We were still in sight-seeing mode on our first trip to Lisbon after having covered the attractions of Belem on Day 1 & elevated viewpoints on Night 1. Our Day 2 list of attractions included the Castle, the Tile Museum, cathedrals and walking around in the iconic neighbourhoods of Alfama & Bairro Alto. This day was a riot of colours & happiness!
Starting the day right
You should know that Yoda is a bit neurotic about deadlines and countdowns. We both slept like babies with Dalek waking up “late” at 9 AM. When Yoda’s eyes opened, she asked for the time was (9:30 AM). Before she could close her eyes for some more sleep, Dalek whispered the magic words “48 hour Lisboa Card – Tik tok tik tok”. Yoda sprang up and immediately said, lets go travel 😛
So after a quick coffee & change of clothes, we were out. Our first stop was a famous breakfast cafe nearby (note: foodies, stay in Intendente / Anjos, so much top-quality food around) but it was closed 😦 Yoda noticed a very discreet looking shop next door with the words “Snack Bar” that was open. She led us into the store and they had hot fish cutlets made of cod & potatoes (very similar to something we’ve had in India). It was so delicious!!!
Tram to the castle
After our quick breakfast, we hopped on the legendary Tram 28 uphill towards the castle in a journey that we can describe as a must-do in Lisbon. It wound its way through narrow & picturesque roads before dropping us in the heart of the Alfama district. We then got some coffee (we had a lot of them in Lisbon!) from an old-school cafe before undertaking a picturesque walk towards the castle.
King of my castle
We were a bit dejected to know that the Sao Jorge castle is not free with a Lisboa card (20% off tickets). As soon as you enter the grounds, you get a delightful view of Lisbon (the first pic of this blogpost). We walked around the grounds and on the castle walls taking in the views on a moderately windy day. Yoda took pleasure in disturbing a peacock date just for the sake of “datus interruptus”. There was also a small museum with a few exhibits but nothing to write home about. The best part is definitely the views.
Colours full of life @ Alfama
To catch the bus, we had to walk through the lanes of Lisbon’s oldest district called Alfama. It has buildings dating back to the 12th century and is just so colourful. If we had more time / energy, we would have liked to come back to this area at night to enjoy some traditional Portuguese food along with Fado music. We highly encourage you to walk aimlessly in the neighbourhood, we took a random path for find the world’s narrowest alley to walk through.
Lisbon’s best museum – Museu Nacional do Azulejo
For a city obsessed with tiles, you might think that a tile museum cannot offer you much more than you’ve already seen. You’d be wrong! One of the highlights of the national tile museum is the chapel inside the museum where there are big tiles with entire paintings on them (we confused those tiles for canvas for the longest time). There is also a lot of gold work in the chapel making it look decadent yet peaceful. And lastly, there are also tiles dating back to the 1700s which show how the tile patterns have evolved over time. No other museum tells the story of a city better than the tile museum does of Lisbon, highly recommended!!
Lisbon’s best lunch @ Bairro Alto
It was time for lunch and we picked the area of Bairro Alto as our choice of area to eat lunch based on the fact that the most highly recommended restaurants were in that area. We felt a bit stupid when we learnt that they were open only for dinner 😦 Dejected, we looked for any restaurant that claimed to be Portuguese and we found a door with a menu.
The place looked like a hole in the wall as there were only 5 tables and 1 server. We took a seat and ordered a dish from the menu that the chef didn’t have ingredients for but instead they recommended a black pork dish. One taste and we went “OMG, this is the best pork I have ever tasted in my life!” It was served with chips / fries and we got an additional order of Portugal’s famous tomato + bean rice to accompany the meat. And the portion was so big, we had some leftover for breakfast the next day!
Only after coming back to the UK and searching Google Maps for the map reference based on our pictures can we say that the place is called Restaurante Cantinho Do Bem Estar and it is the best meal we had in Lisbon. Costed 20 EUR for 2 people (are you kidding me?)
Tip: For dessert, get a slice of Bebinca (an Indian-Portuguese coconut cake) from Calcutta Restaurant nearby, it was very close to what we’ve had in Goa.
Further explorations (Golden chapel, port wine & a cafe)
The Bairro Alto area is really scenic so we walked around a bit before climbing uphill in stormy conditions to reach the world’s most expensive chapel. The Igreja de Sao Tomas looks unassuming from the outside but everywhere you look inside will be golden in the truest sense!
When we left the chapel, the storm had intensified. Luckily a Govt. run Port-wine bar we’d researched was just down the road so we braved the rain & wind to reach the purported address. However we just found a building under construction at the Google Maps destination but saw the delightfully painted funicular Elevador da Gloria. We took a to-and-fro ride just for fun (saw some cool street art) and tried the nondescript building next to our original map-reference to finally find our wine bar, the Solar do Vinho do Porto.
This place is the real deal!!! They had high quality dark chocolate to pair with the many port wines available on hand. Their menu was nicely descriptive too with explanations for Ruby, Tawny & White ports. We had a 20 year tawny along with 3 other types of port wine and a bar of dark chocolate for only 25 EUR. Plus the decor was very tasteful and the seating super-comfy. Screw the TA reviews, do not rely on the waiter’s advice and enjoy yourself at this fantastic port wine bar!
At this point, Dalek’s body was pining for some caffeine due to lack of sleep so we went to a very busy Cafe Versailles by bus. The coffee was actually really nice but Dalek’s body had crashed completely. We took the super-long way back to Intendente using the very infrequent metro (wasted half an hour) where Dalek went to sleep super-early to catch up on some shut-eye. Lets end this post with a shot of the old-school Mercedes taxis that Yoda loves due to the retro factor 🙂
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