lisbon’s bairro alto

Tuesday, July 23:  I’m not a big party girl while I’m on holiday, but if I were, Lisbon’s Bairro Alto would be the place to play.  The neighborhood is a short walk from my hotel, and this afternoon I explore its graffiti-splashed streets during the sleepy daylight hours.

the streets of Bairro Alto
the streets of Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto

This evening at 8:00, I’ll walk back to this part of the neighborhood to attend a fado performance at Luso.

Luso ~ where I go to hear fado tonight
Luso ~ where I go to hear fado tonight
Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto
tiles in Bairro Alto
tiles in Bairro Alto

I stop for a late lunch at what has quickly become my favorite lunch spot, LOSTin, right across the street from my hotel, with grand views of Lisbon.  I order a sandwich and enjoy the pink, green and royal blue wicker chairs shaded by Indian patchwork umbrellas.  This Esplanada Bar is an Indian snack-like restaurant that serves meals like toasts, wraps and sandwiches, but with an Indian flavor.

LOSTin
LOSTin
LOSTin
LOSTin
LOSTin
LOSTin

I order a ham and cheese sandwich, but it sounds a lot more fancy than that on the menu.

My sandwich at LOSTin
My sandwich at LOSTin

After lunch, I continue to explore the neighborhood, passing by the Elevador da Gloria once again.

Elevador de Gloria
Elevador de Gloria
Tiled facades in Bairro Alto
Tiled facades in Bairro Alto
Graffiti-covered walls in Bairro Alto
Graffiti-covered walls in Bairro Alto
Street art in Bairro Alto
Street art in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto streets
Bairro Alto streets
windows in Bairro Alto
windows in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto
More street art in Bairro Alto
More street art in Bairro Alto

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lisbon: meandering through the alfama district & LOSTin bairro alto

Monday, July 22: After leaving Castelo de São Jorge, I head out into the charming Alfama neighborhood surrounding the castle.  It’s a lovely little warren of cobbled streets where you just want to wander around forever.  Entrancing.  Bewitching. Beguiling.  Utterly captivating. 🙂

the neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
the neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
the Alfama neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
the Alfama neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
charming window in the the Alfama neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
charming window in the Alfama neighborhood around the Castelo de São Jorge
a little shop in the neighborhood
a little shop in the neighborhood
another charming window
another charming window
a Portuguese woman and her colorful laundry :-)
a Portuguese woman and her colorful laundry 🙂
pretty walls and windows
pretty walls and windows
I love the colorful buildings
I love the colorful buildings
pretty little balcony
pretty little balcony
an inviting doorway
an inviting doorway
Portuguese tiles on the facade
Portuguese tiles on the facade

I then meander my way to the spot close to where the Lisbon Sightseeing Bus dropped me off; here I have some mediocre lunch at an outdoor cafe.  I then decide to take the iconic Vintage Tram 28 down the hill all the way to the end of the line.

on Vintage Tram 28
on Vintage Tram 28
Vintage Tram 28
Vintage Tram 28

At the end of the line, all passengers are told to disembark; we have to get on another tram to go back up the hill of Alfama.  We wait a while in the new tram until it climbs back up the steep hill.  We pass other colorful trams along the way.

another tram in Lisbon's Alfama
another tram in Lisbon’s Alfama

I dip into a church along the way, but I’m not sure what this one is called.

a church in Alfama
a church in Alfama
a beautiful church in Alfama
a beautiful church in Alfama

And then I walk down the narrow street, where trams are going up and down, until I reach a pedestrian shopping street.

a tram in Alfama
a tram in Alfama
a pedestrian shopping street
a pedestrian shopping street

At this pedestrian street, I stop for a little lunch and then I make my way, walking, back up the hill.   Walking in Lisbon is not easy as it has so many steep hills!  I pass some pretty shops and beautiful buildings.

a building in Alfama
a building in Alfama

I make my way further up the hill to The Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major, also known as Sé de Lisboa or simply Lisbon Cathedral. The oldest church in the city is the see of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. Since the beginning of the construction of the cathedral, in the year 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. It is nowadays a mix of different architectural styles (Wikipedia: Lisbon Cathedral).

Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa
Sé de Lisboa

And then I find a cute little cafe where I decide it’s about time for a glass of wine.

a colorful cafe in Alfama
a colorful cafe in Alfama
wine and snacks
wine and snacks
giving my legs a rest!
giving my legs a rest!

I ask the owners if they’ll take a picture of me in front of the colorful and paint-chipped doors.  It looks a little strange because the door is either really small, or I’m really big!

me in Alfama
me in Alfama

I ask the owner where I can find Clube de Fado, because I’ve heard it’s around this area and I’d like to make a reservation to see some Fado and have dinner for tomorrow night.  He tells me it’s behind the Sé de Lisboa, whence I just came, so, guess what, I get to walk back down the hill I just came up.

I head back down hill past colorful buildings
I head back down hill past colorful buildings
and pretty balconies jutting out of tiled facades
and pretty balconies jutting out of tiled facades

I finally find the Clube de Fado, and I pop inside to reserve a spot for tomorrow night.  After this, I make my way back UP the hill, passing by the Igreja de Santiago and other interesting buildings.

Igreja de Santiago
Igreja de Santiago
the streets of Alfama
the streets of Alfama

Finally, I end up right back where I started from this morning, at the Miradouro of Santa Luzia, where I get more astounding views of Lisbon and the Rio Tejo.

view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia

Here, I hop back on the Hop On Hop Off bus to head back to my hotel, where I need to get off of my feet for a while.  On the bus, we pass hundreds of colorful buildings.

buildings we pass on the Lisbon Sightseeing Bus
buildings we pass on the Lisbon Sightseeing Bus
I pass this man and he seems startled to catch me taking a picture of him
I pass this man and he seems startled to catch me taking a picture of him

I get dropped off at the bottom of the hill again, and have to make my way back up Calcada de Gloria.  This time I decide to take the Elevador da Gloria up.  I just don’t think I can walk up any more hills today!

Elevador da Gloria
Elevador da Gloria
at the top of the hill of Bairro Alto
at the top of the hill of Bairro Alto

Of course at the top of the hill, I must stop at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara for another view of the city and a cold beer at the little cafe.

Fountain at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
Sculpture at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
cafe at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
cafe at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
view from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
view from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
view from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
view from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara

Finally, I’m at the top of Bairro Alto where my hotel, Pensão Londres, sits pretty in green.

Pensão Londres
Pensão Londres

I am so happy to relax in my room for a while before I go out to have some dinner.  My feet and legs are killing me from walking up and down Lisbon’s hills.  This time, I go to LOSTin, an Esplanada Bar.  It is an Indian snack-like restaurant that serves meals like toasts, wraps and sandwiches, but with an Indian flavor. The best thing about LOSTin is its gorgeous view over downtown and Lisbon castle; the cafe sits under the shade of beautiful trees with Indian umbrellas and cushions and pink and green wicker chairs. It’s a perfect place from the bustle of the city.  Plus, it’s right across the street from Pensão Londres, which means I don’t have to walk far. 🙂

view from LOSTin
view from LOSTin
view from LOSTin
view from LOSTin

My dinner is Gratinado de Gorgonzola, which of course is accompanied by a glass of red wine; though it doesn’t look that enticing from the picture, I can guarantee it’s delicious.

Gratinado de Gorgonzola
Gratinado de Gorgonzola

I go back to my room, feeling like I definitely got the most out of my day.  I loved all the views of the beautiful old city of Lisbon, and its charming and labyrinthine neighborhood of Alfama.

lisbon: bairro alto to rossio to alfama

Monday, July 22:  This morning, I wake up with a full day in Lisbon ahead of me.  The hotel offers a lovely brunch, which I eat while working on my blog and checking emails.  Then I head down the streets of Bairro Alto until I come to the lovely fountain at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara.  This little park sits at the top of a hill offering beautiful views of Lisbon all the way to the Rio Tejo.  I pass the park any time I go out into Lisbon or return to my hotel.  So it becomes quite a familiar sight during my stay.

fountain at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
fountain at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara

Every time I get to the steep street of Calcada da Gloria, on which the Elevador da Gloria runs, the Elevador seems to be taking a long leisurely snooze.  It’s just sitting there waiting, I guess, until enough passengers decide to board, at which time it makes its way down the hill to Praca dos Restauradores.  I’m never patient enough to wait for it and decide to simply walk down the hill myself.  I guess if it was the other way around, and I had to walk UP every time, I’d wait for the Elevador no matter how long it took.  On the wall bordering the street, I’m always startled by this crazy street painting.

Street art on the street of Elevador da Gloria
Street art on the street of Elevador da Gloria

Today I plan to take the green (Castle) line on the Lisbon Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus, heading for Alfama.

The National Theatre D. Maria II, or Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, is a historical theater; it is one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues and is in Rossio square, in the center of the city.

Teatro Nacional D. Maria II
Teatro Nacional D. Maria II

In Rossio Square sits one of the most noticeable tourist landmarks, The Hard Rock Cafe.

Hard Rock Cafe
Hard Rock Cafe

On the bus ride up to Alfama, I admire Lisbon’s laundry, hung out on balconies to dry.

Laundry on Lisbon balconies
Laundry on Lisbon balconies
more laundry
more laundry

I also pass this Porto Wine sign, which reminds me of Jo in Tavira, known by the alias of restless jo.

Porto Wine
Porto Wine

Finally the bus drops us at Miradouro of Santa Luzia, where there is a beautiful panoramic view of Lisbon at the top of Alfama.

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the Castle of Lisbon and the Rio Tejo.  Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning fountains or baths. It includes the freguesias (parishes) of São Miguel, Santo Estêvão, São Vicente de Fora and part of two streets of Freguesia da Sé: Rua do Barão and Rua São João da Praça. It contains many important historical attractions, with many Fado bars and restaurants.

Overlooking the Alfama is the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, royal residence until the early 16th century and now offering the best views of the city. In the slopes of Alfama there are other terraces (miradouros) from which to see the city, like the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, near the church of the same name and over remnants of the Moorish city walls, and the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (Gates of the Sun) (Wikipedia: Alfama).

Portas Do Sol
Miradouro of Santa Luzia
Portas Do Sol
view of a cruise ship from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
Portas Do Sol
Miradouro of Santa Luzia panoramic view
Portas Do Sol
view from Miradouro of Santa Luzia
Portas Do Sol
Miradouro of Santa Luzia

When I finally tear myself away from the viewpoint, I start walking downhill without having any idea what I’m searching for.

streets of Alfama
streets of Alfama

At some point midway down the hill, I see a sign for Castle of São Jorge, and as I approach it, I find this warning about pickpockets.

Attention!  Pickpockets!
Attention! Pickpockets!
Alfama buildings
Alfama buildings
in Alfama
in Alfama
rooftops in Alfama
rooftops in Alfama
view of Lisbon from Portas Do Sol in Alfama
more views along the way
views near Castle of São Jorge
views near Castle of São Jorge

I then head into the Castle of São Jorge, where I see more amazing views of the red rooftops of Lisboa and the Tejo River.

 

first day in lisbon: lisbon sightseeing & belém

Sunday, July 21:  This Sunday morning, Cafe Piela’s in Sintra is as closed as it was Saturday afternoon.   I’m disappointed because I have been convinced, by a taxi-driver I spoke with outside of Quinta de Regaleira, to take a taxi door-to-door from Sintra to my hotel in Lisbon.  I don’t know how I will find such a taxi on this quiet Sunday morning without Manuel here to call someone.   I get ready in a leisurely fashion, packing up my bags and dragging my feet because, after all, my heart is firmly anchored here in Sintra.

I walk down Sintra’s pedestrian street in search of breakfast and, finding a bustling cafe, I order an omelet and coffee inside where it’s warm.  It’s quite chilly this morning, just as it was last night.  By the time I finish and return to Cafe Piela’s, at least Anna Maria, the lady in charge of the Hospederia, is there.  She doesn’t speak great English, but she understands enough to call Manuel on his day off and ask him if he knows a dependable and honest taxi driver.  He does and he arranges for the driver to meet me in front of Piela’s at 10:30.  Thank goodness for Manuel!

Manuel told me yesterday morning that it should cost me about 25 euros to take a taxi to Lisbon, so I get a little anxious as we are still on the highway when the meter passes the 25 euro mark.  It ends up costing me 35 euros, but at least I’m dropped right at the door of my hotel, Pensão Londres.

The Pensão Londres sits on one of the seven hills of Lisbon, more specifically on the seventh hill, in the famous Bairro Alto, an area of historical and architectural interest.  It’s surrounded by beautiful gardens, homey restaurants, markets and a vibrant nightlife.

I’m quite pleased with my room, with its warm colors, high ceilings and friendly staff.

my room at Pensão Londres
my room at Pensão Londres

After settling in a bit, I head out to explore Lisbon, making a stop at the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara for a panoramic view of Lisbon.  I’ve been so busy on my trip that I still haven’t even taken time to read the Lisbon guidebook, and I feel more than a little baffled by what I’m supposed to see here.  I really have no idea where to go or what to look for.  The only thing I’ve heard of is the hilly and atmospheric Alfama neighborhood, but I want to save that for a full day.  It’s noon by the time I arrive in Lisbon, so why venture there today when I have three full days ahead?

the view of Lisbon from the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
the view of Lisbon from the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara

Just past the Miradouro is a very steep street going down to Praca dos Restauradores and Rossio, where I’ve been told lies the Tourist Information Office. The vintage Elevador da Gloria sits patiently at the top, awaiting passengers.  I decide I don’t want to wait, so I just walk down the hill where I see some vivid street art on the walls.

street art on the street of Elevador de Gloria
street art on the street of Elevador de Gloria
street art in Lisbon
street art in Lisbon
more street art
more street art
Elevador da Gloria
Elevador da Gloria

The receptionist at Pensão Londres has drawn me a map to the Tourist Information Office, but I wander up and down the streets in Rossio, in just the spot where the map indicates, and there is no TI to be found.  In my wanderings, I pass many beckoning cafes and pop inside Igreja da Conceicao Velha to check out the church.  As it’s Sunday morning, a service is in progress, so I sit down in a back pew for a bit to observe.

restaurant in Lisbon
restaurant in Lisbon
Igreja da Conceicao Velha
Igreja da Conceicao Velha
inside Igreja da Conceicao Velha
inside Igreja da Conceicao Velha

When I finally find the Tourist Information Office, one street over from where my hand-drawn map has indicated, I decide I will buy the two-day pass on the Lisbon Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus.  There are three lines on this bus, and today I decide to take the red line, or the Belém line.  This is an hour and 50 minute line that goes along the coast of Lisbon. Belém translates as Bethlehem, but it’s really all about the nautical adventures and riches of the 15th and 16th centuries, when Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India started the age of empires (Lonely Planet Portugal).

The bus makes a stop at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, which houses the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia in its West Wing.  I decide not to hop off, figuring I can come back another day.  The monastery is one of the most prominent monuments of Manueline-style architecture (Portuguese late-Gothic) in Lisbon, classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém.  It turns out I never make it back here, but I figure I have seen so many monasteries, cathedrals and museums at this point, that missing one won’t kill me.

 Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery
 Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery

I do, however, hop off at the Tower of Belém, a fortified tower of the Portuguese Manueline-style built in the early 16th century.  It played a significant role in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.  The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Rio Tejo and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.  The structure was built from limestone and is composed of a bastion and a four-story tower (Wikipedia: Belém Tower).

Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Belém Tower

I climb a narrow spiral staircase up to the tower, where I can see the Rio Tejo, a marina, and the 25 de Abril Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting Lisbon to Almada on the south bank of the river. It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999. Because it is a suspension bridge and has similar coloring, it is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA (Wikipedia: 25 de Abril Bridge).

marina near Belém Tower
marina near Belém Tower
Bridge
25 de Abril Bridge

I hop back on the bus, where we pass by Campo Pequeno, Lisbon’s bullfighting ring, built between 1890 and 1892. The design was inspired by the bullring of Madrid, later demolished. The style is the neo-Mudejar, the Romantic style inspired by the old Arab architecture from Iberia.  After an extensive renovation, it re-opened as a multi-event venue in 2006, designed to be used for various events apart from bull-fighting. It hosts a range of live acts and has seen many famous bands perform there. It includes an underground shopping center, restaurants and a parking lot (Wikipedia: Campo Pequeno bullring).

Bullfighting ring
Bullfighting ring

I complete the entire loop of the red line, and end up back in Rossio, where I stop at an outdoor cafe for a beer and a snack.

streets of Lisbon
streets of Lisbon

I eat some steamed prawns but it isn’t quite enough.

steamed prawns
steamed prawns

So I order a bread and egg soup, which is quite bland and heavy.  I barely eat any of it because it’s simply not very good.

egg and bread soup
egg and bread soup

I climb back up the steep hill to Bairro Alto and return to Pensão Londres, where I relax for a while and work on my blog.  I stay in for quite a long time, and after dark, I head out to Tapas Bar 52, which is directly across the street from the hotel.

The bustling atmosphere in Tapas Bar 52 is accompanied by the Doors singing “Riders on the Storm.”  Photographs from Planet of the Apes, John Travolta doing his strut in Saturday Night Fever, Humphrey Bogart, and Citizen Kane crowd every inch of wall space.  One sign on the wall admonishes patrons to: “Eat Less, Lose Weight, Don’t Drink, Die Anyway.”

On my table is a basket of bread, a cheese spread and a plate of proscuitto.  I think how nice it is that the restaurant provides all this food before I even order.  As I nibble on these tasty appetizers, I drink a glass of red wine and then place an order for Tortilha asparagus and Andalus mussels.

Tortilha asparagus and Andalus mussels at Tapas Bar 52
Tortilha asparagus and Andalus mussels at Tapas Bar 52

A big-bellied glum-looking bald man wearing what looks like a black karate outfit with too-short pants struts around acting like he owns the place.  He is obviously the owner or the manager.  He gives off a tough-guy aura. I decide he doesn’t look like a very friendly sort.

In the meantime, two girls at an adjacent table are complaining that they’ve been waiting a long time for their food.  The waitress tells them that the restaurant is busy and they’ll get served when they get served.  These girls have been here longer than I have, and I’ve already eaten most of my meal.  The server’s attitude is insolent and downright rude.

When I get my bill, I’m shocked to discover it’s 27 euros.  Most of my meals in Spain and Portugal have been 10-15 euros, including a glass of wine.  When I look at the itemization on the bill, I find I have been charged for the bread, the cheese spread, and the proscuitto (5 euros for that alone), things I didn’t order but were on the table when I sat down.  I figured since I didn’t order them, they were free, much like bread or olives are free at many restaurants.  I don’t think it’s fair play to put food in front of you that you don’t order and then charge you for it!

Inside Tapas Bar 52
Inside Tapas Bar 52

When I go back to the hotel desk to pick up my key, I say to the receptionist, “I certainly don’t recommend that restaurant across the street, Tapas Bar 52.”  He tells me, “If you had asked me, I would have never recommended it either.  Try out Tapas Bar 28 next time.  You’ll love it!”  And then he proceeds to give me directions.

It’s the end of my first day in Lisbon, and I feel as lost as I did when I first arrived.  I miss Sintra and wish I had stayed there another day. 🙂