Lisbon castle and other sights (Sept 2014)
Every princess needs a castle, right? Sometimes my mum calls me principessa which is Italian for princess :). So, if there’s a castle around I just have to check it out. My husband and I reached São Jorge Castle by tram number 12. To our joy it was an old, rickety, wooden tram and the ride resembled a ride in an amusement park. Perfect! I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. At some point if you put your hand out of the window you could touch the walls of the houses on the street. The tram had to navigate narrow streets and steep hills before it let us out near Largo das portas do Sol-a beautiful viewpoint. So, we took in the view of Lisbon and proceeded on foot to the castle. It’s a pity that we didn’t have enough time to explore more Alfama neighbourhood but I had a lot planned for that day and we had to move on. We got discount for the castle ticket because of our Lisbon card which also gave us free crazy tram rides 🙂 . In my opinion the best views of the city are from the castle’s observation terrace and the castle walls. Just look at the photos. Amazing, right?
When I wanted to go to the loo I stumbled upon peacocks strutting their stuff in front of the loo. Afterwards we visited the small archaeological museum and then got in the castle. The castle dates from medieval times and it was once a Moorish citadel. The king Alfonso Henriques recaptured Lisbon from the Moors in 12th century and transformed their previous residence into a castle fit for Portuguese kings. There were falcons and owls and other birds in the courtyard for tourists to take photos with them. You can walk all around the castle walls and towers. I was a bit tired already of steep steps and I chose the wrong footwear (cute flats not sturdy sandals for cobbled streets and high steps). But my husband climbed up & down everywhere. I tossed a coin in a wishing well ( I still didn’t get my wish 😦 ).
We found a Camera Obscura as well and waited a bit for another tour in English. It was worth the wait. We saw 360° view of Lisbon in real time. Have you ever been to one? I don’t know why we didn’t do Camera Obscura in Edinburgh. That one is the oldest in the world. There are no state rooms and treasury in this castle but it’s interesting enough. There’s a small archaeological site on the castle grounds that can also be visited. It was a very hot day and we had water& snacks with us but I was getting so thirsty that I soon lost interest in the excavations which would otherwise interest me greatly. After all, I do have a degree in History.
So, we walked back to the tram stop and hopped on another old tram back to the center. Now, we needed to get to the National Tile museum with another tram but we had problems with finding the right tram stop. I looked and looked around and then I descended into metro station and asked the guard for the directions. According to the map in my guidebook it was also possible to reach the museum by metro and then you would have to walk for a bit. He was confused and wasn’t much of a help. Then I asked a policeman but he gave me the wrong directions. Finally, we found the right tram stop but there was a very long queue already. The tram 28 arrived and soon filled with people so we had to wait for another one. There was a man sitting in a auto rickshaw or tuk-tuk and I had a brilliant idea. Why don’t we go to the museum by a tuk-tuk? We asked for the price and did it! It cost us 15 euros I think but it was such a fun ride and we got to see more of Lisbon.
He dropped us off right in front of the National Tile Museum where we had free entrance because of our Lisbon card. The museum is situated in an old monastery from the 16th century. Why a tile museum you ask? Well, tiles or azulejo are everywhere in Portugal; they’re on the interior and exterior of houses, churches, palaces, bars, restaurants and even in the underground. You can say that tiles are a symbol of Portugal. It was an interesting museum. It showcases tiles form different periods in history from their introduction by the Moors through Spanish influence and the development of Portugal’s own style. There’s even a tile workshop for restorations. And a baroque church. Anyway, after seeing all the exhibits we had a drink in the lovely museum’s beer garden. There were even turtles!! I had ginger ale while my husband had beer. I don’t drink beer at all but that didn’t stop me to visit the Beer Museum but more on that in my next post.
We had to go back to the center and fortunately there was a bus stop near the museum but we got on the wrong bus. When I realized that I wanted to get off on the next stop but my husband suggested we ask the driver for directions. He helped us a lot. He told us not to get off just yet and explained us where to get the right bus. Thus after a tram and a rickshaw (and metro) we also tried out Lisbon buses.
We got off at the magnificent square Praça do Comércio and hurried to the Elevador de Santa Justa. That’s something very special. It’s a Neo-Gothic wrought iron lift made by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel. Yes, by the man who built the iconic Eiffel tower in Paris. This lift provided connection between the Baixa and the Bairro Alto, 32 m above. Once again we got a free ride. There are steps too that connect the two Lisbon’s neigbourhoods so you don’t have to pay for the lift if you don’t want to. Of course, there’s a stunning view from the platform at the top. Right next to it are the ruins of the church Igreja do Carmo. We didn’t take the lift down but walked on to see a bit of Bairro Alto. We came to another gorgeous viewpoint Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara. I’m sorry for all the superlatives in this post but they are not a cliche! Lisbon is really remarkable. Because we were now in the upper part of the city we needed to go down obviously so we took a funicular that brought us back to the Restauradores square.
Instead of going back to the hotel for a rest we decided to have dinner first and then try again to get on the legendary tram 28. That tram does a circular route around the town almost like it’s a tourist ride but it’s not. After our plentiful and delicious but cheap dinner (it still amazes me how restaurants in Lisbon are so cheap!) we finally managed to get on the tram 28. It took us back to the castle and we also passed by the cathedral. It drove us around Bairro Alto as well and around some other new parts of Lisbon too. It was a night ride and it was very romantic. At one point the driver said it’s the last stop, everybody get out. I was confused because I knew it was a circular ride and that it needed to take us back to our first stop. But we all got off and then I saw that the tram just moved a few meters ahead and stopped at another stop. So, we went there and got on the tram again and returned to our first stop but some other people didn’t know about that and were left at the tram stop. At some point when we were getting back to the center one guy jumped on the tram and held himself on the doors outside the tram. At the stop he would come off, as soon as the tram started moving again he’d jump back on and stood there. I guess he didn’t want to pay for the ticket!! But that was very dangerous since there’s barely space between the tram and the houses and the cars in the streets!
All in all, we had another great day in Lisbon.
Have you ever been to Lisbon? What’s your impression of this city? Have you read my previous posts on Lisbon?
Ps. I’ll be writing soon about our day trips to Sintra and Evora so stay tuned for more Portuguese posts!
This post is also available for offline reading and free download as a travel article app. If you choose to upgrade (to get GPS navigation) I’ll receive a small commission. Thank You! To get the app click here.