Lisbon without the tramway would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower. We really fell under the charm of Lisbon’s squeaky old tramways. Especially the ones running up and downhill. We were very thankful for the tram, because with its 7 steep hills, Lisbon was quite a sport with a one year old.
As one of the oldest cities in the world (older than even Paris and Rome!), Lisbon’s history shines through at every turn the tram takes. And you can always catch a glimpse of the river Tagus that borders Lisbon. We rode the famous Estrella tram all the way into Baixa. It was jam packed, but well worth it for the scenic ride. I was surprised to discover that it’s still Lisbon’s most used transportation today. More so than their metro system!
Even our 1 year old little Mila adored the tramway!
We took a short tram ride to Belém, situated alongside the River Tagus. There are tons of historic monuments to visit such as the Jeronimos Monastery (UNESCO world heritage site) and the world famous Belem cake shop. The lineup was so long that we preferred to enjoy playing in the park and strolling around the neighborhood instead. We knew we would have amazing pasteis de natas elsewhere in Lisbon….and we did :) Read on to find out where.
A favorite neighborhood of ours was Graça, with its cute kitsch stores, families enjoying ice cream and the best pastry shop in town. We especially enjoyed the awesome viewpoint at Miradouro Da Graça to chill out and feel the vibe of Lisbon.
Bairro Alto, the neighborhood just above Graça, has another great look out, the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara. There’s a small garden and next to it is the Gloria Elevator, a funicular that takes passengers up and down the steep hill between Bairro Alto and the center of the city. Bairro Alto is a fun neighborhood for younger crowds, filled with restaurants, bars and great places to hang out.
When it comes down to the food, Lisboetas A-D-O-R-E their dried up bacalhau (cod fish). Unfortunatly, because of the smell, I just couldn’t get myself to try it. Sorry folks! If you have tried it, I’m curious to know if you enjoyed it.
Canned sardines and other types of tinned fish is a really trendy meal in Lisbon. They have tourist shops and even bars catering to tinned fish. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this new trend hit Montreal soon. I may not have tried tinned sardines but I did try fresh ones. I was a little skeptical but it was actually very good. A nice place to check out is Mercado de Ribeira, a gourmet food court with inventive and fusion food from Lisbon’s most famous chefs. The tourist shop at the mercado is also worth a visit.
The cold and rainy weather kind of ruined our trip to Lisbon, but it was all worth it just for this amazing pastry, the Pasteis de Nata! Fresh out of the oven, it doesn’t get better than that! Oh my god, just thinking about it makes my mouth water. So gooey and crunchy at the same time. Just to say, I brought home a dozen to Canada to share with my family! The best Pasteis de Nata shop in all of Lisbon was by far Manteigaria, situated at the intersection of Chiado and Bairro Alto. We would buy a few, eat them outside on the sidewalk, and go back to get more. Then we’d go for supper, and come back for dessert and to bring some home to our apartment. That’s how yummy they were! And with cinnamon sprinkled on top, just pure deliciousness.
The rest of the food was pretty bland as we’re used to eating salads with fresh herbs and lots of tasty sauces here in Quebec. But I think, and hopefully, we were just not in season.
On our last night we treated ourselves to an outdoor tapas restaurant. No rain but still very cold. Thank god the restaurant had blankets!
What stays with me the most of our Lisbon vacation is how much its habitants take the time to enjoy life. It felt like no one was working. There are coffee shops literally everywhere and they are always full. I don’t understand how Lisboetas aren’t all overweight with the quantity of pastries they eat. And they put at least 2 packets of sugar in their espressos! To give you an idea, one morning I went to get coffee and I left the sugar packets that came with my coffee on the counter. An old Portugese women ran out of the coffee shop after me, waving the sugar frantically at me! It was hilarious. But that’s how Lisbon is. Everyone talks to eachother. Even in the cold, people are standing everywhere in the streets, enjoying a quick espresso and chatting away with other residents. Lisbon really feels like a small community, like everyone knows eachother. Gotta love its authenticity!
With time, I’ve realized that I’m not a city person when it comes to travelling. I much prefer smaller villages, beaches and mountains. But I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the bad weather I would’ve loved Lisbon! Hopefully we will give Lisbon another try someday :) Even if Lisbon is touristy, you can still feel its real essence. The vibe is awesome! The Algarve and Alentejo regions of Portugal are definitely on our bucket list! If you have questions about travelling to Lisbon with a baby or toddler, please feel free to contact me. We pretty much tested every park in the city ;)
Thank you for your patience on awaiting my second post on Lisbon with a toddler. I’ve been doing a lot of introspection work as well as taking care of a very active two year old! We’ve began to brainstorm our next trip with our little one. I can’t wait to see where 2016 will bring us on the globe. Stay tuned folks!
To view our Lisbon family vacation Part 1, you can do so here.