View Larger Map
Mean: 17°c Max: 19°c Min: 15°c


Lisbon, Portugal
Sunday, October 13, 2013

Boston to Lisbon

Our flight from Boston to Lisbon had a short stopover in the Azores. Which we are sure is a nice place to visit but not at 4am in the morning when it's dark and you only have a few hours before your onward flight.

Feeling decidedly more jet lagged than we had anticipated as the time jumped forward by 4 hours in just a 4 hour flight we were turfed off the plane and had to wait in the lounge before being allowed back on the plane to continue to Lisbon. We have no idea why they had to boot us off and all it achieved was to annoy us and the hordes of other people. There wasn't any security before re-boarding so it just seemed like a vain attempt to sell a few overpriced coffees in the waiting lounge, not the greatest customer service to try and raise a bit of cash.

By the time we arrived in Lisbon we had only managed to catch a few hours' sleep so on touch down the last thing we wanted was a stressful journey from the airport to the hostel.... but thankfully we received a really informative email from the hostel detailing exact directions which made our lives much easier. When we arrived we were welcomed by the lovely Joanna who couldn't have been more helpful. She even fast tracked the cleaning of our room so that we didn't have to wait around and she also treated us to some homemade Portuguese soup which was lovely. We were really impressed with our room and the whole hostel felt like home already.

After our unexpected free lunch we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous blue skies by taking a stroll through the old historic town that was filled with old buildings that had really impressive architecture. We were blown away by the detail that had been woven into the buildings giving them a character that was lacking in most of the buildings we saw throughout America's concrete jungles. We also liked the stark contrast between the city's modern style grid system even though it was one of the oldest parts of the city and had cobbled streets which is something we haven't seen very often on our travels.

As we walked along these cobbled streets we saw street vendors on every corner lazily roasting chestnuts in the hope that the rich aroma would entice at least a few people to reach for their wallets. The streets were lined with fancy restaurants, expensive boutiques and of course ice cream parlours and the whole place exuded a relaxed and chilled out atmosphere that seemed to soak straight into our skin. The saying that first impressions count is very true and from what we had seen so far, Lisbon was getting a thumbs up from us and we were left with the feeling that we were going to have a wonderful time exploring this old and beautiful city.

On one of the streets we noticed a large group of people snapping away with their expensive looking cameras and being the nosey little parkers that we are we quickly turned around to see what they were getting excited about. As soon as we saw it, we realised it was the famous Santa Justa Elevator and after snapping a few of our own photos we stood to admire its quirky gothic style whilst also admiring the impressive engineering that must have made Lisbon a very proud city when it was built way back in 1898. This unique lift was completed in 1901 and it made the lives of the locals much easier as they no longer had to brave the steep hills to reach Largo do Carmo. At its full capacity the lift could carry 50 people in two separate lifts that led to a narrow bridge that linked to the higher ground. The bridge has since been removed and the lift has now been adapted to give tourists a bird's eye view of the city.

After consulting the map we made our way up the many steps that were sandwiched between the buildings and made our way up to the Sao Roque Church. We very nearly walked right past the church as we were looking for something old and beautiful but when we got there it didn't look like a church at all.... however when we entered the church we soon changed our minds about its beauty when we realised it was hidden inside with the use of gilded woodwork and amazing sculptures and mosaics. It was a lovely church to visit and we are so glad that we took the time to step inside.

Day 2

Today we decided to head to Sintra which is only forty minutes away by train and is steeped in history. When we jumped off the train we headed straight to the bus stop so that we could make our way up the hill to visit two of the most popular sights. The bus ride took us up some steep, steep hills that were better suited for small cars but hey we arrived in one piece so who are we to complain? If we're being totally honest, the further the bus climbed the better the views seemed to get so we soon forgot about the tiny roads and oncoming traffic. We soon arrived at our first location so we jumped off to go and explore.

Castelo Mouros - Moorish Castle

We made our way up and down the quaint little paths that led us to the gates of the Moorish Castle which was once a military fort built in the 10th century by the Muslim populations that occupied the Iberian Peninsula. It also acted as a control tower for the Atlantic coast and it served as an outpost for the city of Lisbon. The location of the Moorish Castle was no accident as it was strategically located so that it could defend both the local territory and the maritime access to the city of Lisbon. The Castle boasted spectacular views of the Atlantic coast and on a clear day it would be possible to get a panoramic view over Lisbon.... unfortunately we arrived on a cloudy day.

Pena Castle

The construction of Pena Castle took place between 1842 and 1854 after Prince Ferdinand decided it would be a fine place to build a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. He was a man of many tastes and this can be seen in the architecture of both the inside and outside of the building. The Castle is now regarded as a national monument and it manages to draw large crowds of visitors each year who come to explore the eclectic mix of styles whilst marvelling at the lavish and somewhat over the top style of the rooms inside.

Hard Rock Café

Back in Lisbon we made our way over to the Hard Rock Café for a quick beer and to purchase our shot glass before making our way back to the hostel. After such an eventful day that was full of walking up and down steps we were absolutely shattered and opted for an early night instead.... how old do we sound?

Day 3

On our last day in Lisbon we spent the morning looking around Parque das Nacoes (Park of the Nations) the modern part of Lisbon which was regenerated for Expo 98. The most striking building that doesn't now look run down or deserted has to be the Vasco Da Gama Tower which is shaped like a ships sail and after Expo left town has been converted into a hotel. The Park of Nations is worthy of a visit as it was very very different to the older parts of Lisbon but unless they spend some money on the area in a few years' time it will be in total disrepair.

In the afternoon we took the bus across to Belem another old part of the city where we visited the old coach museum that was filled with Portugal's oldest horse drawn coaches and carriages that have been used by the Portuguese royal family and nobility.

We also visited the Jeronimas Monastery and Convent. Although we didn't go in and explore every room as we were running short of time however we did visit the Church of Santa Maria. The views of the monastery are even better from the top of Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) as it gives the true perspective of its enormous size and it was well worth the few EUR's to take the trip to the top.

If you are in Lisbon at the weekend we recommend you visit Belem on a Sunday as most of the museums have free entry.

Our last stop was at Pasteis De Belem where Sonya had to try a pastry. Originating from the nearby monastery in the 1830's the sweet pastries have become something of a national delicacy and people come from far and wide to try one. Although Ross does have a sweet tooth he wasn't as bothered as Sonya about trying one especially when he saw the ridiculous queue outside and instead opted to grab an ice cream from Mc Donald's. Now the only reason we are putting this trivial thing in the blog is as a word of warning do not ever go to a fast food restaurant and then join the queue to buy a pastry. The pure look of disgust and hatred on people's faces 'how dare we bring such rubbish into the Mecca' was in retrospect laughable, but at the time wasn't as were constantly pushed to one side as people fought their way to the front. Was this a shop or a rugby scrum? Although these might be the best pastry's in Portugal, and for that matter the world but is it really worth sharpening your elbows for, or for that matter waiting in a long queue for? Over to Sonya who sampled the hallowed delight. Her exact review 'it's better than anything you get from Tesco's but I wouldn't rave about it'. So there you go, Sonya might not be a food critique but that was enough for Ross.... no it wasn't worth it. I suppose you can't go to Belem and not try a pastry but in our opinion try and go to any one of the patisseries as going to Pasteis de Belém isn't worth it.

So that's Lisbon done and although it was part of our 'big plan' to come home via the antipodal neither of us expected to like it as much as we did and we would even go as far as to say it is our favourite city in Europe.

So it's back on the rails for the 'start of the end' as we start our trip home across Europe. Next stop Madrid and that all important antipodal.

Ta Ta for now.

Team Chip

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Lisboa Central Hostel in a double private with shared bathroom facilities. The hostel is well located just a few minutes from Marques De Pombal, the centre of Lisbon and blue line metro with a direct connection to the airport. Baxia is only a few stops away on the metro or you can walk there in about 15 minutes. The staff were absolutely amazing and were extremely friendly, helpful and humorous. Richard and Joanna couldn't do enough to help us and made our stay a very enjoyable experience. Our room was massive and was spotless. The bathroom and kitchen facilities were top notch and were kept in absolutely pristine condition. Although we never used them living room and dining room were nice add on's and something we have only seen in a few hostels on our travels and really gave the place a homely feeling. Is easy to see why Lisboa has won so many awards from Hostelworld. It is simply amazing and calling it a hostel does not do it justice. If we went back to Lisbon we wouldn't consider staying anywhere else.


© 2014-2021 All rights reserved.
All images and logo's are licenced. Please contact us before copying any content or linking to our blog - Thanks! :-)