Lisbon is steep, cobbled streets, canary-yellow vintage trams and seemingly endless miradouros (viewpoints). Lisbon is pastéis de nata, leitão (suckling pig) sandwiches and bacalhau any which way you like it; a foodie’s dream. Lisbon quickly, effortlessly, captured my heart: it’s a city which oozes character and charm; a city which leisurely wandering is made for; a city which feels like a long-lost friend.
Keen to maximise our time in Lisbon, we hot-footed it to Porto’s Estação Ferroviária de Campanhã at an ungodly hour and caught an early train to Lisbon (€23,50 one-way; under 25s get 25% off – a discount worth asking for). From Estação Ferroviária de Santa Apolónia – Portugal’s oldest railway terminus, inaugurated in 1865 – we skirted Alfama and made our way towards Praça do Comércio. En route, the choux-filled window of L’éclair (Avenida Duque de Avila 44) caught our eye. We ummed and ahhed over which flavour to go for, eventually settling on the lemon meringue éclair topped with crunchy choux au craquelin. This is the stuff Roald Dahl coined the word scrumdiddlyumptious for.
We stopped awhile in Praça do Comércio to take in the impressive archway, colonnaded buildings and central statue, before pottering over to the riverside, where we spotted an artist balancing rocks one atop another and painting them to resemble people and animals.
Mercado da Ribeira, a little further along the riverfront, has done a roaring trade in fresh fruit, veg, fish and flowers for over a century. Today, half of it is home to Time Out Market – a gourmet food hall which brings together the city’s best eateries under one roof (their ethos is simple: “if it’s good, it goes in the magazine; if it’s great, it goes into the market”). Laurence had the first of many pastéis de nata at Manteigaria, washed down with a coffee. We then shared a suckling pig sandwich (or as they billed it, a piglet sandwich) from Leitão da Ribeira, and rounded off our lunch with three scoops of gelato from Santini. Time Out turned fifty this year, so in honour of the occasion, fifty covers were suspended from the ceiling.
Bellies full, we headed for the hills, meandering up and down the side streets of Santa Catarina and Bairro Alto in search of cityscapes. Miradouro de Santa Catarina was, unfortunately, fenced off for repairs, but the larger Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara afforded stunning views of Castelo de São Jorge on the other side of the city.
Picking our way back down through Chiado, we passed Convento do Carmo and the Museu Arqueológico en route to the iconic Elevador de Santa Justa. Look familiar? Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard was another of Gustave Eiffel’s apprentices, and this wrought-iron street lift gives a nod to Eiffel’s masterpiece. If you’d rather save your hard-earnt euros for more pastéis de nata, swap a ride up the lift (€5,15) for free access to the walkway via Largo do Carmo; from the walkway, you can pay €1,50 to climb the stairs to the very top.
After stopping off at a pasteleria for a maça folhada – essentially a stewed apple wrapped up in a pastry parcel and skewered with a cinnamon stick – we ventured over to Sé de Lisboa. Dating back to 1147, it stands on the site of a former mosque, and was built shortly after the Christians took the city back from the Moors. If you’re a stained glass fan like me, these windows won’t disappoint.
Our Airbnb was just a stone’s throw from Sé de Lisboa, in the heart of olde-worlde Alfama. We dropped our things off (a lighter pack equals a happier back!), and set off for Largo das Portas do Sol for a view over the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Just beneath the viewpoint, we paused to admire a mural which depicted the colourful history of Lisbon in cartoon form.
We rounded off the day with tea at A Licorista O Bacalhoeiro (Rua dos Sapateiros, 222-224), a quaint little spot which served up tasty, reasonably-priced grub. Laurence had the traditional grilled cod, while I opted for tuna steak (on the basis it’s hardly ever on the menus back home).