Exploring the heritage and history of Lisbon on a walk through the downtown Lisbon had ensorcelled us to an extent that we were left with an urge for more. Lisbon offers its visitors with a myriad of sights from old quarters in Alfama to the largest indoor aquarium. On the second day in Lisbon, we were all set to explore this wonderful melange of old and the new from Alfama to Tagus riverfront in Belem.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Due to narrow streets and limited public transport, the best way to see the old district of Alfama is on foot. The Moorish castle perched atop the hill along with its ramparts offers extraordinary views over the city and Tagus River.
One can easily descend down from the castle hill to the downtown Lisbon through a set of free elevators on the seventh floor of a building in Rua da Vitória which also has a stunning viewpoint to the red roofs of the city right next to a restaurant with a supermarket on the lower floor.
Lisbon Cathedral or Se Cathedral
Just a ten min walk from the elevator building through the maze of cobblestone streets is the oldest cathedral of Lisbon known as the Se Cathedral. The Cathedral with imposing twin bell towers looks more like a fortress. The fortress look is due to the fact that during the Reconquista period, the cathedral could be used as a base to attack the enemy. It has beautiful ornate interior and stained glass windows.
The Lisbon Cathedral falls on the route of the famed Tram 28. Due to the undulating routes and steep alleys, only the vintage trams can run on these tracks. Trams with their traditional charms operate as a Hop-on and hop-off service with a 24-hour ticket. It passes through some of the popular sights in Lisbon including the Castle, Alfama, and Bairro Alto. A ride on the number 28 tram is a highlight of any trip to Lisbon, which is not to be missed.
A poster of Bollywood favorite Priyanka for Quantico TV Series ad on one of the tram came as a great surprise.
We stopped by a restaurant to taste the Lisbon special ‘Pasteis de Nata’ little custard-filled tarts along with the dark espresso the best way to start your day in Lisbon.
We hopped on into city sightseeing tour bus for next part of our tour that was along the blue stretches of Tagus River in Belem. Several hop on and hop off buses offer different routes covering major attractions. One can plan out the sightseeing of Lisbon with the combination of different routes as the ticket on bus mostly valid for 48 hrs. can be used on any of the routes.
Belem region is of historical importance for Portugal as many explorers and discoverers embarked onto their journey from here. Belem Tower was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor.
The entrance of tower leads one into a bulwark with vaulted ceilings, which houses the 17 artillery cannons.
The room with a low roof below the bulwark acted as the old prison and dungeon. The top floors have beautiful carvings and offer visitors with wonderful views over the river.
The riverfront offers remarkable views of the vivid orange-red colored arched ’25th of April’ bridge inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the striking silhouette of ‘Christ the King’ monument standing tall on the other bank of Tagus river.
Discoveries Monument or Padrao dos Descobrimentos
We walked along the riverfront to the next emblematic monument – Discoveries Monument. Discoveries Monument represents a ship with gigantic sculptures of notable Portuguese explorers following Prince Henry the Navigator. Inside are a temporary exhibition and an elevator that takes visitors to the top for some bird’s eye views of the riverfront and surrounding monuments.
Jeronimos Monastery was just across the street and reached via an underpass. The monastery was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s epic 1498 voyage to India and houses the tomb of many great figures together with Vasco da Gama. The tranquil ambiance amidst the exuberantly decorated doors, church interiors and stone carving of the cloister are a remarkable piece of architecture.
Also worth visiting in Belem region are the exhibitions in Belem Cultural Centre, history of sea exploration in the Maritime Museum, the Royal coaches in Coach Museum and the palaces of Belem and Ajuda.
If you are a history buff do not miss a visit to the Convento de Cristo in Tomar city of Portugal.
We boarded the tour bus from the Jeronimos Monastery to the last attraction on our Lisbon must-see list – the enticing ‘The Oceanarium”. Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe with a large collection of marine species. We had some light snacks in a restaurant alongside the entrance of the Oceanarium before starting our tour through the amazing nature.
Check out our post for more pictures from a visit to the Lisbon Aquarium.
Enraptured by our visit to the incredible Marine life we left for our apartment. Nearest metro to Oceanarium is Oriente Station which is a spectacular modern station lit with golden lights.
Vasco da Gama Tower and Vasco da Gama Bridge
Other attractions in the area are the Vasco da Gama Tower – The city’s tallest building with a panoramic viewing platform and Vasco da Gama Bridge – One of the world’s longest bridges.
Alfama – Lisbon Old Districts
To get the authentic feel of the Lisbon we had booked an apartment in Alfama. Alfama is the oldest and the most charming locality to wander around the labyrinth of narrow alleys and typical choc a bloc houses. With an abundance of Fado restaurants, one is sure to fall asleep listening to a background of Fado melancholy music being played until late night.
We ended our day at a seafood special restaurant savoring on the delicious menu. Many tourists and locals alike were lip-syncing with the singer enjoying the music and the Fado experience. When visiting Lisbon, spending an evening at a Fado restaurant accompanied by delectable seafood is an essential authentic experience.
Lisbon also offers great day trips so if you have more time in Lisbon do plan a day trip to the prismatic town of Sintra, the beautiful Porto city or the Algarve which some of the beautiful beaches, caves and rock formations.
Have you visited the Lisbon monuments along the Tagus Riverfront or the Oceanarium? Do share with us your experience in comments.
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