Lisbon. A city of hills. Of tiled buildings. Vibrant colors. Where charm oozes from every corner as you amble along with laundry hanging from the balconies not caring if you get lost as you already lost track of time.
So, if you haven’t guessed, I became smitten with Lisbon. Shamefully, this city was never on my radar to visit but that also meant I had zero expectations. And what a city! I immediately regretted only having two full days to explore this city so I was determined to make the most of my time there as there is a lot of things to do in Lisbon.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the proper way to take in and appreciate the city is by walking. And that is the great thing about Lisbon – it is such a condensed city that you can get to anywhere in the from anywhere in the city center in no time at all by walking. And this way, you don’t miss out on all the fun colors, tiles, and atmosphere of the city.
Praça do Comércio
My first stop was the Praça do Comércio, a large plaza considered to be the heart of the city. I love walking through a city in the quiet morning hours witnessing a place come to life. Lisbon was no exception. As I strolled down the Rua Augusta, restaurant staff were starting to sweep and set tables while garbage trucks rolled past. I arrived at the Praça just past sunrise in time to see the plaza in the muted morning colors. The surrounding architecture helps make this plaza so spectacular.
After picking up my metro day pass, it was onto the #15 tram heading for the Belem district of Lisbon. After a 25-minute ride, I got off and walked along the Tagus River to the Belem Tower. Such a gorgeous, captivating building! I timed my arrival before opening so I had time to take photos before the crowds appeared. Even still, the entry queue starts early. Though the views aren’t incredible from the tower, going inside allows you to closely inspect the artistry of the building itself, which was well worth the price of admission alone.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Next, it was off to the nearby Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. I’ve seen a lot of cathedral’s in my day, but I would be hard pressed to name a few that are as impressive as this cathedral. It is a place that wows as soon as you enter and keeps you staggered until you depart without being over-the-top or ornate. Taking a seat, I allowed myself the time to marvel at the sculpted pillars and fan ceiling. And just when you think nothing could top the inside of the cathedral, a visit to the cloisters will have you arguing all day which was more breathtaking.
Castelo de Sao Jorges
Arriving back at the Praça, it was a short stroll up hill to the Castelo de Sao Jorges, which dominates the skyline sitting atop the tallest hill. Though it was a 10-minute wait before purchasing my entry ticket to the Castle, it was completely worth it. Upon entering, I was greeted by some of the best views of Lisbon. From the ramparts, all of the city is at your feet. It was another perfect place to take a seat. Lisbon is not a city of hustle nor bustle and is best explored leisurely.
Afterwards, I spent nearly two hours wandering around the many narrow, winding streets in the surrounding area. This is where I developed my obsession with the tiles of Lisbon. Wandering around aimlessly without caring where I ended up left me going down narrow streets of buildings decorated in tiles. Where balconies shrouded in hanging laundry was a common sight. It was perfection.
Santa Justa Lift & Convento do Carmo
Since there was some daylight left, I decided to visit Convento do Carmo, the remains of a convent that was destroyed by a 1755 earthquake. It is a short, steep climb to get to the entrance. But before popping in, I made a side trip to the Santa Justa lift. Designed in the style of Gustav Eiffel, the elevator is gorgeous to look at. And, by visiting at the top, I didn’t have to pay admission, as the walkway to the entrance gate offers its own amazing views of Lisbon.
Entering Convento do Carmo afforded another wow moment. Words cannot do the beauty of these ruins justice. Walking down the apse of a church with the open sky overhead felt a little surreal. And I was there at the perfect time – just as dusk was setting over. Again, I just took a seat watching the sky turn colors. At the back of the naïve is a small but impressive archeological museum of artifacts of the highest quality from around the world and from different time periods.
It didn’t take long for Lisbon to win me over. It’s a beautiful city with a beating pulse. Lisbon invites you to get lost to see what you find from amazing building facades to the stunning miradors that are all over the city. My two days there was not enough time, but I know I’ll be back.