My first train trip was from Porto to Lisbon, and having the Eurail global pass made everything way easier than if I didn’t. You can find more info on the pass on our post regarding Eurail, follow link here. Lisbon is about three hours away from Porto via train and it is a very popular route so there are several train times to fit your schedule I can assure you. If you can, I highly recommend checking out Porto, in the north of Portugal, it is similar to Lisbon but it has far more history than the other cities I visit. I think culturally and architecturally it is far richer. You can check out our post on Porto and Portugal by following the links, which will give you info on things to do, where to eat and stay and some tips to know before you travel.
If you have never been to Portugal, you will be in awe as soon as you set foot off the train, the station itself is an incredible building full of art and unique painted mosaic on the walls and floors. Depending on where you are staying, you can take the bus, the metro or even walk to your destination. The first thing I always check out when arriving into a new city is my sleeping situation and I usually like to stay in the center of the city, it might be a bit more expensive, but you are close it all and at the end of the day it makes it easier and cheaper to navigate if you are already in the area. Specially since I am traveling solo, I feel a lot safer knowing I do not need to walk very long distances by myself but worry not! I found Portugal to be very safe and the people here are very nice and approachable in case you need help.
To head out to center of the city, get on the metro and get down on the first station from any line, Baixa-Chiado, and from there walk across the plaza you have to your right an up the main street, the one on the right side, next to the bank. On the way up you will know you are heading the right way if you see a taxi cab sticking out of a building. At the tram station you are already in the center of the city but through this way up you will find several hostels and hotels. If you are not staying near this street Rua di Loreto, I still recommend walking up to find that halfway up, there is a lookout, “Miraduoro de Santa Catarina” ,that is very characteristic of Lisbon. And right across the street, a few shops up you will find the cutest restaurant ever; soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, coffee, desert . Plus the staff is very nice and will surely make you laugh at some point, they really do make you feel at home, plus you have their two dogs to greet you up on the balcony that sees down to the restaurant, I thought it was the cutest thing!! After stopping or dining here, if you cross the street and head down on Rua Marechal Saldanha, walk all the way to the end and you would have arrived to Miraduoro de Santa Catarina, in my opinion, is where you get the best view of the city by the river.
At the far right, down the hill you will see a big yellow house, this is a hostel, Oasis Backpackers Hostel. I decided to stay here after reading several reviews but have to say that if I hadn’t made any friends here I would’ve regretted staying here. The hostel was nice, don’t get me wrong, but so far I have been extremely spoiled at my previous hostel stays and have gotten excellent customer service and amazing installations, I have been feeling at hotels not hostels. But this for sure was more of a hostel. At my previous stays the staff has gone above and beyond about not only my experience at the hostel but my experience in the city in general and have given me excellent recommendations on things to check out and places to eat. Here, well, they didn’t even have maps available, only a very low quality photocopy that you couldn’t even read and so far Lisbon for me has been the hardest to navigate so that didn’t really help.
In regards to the installations, the rooms are very very cold and there is no heating system or heaters in the rooms plus you only get one blanket and if you ask for another one they might or might no have more. In my case it was the latter and in order not to freeze to death at night had to sleep with several clothing layers. My first impression was not so good, the guy that works there that was helping me out, was really cool though and super helpful but there was a problem with the safe in my room.I was sent back and forth into my room to fix it myself, which was two stories up by the way, to try on several keys that would work. After several attempts on my own none of the six lockers worked and even after the staff came up they were not able to fix them, or maybe never tried. I was told they would fix the safe for me to use the next day but guess what, nothing. They were willing to lock it up for me in the office locker but still, it would have been easier if i had access to my stuff anytime I wanted. The rooms were great, no problem at all except for the showers which were quite dirty and deteriorated. I know, it’s a hostel what did I expect, but truly the other hostels I have stayed had cleaner and newer showers and were cheaper so if i had to recommend a hostel I would tell you to check another one out. I do not regret staying here though because I made some pretty cool friends and we would hang out all the time so, I guess the freezing at night was worth it.
So finally, after l was all checked in, I headed out to explore and started out with some food and that place I just old you, Flower Power Food, the server recommended the Bacalao,and it was amazing! Make sure to at least get some coffee here to enjoy the unique decor. I then walked down the hill to get to one of the main plazas . From there I headed out to Convento do Carmo, this used to be a convent in the gothic architecture that was ruined in the 1800s earthquake, but the structure has remained and the remains are worth the visit. Check out the picture below. From the outside you can’t really see the structure so don’t expect to find it that way, the entrance will say Arqueological Museum of Carmo. As you walk out, to your left here is a little pathway with a metal gate, head through the gate and thought the bridge and you have reached Santa Just a lift, an elevator that connects the upper barrio or “Barrio Alto” with Plaza do Carmo. The cool thing about this is to hang out for a bit at the top, at the terrace to get amazing views of the city and the ocean. Then you can come down and walk straight out through Plaza do Carmo. A huge street that flows all the way down, full of stores and coffee shops.
Head down and keep walking all the way down in search of the beach, you have to check out the plaza that ends by the ocean, Praca do Comercio, where Lisbon’s unique Arch stands, Arco de Rua Augusta, it is one of the main plazas being that all the cruise ships stop at this pier in between connections with other destinations. Grab a cup of coffee and sit at the stairs where two pillars stand, the pillars at the end of the plaza sitting in the water. When The Portuguese Empire was at its peak, the ships would harness their ropes on these pillars to unload all sort of exotique supplies; coffee,spices, gold, etc. To get a relaxing end of your day, finish up with the beautiful sunset. You keep walking towards your right along the water and boardwalk and you will bump into the tram station that will take you back to Baixa-Chiado, back to the top and center of the city. You can walk back up but I am sure it will be exhausting being that it is all uphill.
In Portugal, there’s this thing called Fado… I hadn’t even heard of it until i read it on a book somewhere, but I knew I had to experience it. Fado is, how can I put it, Fado is Fado! It’s a type of music, sung a capella with a very melancholic-dramatic tone, accompanied by guitars. There are several bars that host Fado across town, especiall in the Barrio Alto. I got to check out a more improvised type of Fado and not so much as a performance. This is small bar, seriously, a whole in the wall, and there are at least one or two “scheduled” volunteers but the rest is up to whomever has the guts to get up and sing. You’ll have an awesome time.
I was only in Lisbon for two days so my activities where very limited, but all in all I think I got a pretty good taste of the Lisbon life. If you can stay a bit longer, do it! I am sure there’s a lot more to do. Especially if you can head out to the close towns, like Sintra, which is forty minutes out of the city via the tram. You can follow link to our post on what to do in Sintra here. You can also take the train up to Porto or down to Faro, check out links on the blog as well .