Right under our accommodation’s window was the meeting point of the yellow bus hop-on-hop-off tour so I spent the second day touring the city on the bus. Lisbon is so big that there are two bus routes about two hours each. One takes in the east side of the city, and the other takes in the west side. I did both and was immersed (via a pair of headphones) in the history of this old city.
It basically gave me an overall lay of the land and an idea of the areas I really wanted to explore the next day.
Barrio Alto is an area of Lisbon that comes alive at night. So Friday evening we decided to take a gander up there and see where the night took us. First up, a glass of yummy Portuguese wine on our rooftop balcony……(we really lucked out with our accommodation!)
Barrio Alto is made up of tons of these tiny little hole-in-the-wall restaurants/ bars serving tapas and drinks. People were spilling out into the streets from every doorway and the place was oozing with atmosphere. It was raining and we had been aimlessly wandering trying to find a place that could take us in and feed us. The naive Irish girls not realizing everyone in Lisbon ate LATE in the evening! We stumbled upon one of the many tiny places with 8 or 9 tables crammed into it, and they were able to squeeze us in.
A combination of delicious traditional Portuguese tapas was promptly ordered. This picture does not do the food justice! Get in our bellies!
Confession time: two kids later and I have genuinely turned in to a Granny! I made it to midnight before hopping in a taxi and embracing my bed with open arms. The other two ladies made it to half four in the morning. (Warriors!) Barrio Alto is the place to go if you are not a granny like me!
While doing the bus tour I had loved the historic glimpses I had caught of the Belem area and decided to properly explore the attractions there on our final day. Basically, there are three big attractions within walking distance of each other: The Jeronimos Monastery, The Torre de Belem, and The Padro dos Descobrimentos Monument.
Our initial plan was to come back at the end and tour the inside of the Jeronimos Monastery, as I had heard great things. Unfortunately, we ran out of time in the day. (You will see why in a minute!) But we did catch the impressive outside. This will be on my to-do list for the next Lisbon trip.
Trip Advisor lists the Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem) as Lisbon’s number one attraction. So this one seemed a no-brainer for us.
Guess how long we waited in the line before getting in???
Yep…..two hours!!! (It was a Saturday morning.) We found out later that we had been complete rookies. If you buy the combined monastery and tower tickets online in advance, you can totally by-pass the line and walk right up to the front. *Faceplant in palm.* I guess the silver lining was that I got some good shots of the tower while waiting…..and waiting……and waiting…..
The Torre de Belem is a little 16th century fort sitting on the Tagus River. Once we eventually got in we spent an hour exploring. The main entrance floor has a cannon room which leads to a little underground dungeon for prisoners.
There are five or six floors above this with, I think, a total of 93 steps. Be aware the steps get quite narrow- not ideal if you are claustrophobic.
There are some beautiful nooks and crannies within the tower.
Not to mention the views from the outside.
All in all, a really lovely experience, barring the two-hour wait.
We then strolled down the pier to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos Monument. This is a 52-meter high monument celebrating the Portuguese exploration era. It is made up of 33 statues with Henry the Navigator taking the stage front of the monument. It actually looks like the rest of them are trying to push him into the river!
The only female on the monument is Queen Felipa of Lancaster (good old Henry’s mom). Seems it doesn’t matter what era you’re in- women are underrepresented as leaders in the workplace! Good woman Felipa! Way to represent!
We decided to spend our final evening wandering the hills of the charming Alfama area. The narrow streets climb uphill to spectacular views and then fall clumsily into little valleys before taking aim at the high ground again.
We found a quirky, tiny, authentic Portuguese restaurant that had hats hanging from the ceiling and yet again enjoyed the most delicious tapas.
A beautiful way to end a highly enjoyable trip to Lisbon! Thanks for a fantastic time Lisboa! Until next time!
(Some of the photos courtesy of my traveling companion AM Kelly)