering that always accompanies Day One in a new unknown city. We happened upon this mysterious door that led into a dark tunnel which preceded up a steep hill….
…..and then all of a sudden a little yellow trolley appeared!
Well! If that was not an invitation to hop on! Turns out it literally takes you on a short and sweet ride up this very steep hill and that’s the end. The view at the top is really lovely!
These trolleys are all over Lisbon, the most famous being the Number 28 which takes you around the stunning, hilly Alfama area which is home to the famous Sao Jorge Castle. Thing is, the lines for this tram are reaaallllyyyy long (well over an hour at peak time). Some of the locals told us the number 12 and 25 take you on a very similar route sans the tourists and long lines.
There is a lot of religious history in Lisbon. For 300 years the Moors, who were Muslim, ruled the country. You catch glimpses of these Islam influences here and there, especially in some of the buildings.
Since Afonso Henriques drove the Moors out, Lisbon has become predominantly Catholic and ornate cathedrals and intricate basilicas litter the streets. The art inside these buildings is phenomenal and at times slightly terrifying. We spent much of our first day wandering into these churches and immersing ourselves in the art. The ceilings of these churches are particularly masterful.
There are so many to explore but my favorite was a little church called Igreja de Sao Roque (Church of Saint Roch). There was a huge earthquake in 1755 which pretty much decimated Lisbon. This church was one of the few to escape relatively unscathed. It is basically made up of tiny rooms with extremely elaborate religious art pieces.
There is a small room in the back which is made up of paintings and cabinets from top to bottom, including the ceiling.
Finally, the terrifying room was saved until the end. I forget the name, but I nicknamed it the Catholic Guilt Room.
We finished the day off with some famous Lisbon custard tart desserts- Pasteis de Nata- and delicious Portuguese white wine in an outdoor cafe looking on to Praca do Comercio.