Lisbon – Sights and Foods

Morning started with a first bite of Pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart) in the luxurious ballroom with hanging chandeliers. Breakfast was included with our rate which was the norm for many Portuguese hotels so it was great because I always think breakfast is the biggest headache meal of the day – limited places that are open that early in the morning (before 8 am)! The Portuguese tart was crispy and sweet; Portuguese dessert generally are too sweet for my taste bud! The hotel also offer hot items so I can be filled till a late lunch. The waiter came over and asked if we would like coffee or tea, we picked tea and he came with a pot of tea and warmed milk…we made milk tea 🙂

Felt like a royal having breakfast!

After breakfast, we walked to Rossio metro station (not the train station) to purchase the Viva Viagem card for €0.50 and loaded it with the 24 hours travel pass for €6.00. Viva Viagem is similar to Oyster Card in London but not as smart because the Oyster Card charges per trip and capped at certain amount so you don’t need to do the math in advanced rather to pay per trip or buy a 24 hours unlimited travel pass. Thus with Viva Viagem, you need to do the math ahead and you can load the card with money to pay as you go (cost less per trip than pay with cash) or load with a 24 hours unlimited travel pass, it can’t do both! Therefore, you need to wait till 24 hours (24 hours from first use, not per day till 12:00 am) expires before you can load another 24 hours or extra money to pay as you go. In addition, it’s not flexible that you can add whatever amount you want, you can only load in either €3, €5, €10, increments of €5 till €40…..so I’ll leave you to do the math. I bought the 24 hours travel pass since I am sure we’ll do more than 5 trips today! One more thing…I was trying to pay with my credit card with chip embedded and have already set a 4 digit pin, the machine won’t take it GRRR. I tried a few times and ended with to have to pay in cash (drained my cash reserve more)!

We walked over to Praça Figueira to catch the tram 15E (thinking all “E” tram are the historic ones) to the famous Jerónimos Monastery. The journey takes around 30 minutes and the monastery opens at 10 am so if we get to the station by 9 we should be early enough before the tour buses arrive. Well when we got to the station, the 9:01 am historic tram was there and it was filled already! I really wanted to have a window seat so I can take photos so decided to wait for the next one at 9:12 am…..that was my biggest mistake!!!

The next historic tram arrived but it wasn’t 15E…..keep waiting….

9:12 am guess what an electric modern tram arrived, yea it was line 15E urgggg I thought all “E” trams supposed to be the cute yellow ones but not!! Alright we have time to wait for another one and still make it before the monastery opens. 9:30 ish, another 15E modern tram arrived. OMG OMG OMG!!! I started to be anxious what should I do?? Jason encouraged me that maybe the next one will be the historic one. 9:40 ish, still no!!! Jason said maybe it’s one per hour so let’s wait for the 10:04 one. Guess what? No too!!! At that point I gave up and hopped into the modern tram 🙁

We got there around 10:40 am and there was already a line of people to purchase tickets yikes! They have a monastery, museum, and tower (Tower of Belem) combo ticket for saving of course and avoid the other queue but we are not interested in going up the tower so we only purchased the monastery ticket, it cost €10 and they take credit card, how wonderful!!! We queued for 10 minutes or so and finally purchased the tickets and got in. There was a separate line to enter the church and it’s free so make sure you queue in the right lane for the monastery entrance!

After walking up a flight of stairs, we could see the courtyard of this beautiful monastery! We were surprised by the detailed craftsmanship in this monastery, there’s no plain emptied surface!

This place is a piece of art itself! I couldn’t even imagine how many people and how long to build this place!

I was lost in the details…I need to take photos of this corner, that corner, that arch, etc….the only downside was the time of the day because the contrast and sun light was just too harsh!

We walked up to the 2nd floor…a window on the floor that looked like a jail cell inside haha!

The angle looking down at the courtyard was better!

It was a little bit crowded that it was difficult to have a photo without people in the background. We waited the best we could!

We walked inside to a room and it ended up to be the 2nd floor of the church!

Beautiful and detailed Gothic style!

Where’s the face??

We walked back out and hoping for lesser people…this guy who was clearing talking on the phone kept walking back and forth in this hall…are you serious? I can not tolerate people who are either not taking photos or reviewing their pics right in the middle of a place where others are waiting to take a photo of! Be courteous people!

He wasn’t showing any sign of leaving anytime soon sooooo I had to be creative with my angles…I love those motif on the arches!


Ahhh people..let’s try it again!

We just couldn’t get enough of the details!

Let’s move to the next stop…we walked down those stairs again and this time paid more attention to its ceiling!

Only the square around the courtyard was open to the public touring, majority of the monastery are not accessible….I peeked out on one of the windows:

We walked out and went into the church (free) even though we saw it from the 2nd floor already.

A different angle of the ceiling! Quite amazing isn’t it? I was still amazed even though I have seen other more famous Gothic cathedrals: Notre Dame and Milan Cathedral!

When we got out of the church, the queue was at least 3x as long!

Don’t just leave, there are plenty of photo ops outside!

This huge door, oh wow! It was impossible to see all the motifs just on this door!

We walked across the hot burning street, no kidding, Portugal’s sun in end of August was still so strong, to reach the pier area to see the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) and Tower of Belem. We stopped at this attracting pink Volkswagen van! How cute!

Where’s the monument…urg….all covered for restoration!!!

Bad timing!!! Oh well, we are not really into monuments……but here provides a great viewing of the 25 de Abril Bridge:

Purchase a lock to support a charity….good promotion!

We continued walking down heading to the tower and we saw this old couple…….Jason, are we like that in 30 years? I like their matching pink shirts and caps 😀

Along the way, we saw a man selling beautiful water paintings…the panoramic sized ones cost €7 and we saw this very pretty one with the Lisbon skyline and the cute yellow tram. I bought one and the man said buy another one, 2 for €10. Excellent marketing strategy LOL, we couldn’t resist and bought another one….thinking it makes good souvenir than those made in China keychains! I doubt they were really hand painted by him, probably printed but oh well they looked very nice, much better than the ones we have ever seen in souvenir shops!

It was quite a long walk from the monument to the tower in the burning sun! There are restaurants and high-class looking like lounge on the way, of course too early for any restaurant to open! Ehhh, what’s this, it’s cute though!

If the long walk wasn’t enough exercise, there are some work out equipment there too!

Fisherman set up fishing rods along the bank…smart and multi-tasking!

I am telling you it’s a long walk, we had to walk around this open area…

Tons of tour buses parked over there so that must it! People were right on the queue, purchase the combo ticket if you plan to visit both the monastery and tower!

Tower of Belem is much smaller than I thought!!! I was more interested in the cute and creative food trucks in the park next to the tower!

Not sure why there’s a wooden plane there?

And a paid toilet!

Alright I was starving by then, let’s walk back! It was a longggg way to walk back and we need to get some “snacks”, I couldn’t survive till back to Lisbon for lunch!

What’s better than try the original pasteis de nata at Pastel de Belém where the tart was first created by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery, the secret recipe passed on since 1837!!!

There’s always a line but it was much shorter than I anticipated 🙂

I ordered and paid for 2 tarts and hand the receipt to the counter to pick them up, they have the process down to a production line considered how many tarts they sell per day!

They already packed 6 in those long boxes so my 2 has to be right from the tray haha!

Finally got mines!

I can feel it was fresh from the oven…it was freshly hot 😀

The “take out” came with a packet of sugar and cinnamon but Jason hates cinnamon so I don’t dare to spray any on 😉

Let’s try how good it is and does it live to the hype? OH YES!!!! It was so crunchy and the fillings were very milk-taste rather than egg and sugar! That’s the difference between Portuguese tart and Cantonese egg tart (probably modified from Macao – a Poruguese colony?)! It was perfect, not too sweet (like the one I had for breakfast), I regretted why I didn’t buy half a dozen 🙁 Ever since then, I couldn’t find any place that is near the same milk taste again!

We catch a bus rather than a tram and back to Lisbon in half an hour. While I was in the bus, I used Jason’s phone who has T-mobile and they were running a special of free unlimited 4G data in Europe till end of August, to check on yelp to decide where to have lunch. I picked India Gate, a short walk from where the bus stopped.

The decors inside were definitely Indian feel.

Indian cuisine our must order garlic nan and mango lassi!

I ordered a chicken curry and Jason ordered a shrimp coconut curry. I can’t say it was authentic or not but it was as good as the ones we had previously and it was spicy which I like!

The lunch was €27.80 pretty reasonable to fill our starving tummy! Afterwards, we walked up (yes, Lisbon is very hilly) thinking to walk to Martim Moniz where the famous historic tram 28E starts and just around the corner we saw the historic tram 28E!!! We decided to hop on without any clue which direction it’s heading to lol. The advantage of the 24 hours unlimited pass loaded into the Viva Viagem card is that it includes the historic tram (cost €2.85 per trip) as well as the elevators (cost €5) so those are the best use for value with the 24 hour pass!!! We got seats, how lucky! Once we got in, the tram started to fill again, there’s a sign “beware of pickpockets” so watch your valuables!

Jason was very interested on how it shift gears by moving that handle looking thing on the left:

Wonderful views from the tram route and it was amazing to see the narrow streets that it could maneuver!

Another tram coming from the other direction!

Those “ding ding ding” noises were very cute to listen to too! Tuk-tuk passed by..

The tram stopped to wait for the opposite side tram to pass since it’s a one way in some section!

We went through the oldest district – Alfama and ended up at Martim Moniz. It was the final stop so we got off and thinking we could catch another one back to the Alfama…

Until we saw the queue, it was crazily long!

Based on this, I think best way is not to catch from where it starts at Martim Moniz but rather than on the opposite direction heading back to Martim Moniz to have the best chance of a window seat! We were waiting and those tuk-tuk drivers try to sell the ride instead of waiting. We saw another historic tram – 12E and I know it’s heading to the same direction to Church of São Vicente of Fora so we hopped on and got seats too 🙂

I have read that you can get great views from the rooftop of Church of São Vicente of Fora so have to check it out for my bloggers 😉

The church was near empty and I was thinking where do we walk up to the roof??

No sight of it so we walked out and saw another side entrance…we walked there to check it out! A small courtyard where the entrance is:

Entrance fee was only €2 if I remembered correctly which was not bad at all!

What I didn’t know was the church has a huge collection of paintings on tiles! Every corner, every side of the wall are filled with a different picture.

We probably bumped to less than 6 people the whole time we were there walking up to the rooftop, so quiet so serene.

Who are you peeking Jason 😛

And one of the room where it’s not blue and white!

And unbelievably the church also host a collection of seashells!

More tile paintings…

We finally reached the rooftop!

The roof of Lisbon’s rooftops and the 25 April Bridge:

The timing wasn’t the best though…

The other side was a better to bring out the colors as oppose to being in shadow!

A look down of the church courtyard:

The whole stairways….

We were out of the church and crossed the street to the tram station to wait for the next tram…it was a longer wait though…

I wasn’t sure where to get off to Miradouro das Portas do Sol, that was why I preferred metro rather than bus because each metro stops are clearly marked and announced whereas not the case in bus or tram! You’ll need to press the stop button and it’ll stop at the next stop for few seconds, enough for you to squeeze through the crowds to get off and then it’ll take off immediately. Thus, I didn’t have time to think about where we get off? And we passed the stop urgggg I shall say we missed the stop by few stops! We ended up being back to where we catch the first 28E tram (sorry hun) so we had to walk all the way back to the viewpoint. Finally there!

The postcard view!!!

The church on the left is the one we just got back from, quite a distance!

After the viewpoint, we were craving for iced-cold soda! We walked to the nearest souvenir shop and no luck of Fanta so keep going….we eventually hit a small convenient store and bought the iced-cold drink, relief!!! Then, we decided to walk around for photos of the historic tram 🙂

Cute recycle barrel?

The Alfama district how I pictured Lisbon to be!

What’s next? Should we continued to walk around to find the person spot for postcard perfect spot to wait for the tram 28E or to São Jorge Castle? Let’s check out São Jorge Castle, it was another long way climbing up! At least the way was marked and filled with colorful graffiti:

O.o many eyes!

Those stairs oh my thankfully we had a full bottle of water still! Then we started going downhill which Jason think doesn’t seem right so we turned back. Yep we missed the unnoticeable entrance:

Urg…..a peeing station? LOL!

The entrance fee was a hefty €8.50 admission fee for such a ruin.

The late afternoon sun direction was not a good time for viewings up from the castle! It’s much better if visit in the morning instead! The shadows dimmed the bright orange colored roof top.

We walked up to its ancient wall…..it wasn’t that special after all!

You can see the Statue of King John I (Praça Figueira where we catch the 15E tram first thing in the morning) down there:

In my opinion, the castle is very small and the views weren’t as great as other viewpoints that you can visit for free instead of paying €8.50! Right outside the castle, we noticed there’s a public bus waiting there…forgot the number…but it goes back down to Praça Figueira yay no need to walk; our legs really need a break! It was super bumpy on the drive down through the cobblestone streets LOL! Jason even record a video of how those hand rails were swinging back and forth like crazy!

We made it back to our hotel in no time, yay a break! While Jason was having a quick nap, I was researching on where to head for dinner. I noticed that the restaurant I booked required a bus ride and we were too tired to make that trip! I cancelled the reservation and in search for a closer one that is within walking distance. I searched for the best Arroz de Marisco (Portuguese seafood soup with rice) and found some near by. I decided on UMA right on R. dos Sapateiros. I read that this restaurant does not take any reservation you’ll need to wait in line before it opens for the best chance of having a table. It opens at 7 pm so we walked out at 6:30 got there around 6:40 and we were the 3rd in line 😀

I also read that this restaurant is run by grandma and grandpas so don’t expect too much service. With that in mind, we were prepared lol. The door opened exactly at 7 pm, an old man probably as old as my grandpa let us in. The restaurant has less than 10 tables…so once they are filled, the old man stop letting people in. We were seated and given a menu – only one pager, I spotted Arroz de Marisco yay must order! While we were still looking at the menu grandpa stopped by and pointed to us and say with his broken English “order this”, I nodded, and he grabbed the menu away from our hands LOL! I guess we only having Arroz de Marisco. We waited hum…..we didn’t order any drink….and waited..for another even older man to come by. Got our sodas and it was such a scene on how they operate!

The restaurant is literally run by retirees, the youngest looking is the waiter who took our order. Another old man slowly setting plates and utensils and take order for drinks. The bartender is the oldest bartender we have ever seen…..a grandma! Those three average age I would guess 70 years old! Not sure how many people working inside the kitchen but that’s basically it.

Our huge pot of seafood soup with rice – Arroz de Marisco….wow wow wow! The ingredients in there were unbeatable: plenty of shrimps, half a crab, and more seafood!

My favorite Mediterranean shrimps, they were huge!

The first bite, my eyes were literally popped out, it was shockingly flavorful! It was one of the best Arroz de Marisco we had! Oh heavenly!!!

It was so good that we finished the whole pot! And it only cost €20 for that pot to feed two of us OMG! I wish we have that in Boston – as good and as cheap! They take cash only, understand, and I was gladly to give out my limited cash! It was a long wait to get our bill so I decided to stand up to the bar counter to pay…the bartender is also the cashier and more people going directly up to pay. Grandma was getting mad because there was no bill from the other old man so she was screaming at him in Portuguese to speed him up LOL!!!

After the super yummy dinner, we decided to head over to Santa Justa Lift thinking should be shorter queue at this time of the day..yes it was but still a long line!

The queue moved so slow that we waited from sunset to past the blue hour 🙁

A night pic of the street in front of the lift:

After more than an hour of wait, we finally got into the elevator…it looked like a little room that can fill probably 20 people?

Lisbon’s night time up from Santa Justa Lift, you can clearly see São Jorge Castle on the background:

Right side is Rossio Square:

The back is the Carmo Convent that we visited yesterday:

One of the major shopping street from below:

To be honest, there’s nothing special of the views from Santa Justa Lift, it’s fenced so we had to squeeze our lens in to take a photo! You can easily walk up there, faster than the queue, and free! I think it’s a tourist trap for real! It was windy and chilly up there so we walked back down (faster than waiting for the lift to go back down)! We walked pass Rossio Square to get back to our hotel and on the way, there were “sellers” asked us if we would like to buy cocaine, no thanks! In fact, I read that they are selling fake drugs that is why police can’t arrest them so just say “no thanks” and move on, they’ll leave you along. It’s rather annoying yes but no safety concern!

We saw Rossio Train Station, it was beautifully lit up at night so even though we were tired, we walked across the street to get a photo of it!

On the right side of it, that’s our hotel, very convenient!

The hotel lobby at night, it looked nicer in day time when the sun lit up the glass ceiling!

We were so tired, the Health app in my phone showed that we walked 9.62 miles today! We had no issue falling asleep that night to get all charged for next day’s adventure! We were able to see everything I wanted/planned to see in Lisbon so we have a full day the next day to do a day trip 🙂 If I can redo today’s itinerary, I would skip São Jorge Castle and walk around Alfama for more photos of the cute yellow historic trams!!! Good night Lisbon, your food did not disappoint!

6 thoughts on “Lisbon – Sights and Foods

  1. Thank you Lisa, your blog is a big help. My wife and I arrive in Lisbon on 1 November. You confirmed that we picked the right hotel–Avenida Palace.

  2. “Not sure why there’s a wooden plane there?” It’s not made of wood, but of a metal ligue. It’s a model to scale of the plane used by the first aviators that did the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic, the Portuguese naval aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral in 1922, to mark the centennial of Brazil’s independence. Coutinho and Cabral’s flight remains notable as a milestone in transatlantic aviation for its use of new technologies such as the artificial horizon.

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