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2 days in Lisbon – Part 2

Our second day is Lisbon was the most wonderful – touristy but still worth remembering – single day spent in a European city (which is saying a lot, as our travel style is usually laid-back as opposed to go-go-go). This is because on day 2, we discovered Belem! Belem is a specific area of Lisbon, not terribly far from the main squares, and we took public transport (bus in this case) to get there. Belem is a popular tourist destination because of more than a few historic gems in very close proximity.

Street art that we encountered on our way to Belem

Street art that we encountered on our way to Belem

 

Our first stop was this iconic cafe called Pasteis de Belem. Both Sachin, my husband, and I has received recommendations from separate people back at home to visit this cafe. And the dish to have in Pasteis de Belem is their one-of-a-kind Portugese pastries which is like a rich crusted custard. Do not be deterred by the crowds on the outside, we were told by our “recommenders”, the cafe has plenty of seating inside. And this turned out to be quite true. The cafe justifiably was crowded, but we were seated immediately. Pasteis de Belem is a must visit for its very Portuguese feel of lovely blue and white tiles, and of course the pastries.

Sachin outside Pasteis de Belem

Sachin outside Pasteis de Belem

 

More from inside the cafe.

More from inside the cafe.

 

Then, unto the next stop, the vision that had attracted me to Belem in the first place – Torre de Belem. Torre De Belem is the glorious white castle like structure right on the River Tagus (Rio Tejo). After taking its glorious Portuguese-gothic style architecture from a distance, we paid for the tickets to take the few stairs to the 2 different terraces, and fully soaked in the April afternoon. The Tower along with the nearby Jeronimos Monastery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), Lisbon

Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), Lisbon

The turrets, the statues and the laced stonework of the limestone Tower.

The turrets, the statues and the laced stonework of the limestone Tower.

Looking down from the upper terrace unto the lower terrace and the River Tagus

Looking down from the upper terrace unto the lower terrace and the River Tagus

 

After taking countless pictures of and selfies with the Torre de Belem, we finally pulled ourselves away and walked over to the Monument to the Discoveries. The Monument, which has 33 statues etched in it, is dedicated to Portugese explorers and discoverers, including Vasco Da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, who put Portugal on the map as a maritime power to be reckoned with. At the Monument, you can pay a minimal amount and take the elevator to reach the top observation deck (which we certainly did, because, after all, there was an elevator!). While we did not go inside, we admired from outside the Jeronimos Monastery, built in limestone and similar architectural style as the Torre de Belem.

The Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

The Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

The Jeronimos Monastry, Lisbon

The Jeronimos Monastry, Lisbon

 

It was late afternoon by this time, but still we wanted to make the most of our last day in Lisbon. So, we bid farewell to Belem, and hopped on the bus to the Lisbon Aquarium. The highlight for us was the part where you are walking on a transparent floors in a room with transparent walls, and you see giant turtles swimming under you feet and beside you. In another enclosure, you can see penguins frolicking about, another big hit with us! We also caught glimpse of the Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe.

Turtles beneath us at the Lisbon Aquarium

Turtles beneath us at the Lisbon Aquarium

Happy feet at the Acquarium

Happy feet at the Acquarium

The Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, from a distance

The Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, from a distance

 

It was late evening when we headed back to Lisbon’s historic city center. As we were roaming in the squares, catching the last glimpses of the walls of the Lisbon Castle from below, we saw a big queue outside a shop that appeared to be giving away free samples of a home-grown liquor. The liquor turned out to be a sweet cherry brandy called “ginha”, and while the shots were not free, they cost a very nominal amount and the shop was A Ginjinha, also quite famous. We patiently waited in line and happily drank the offered drink, toasting to the two wonderful days spent in this beautiful, elegant and sunny city!

 

Final evening in Lisboa

Final evening in Lisboa

A last glimpse of the Lisbon Castle

A last glimpse of the Lisbon Castle

The Santa Justa lift, lit up in the evening

The Santa Justa lift, lit up in the evening

 

Stopping for a shot of cherry brandy at A Ginjinha

Stopping for a shot of cherry brandy at A Ginjinha

 

For more on Lisbon, click here: 2 days in Lisbon – Part 1.

 

2 days in Lisbon – Part 1

Lisbon immediately captivated us with its understated, unpretentious charm. It perhaps does not equal Paris in glamour or Rome in grandeur, but Lisbon with its glorious architecture and historic squares, packs its own distinctive flavor and evokes the bygone era where it was the capital of a formidable imperial power.

We reached here from London only in the afternoon, thanks to a delayed flight, and our Day 1 in Lisboa unfolded as follows:

1) Lisbon Castle

A cab took us from our hotel right to the gate of the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The Castle sits on a hilltop, and its fortifications, decorated with canons, offer impressive views of the city, its red terra-cotta topped buildings and the Tagus river. The Castle has been the seat of various rulers over the course of its tumultuous history, but one fascinating detail is that Vasco da Gama, the famous explorer, was  welcomed here upon his return after discovering India (my home country, of course!).  In the present day, you can find yourself in the company of a number of peacocks! These beautifully plumed birds are shy but not camera-shy, and we were able to get some good pictures. The best time to go is in the afternoon. This will give you enough time to amble along the corridors and courtyards, and then catch the sun settling beyond the rooftops and into the river.

View of Praca Do Comercio (Commerce Square) from the Castle.

View of Praca Do Comercio (Commerce Square) from the Castle.

Catching the sun setting over Lisbon from the corridors and towers of Lisbon

Catching the sun setting over Lisbon from the corridors and towers of the Castle.

The beauty of Lisbon is clearly visible from the Castle

The towers of the Sao Vicente de Fora monastery are visible from the Castle.

You cannot miss the peacocks during your visit.

You cannot miss the peacocks during your visit.

2) Miradouro and the Lisbon Cathedral:

After watching the sun set over Lisboa from the Castelo de Sao Jorge, we walked down the narrow alleyways of the historic Alfama district. Lisbon has some celebrated lookout points, called Miradouros. We stopped at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and were rewarded with a view that captured for us the essence of Lisbon.

The dome in the picture belongs to the Santa Engarcia Church (or the National Pantheon)

We continued our descent and stopped at the  twin turrets of the Lisbon Cathedral. From its outside facade, the Cathedral looked like a fortress. However, when we made our way inside, we were greeted by beautiful gothic vaulted ceilings and grand frescoes. We were also lucky to witness a solemn holy ceremony being conducted by white-robed priests.

The lighted Lisbon Cathedral

The lighted Lisbon Cathedral

The sumptuous inside of the Cathedral

The sumptuous inside of the Cathedral

3) Sheraton Lisboa’s rooftop lounge:

We ended the night with cocktails in the Sheraton Lisboa’s Panorama restaurant, the restaurant/bar with the highest elevation in the city. From our vantage point, we could see the lighted 25 de Abril bridge, its name commemorating the date of a historic revolution. Also overlooking the city from across the River Tagus was the shining Christo Rei statue (which bears a resemblance to the statue of the Christo Redentor in Rio-de-Janeiro).

View from Lisbon's most elevated restaurant

View from Lisbon’s most elevated restaurant

After an inspiring first day, we could not wait to unearth more of Lisbon’s treasures the next day, but more on that later.

The adventures of our second day in Lisbon are captured here  – 2 days in Lisbon – Part 2

Have you visited Lisbon? What are your favorite Lisbon moments?

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