I knew from the second that I sat down on the top deck of the bus, that it was a mistake. I am not a tour person, and I often look at the tourists on the buses, and laugh, thinking – you’ve wasted your money there love.
However, I found myself on one – and why? Because, truth be told – sometimes I am not the savvy traveller that I make myself out to be.
After planning in fine detail our first half of our Portugal trip in Porto, I had done no research on what to see in Lisbon. We had arrived into the city by the late afternoon, the previous day, and I had wanted to find the nearest Irish bar, so I could watch a crucial rugby match of Ireland v France.
My sister and I had briefly looked at a map, and noticed that there were many amazing places to see in Lisbon itself, but thought we couldn’t see them all in day, and didn’t want to fight with public transport, although in hindsight this wouldn’t have been too difficult.
I could have easily taken a unique tour, via tuk-tuk, bicycle, or even a free walking tour, but I didn’t. I sat on top of the bus, which as it moved off – the wind blew my map to pieces, I could barely see, with my hair in my face, and despite having a pair of cheap headphones handed to me to listen to the history of the city, they didn’t actually work.
Then it rained.
I seriously felt like Mr Bean on holiday – it was a bit of a disaster.
The rain intermittently came and went that day, but my mood and regret for what a silly tourist I had been remained the same. This of course wasn’t the first time. I had previously got on a hop on hop off bus in Vienna, having not read when the last bus was, I had paid, along with my sister 15 Euro, to go one stop up the road.
What we saw from our bus tour in Lisbon
We decided to sit on the bus to one of the stops towards the end, as we had wanted to get that far. This stop would have cost us nothing, as we had already purchased metro cards with enough value in them for our two days in the city, and would have taken the same amount of time.
The Belem Tower is a fortified tower at the mouth of the Tagus River, which was built as a defence system. It is a beautiful castle-like building, and you can tour this, and is open 10am to 5.30 in winter (October-May), and to 6.30pm in Summer (May to September). However, when we visited, on a Monday at 11am, it was padlocked up and no-one was around. Not long after this photo was taken, the heavens opened and we retreated to the nearest cafe to shelter.
To get here, it’ll take you 1 hour via public transport, or if you wanted to go direct – 20 minutes in a taxi.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is otherwise known as the monument of discoveries. It sits alongside the Tagus River, where ships used to depart to explore India to trade. It is not far away from the Belem Tower – about a 10-minute walk.
The Jerónimos Monastery is not far from the Belem Tower; just across the road, in fact. It is a monastery built in the 1500’s and a UNESCO heritage site. The building is incredible and has a gothic style architecture. Unfortunately we did not get to see inside or around it, as it is closed on Monday’s.
Praça do Município (City Hall Square)
The Praça do Município is a small and peaceful little square, not far from the waterfront. The city hall building is a beautiful neoclassical building with a number of columns and sculptures. I particularly loved the twisted sculpture with the Globe/ sphere directly in front of it.
If you happen to be in the city on a Sunday, you can get a free guided tour of the inside.
Rua Augusta Arch
Right on the main street, and set on the cobbled streets, with delightfully colorfully buildings surrounding it is the Rua Augusta Arch. Its construction was completed in 1873 to commemorate the 1755 earthquake. The Portuguese coat of arms is on one side, and a clock on the other.The structure itself is an attraction, and you can climb to the top for just 3 Euros, 50. It is advertised as the most beautiful sunset spot in the city.
São Jorge Castle
I love my Castles, so I was delighted to hear that Lisbon had one, but it was a bit of an uphill trek to get there – 20 minutes or so from the Praça do Município. Our tour bus didn’t take us there, but some do. We walked.
The Castle dates back to the medieval times and is an incredible structure with brilliant views over the city. For 8.50 Euro for adults or 5 Euros (students), you can get an entry into this Castle.
The trams of Lisbon
The tram is a huge part of the Lisbon transport network, and are included in the metro card. We took a short, and very rammed tram journey around the city, at rush hour. A great experience, and good to observe local life, and go through quaint cobbled streets.
Italian in Portugal
One thing I noticed during my time in Portugal, was that it had a large amount of Italian eateries. I am unsure if this was something that I noticed in the more touristy areas, but they seemed to be everywhere.
We managed to eat some tasty Portuguese pastries, but as for Portuguese cuisine – that was as far as it stretched.
During my trip, I had standard European food, Italian, and Mexican food.
If you are looking for a great Italian restaurant – I can highly recommend Pizzeria Lisboa near Baxia Chaio station. It is down a quaint cobbled street, where the tram runs through. It is dimly lit, and it serves incredible pizza and sangria.
If you are looking for dessert – check out Amoriro gelatary nearby, for incredible waffles, crepes or ice cream.
Other places to see in Lisbon
On our last day, we briefly got to see the Santa Cruz lift – an iron lift and bridge, in the middle of a cobbled street, with great views of Rossio Square and the Castle.
If you are ever in Lisbon – plan it well and make use of the efficient metro system. You’ll get to know the city a lot more this way.