After Marrakesh, we jumped a plane and flew to Lisbon. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe.
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a beautiful coastal town with steep hillsides, magnificent plazas, tree lined streets and historic bright yellow electric street Trams. The oldest neighborhood in Lisbon is called Alfama, and it is filled with beautiful Moorish mosaic tiled buildings that have been continuously inhabited for hundreds of years.
We stayed at the Lisbon Destination Hostel, located on the top floor of the Rossio train station in downtown Lisbon, at Rossio Plaza. It has been voted one of the top hostels in the world each year since 2013. At only $23 per person/night, free breakfast, free city walks, pub crawls, and unbeatable location, it’s easy to understand why.
From the hostel you can see the Castelo de São Jorge, seated high above the city. Once you’ve climbed the medina-like winding streets to St. George’s Castle, you are rewarded with picture-perfect panorama views of terracotta rooftops below and the Tagus River. The restored Castelo de São Jorge fortress, parts of which date back from the 2nd century BC, has served Phoenicians, Greeks, Roman, Moorish and Muslim Berber groups.
The Torre de Belém, a four story fortified tower, was built in the 16th century. It served to protected the city from sea-side attacks and is now one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The line to the tower is long, but worth it.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a beautiful, awe-inspiring Manueline architecture monastery, dates back to 1496 and is constructed of gold colored limestone. It took 100 years to build. Many of the beautiful carvings are nautical themed. I could’ve stayed here all day.
Portugal is also known for its food. Notable Portugese foods that we tried included the smoked sardines (no extra charge for the attached head and scales, and no discount for cleaning your own fish), pastel de nata (delicious custard tarts) and Port wine, ridiculously potent and inexpensive wine (most love it; way too sweet for my taste).
We also had one culture-shock culinary experience, if you can call it that. An hour after arriving in Lisbon, after a busy day of air travel, Jeff and I went to a restaurant for dinner. We ordered off the menu and then the waitress brought us bread and butter, which we promptly dug into. She then brought us cheese, set it down and explained that it was delicious goat cheese.
After the meal was over, she brought us our bill, and we’d been charged for the bread, cheese, and one breadstick (around $10). It turns out, this is a thing in Portugal. As an American, I was, at first, outraged, and then realized this may be part of the reason I’m overweight… Moral of the story: kindly refuse the bread, etc, in Portugal if you don’t want to pay for it.
Lisbon was a beautiful city and I would love to visit again. Next time, I would be sure to visit the nearby Sintra Palace.
I hope you have a chance to experience Portugal during your travels!