Portugal is one of the world’s most visited places. Especially the beaches around the Algarve are loved by the backpackers. You’ll even see a lot of hitchhikers when you drive on the highways. The summers in the Algarve are unique. It’s this special travel spirit very hard to describe with words if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
Most of the travelers who come to explore Portugal, mainly arrive at the airport in Lisbon. It’s not only a good starting point to take a train to Faro or rent a car to cruise around Portugal, Lisbon itself is a fascinating city. If you are planning to travel Portugal and pass Lisbon on the way or if you’re there just for a city trip, keep a clear agenda of what you want to see, especially if you don’t have much time to fritter in the never ending alleys.
This is what I would do if I would have just one Saturday in Lisbon
Morning, 9am – breakfast at Miradouro da Graça
I hope you got enough sleep last night because everybody who really wants to get enchanted by the uniqueness of Lisbon should be in an energetic mood. So what would be a better start of the day than a good breakfast? My idea is to go to one of the miradouros (viewpoints) to watch the sun rising. Miradouro da Graça is located within the castle area. There is a little café or so-called kiosk with one of the best panorama views. While we drink Galão and eat home-made custard tarts, we can enjoy the view over the whole city.
Morning, 10am – Feira da Ladra
We continue to Lisbon’s biggest flea market Feira da Ladra (market of the thieves). For me, who is obsessed with flea markets, there is no better way to get access to the soul of a city than through the exposure of the locals. A flea market visit can become real treasure hunting. Clothes, books, vinyl, electronics, antiques, self-made jewellery, arts or furniture are waiting for a new owner.
The gap between good quality and junk is like on every other flea market quite small. Within the square of the flea market the ancient monumental Igreja de São Vicente is situated. The unique roof reminds me a little bit of the Greek Santorini roofs. When we leave the flea market, the white São Vicente cathedral cannot be missed. In front of the entrance spreads a nice garden. Perfect to have a small rest under the roofs overgrown by rose trees.
Noon, 12am – Alfâma
We head to Alfâma, the oldest of all neighborhoods. Narrow streets with stunning street arts from local and foreign artists, stairways cramped between houses covered by shiny tiles, clothes lines with wild printed patterns hang down from the balconies, colorful garlands are spanned from street lamp to street lamp. All these impressions and many more you will get in Alfâma.
Tables and chairs to eat are placed in the middle of a passage, the smell of a fish dish is blowing over, tuk tuk drivers are trying to clear the way through the tourist hot spots, sound of Fado music can be heard from a restaurant, homeless sitting in street corners, creepy drug dealers whispering what they have to offer.
All that is Lisbon. Pura vida. The awakening of an alternative city. Everything what we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. A deep feeling that makes you happy and sad at the same time like expressed in the traditional Fado music.
Noon, 2pm – A Ginjinha
Embraced by the magic of Alfâma, we leave the upper districts taking the elevador. Apart from the old trams the elevator is another funicular in case you’re too lazy to walk all the way up. It brings us directly to Baixa, the downtown area. Next to the church São Domingo is one of Lisbon’s most famous and oldest Ginjinha bars. In A Ginjinha they offer the traditional cherry liquor served in little cups with an olive. If you’re up to some more candies – find a pastelaria and try Pasteis de Nata or any other of the delicious tarts.
Afternoon, 3pm – Tejo
A little walk through the vivid streets crossing Rossio, the main square with the cobbled chessboard pavement. We head to Terreiro do Paço, the riverside. There, we can enjoy a wide view of the red bridge Ponte de 25 Abril and the Jesus statue located in Almada, the other side of the Tagus. Behind the bridge the district Belém starts. Although very interesting, I want to keep the focus on Lisbon. If you plan a longer stay you should have a look at the Torre de Belém and the Explorer’s monument.
Afternoon, 4pm – lunch at Martim Moniz
It’s time for lunch. I guess you are pretty hungry. Martim Moniz is a great place where different types of restaurants come together, serving international food. Food trucks and mobile stands offer coffee, drinks and all kinds of fast and slow food. A big pappier-mâché sculpture of a cock overlooks the scenery. The wind blows it from one side to the other. A DJ booth is placed in the middle, playing chill music. Most of the people sit on the carpet floor, on pallets or have a snack in one of the food tents. Typical Portuguese food which mainly consists of fish (Bacalhau), but also Asian, Jamaican, Indian or African food can be enjoyed on this square.
Afternoon, 5pm – shopping in second-hand and vintage shops
After we spoilt our stomachs, we remain in Martim Moniz and walk all the way up passing little fruit and vegetable shops, cabaleireiros, pastelarias, souvenir stands and alternative stores. If you like second hand, most of Lisbon’s second hand shops are located in this avenue. My favorite is A outra face da lua, one of the rare secondhand shops here that not only claim that they are second-hand but actually really are. The prices are fair and the variety of fashion ranges from 80s vintage looks to modern street wear. In the same street you can also find Humana, the worldwide secondhand chain.
Early evening, 6pm – beer at RDA
If we are travelling to a foreign country there is one thing that can bring us closer to the local culture. Cerveja: beer. Seriously. I never heard a traveler rejecting a beer, especially when it’s summer and no drink can be more refreshing than a cold beer. RDA, the abbreviation for Rua das Anjos, is an alternative place with cheap food and drinks. Actually, it’s a bike repair garage transformed into a meeting point for all kinds of people, such as backpackers, alternative locals, hippies, Couchsurfers and foreign students. It’s located below a bridge over a passage. Every Wednesday they have a Vegan dinner there, which is also a Couchsurfing event.
Evening, 8pm – another beer at Santa Catarina
If you’re up for another beer, there are plenty of little late night shops where you can buy 1 liter Super Bock for under 2 euros what is much cheaper than to buy them in Bairro Alto, the up-town. Before experiencing the very unique atmosphere of Bairro Alto, let’s go to a miradouro. What else? Miradouro de Santa Catarina is located in Chiado, in the same street as the famous funicular Elevador da Bica. It offers the best view exposed to the Ponte 25 de Abril, especially when it’s dark, the bridge is lit by the surrounding city lights.
The spot is highly frequented. It seems like everybody comes together here to start the night. Above all, it’s a popular spot to smoke and drink. A platform offers a nice opportunity to sit, the people are welcoming and sometimes there are street musicians. There is a kiosk and also free toilets as long as the belonging kiosk is opened.
Late Evening, 11pm – night out at Bairro Alto
During the day, nobody would expect that the confusing streets of Bairro Alto, filled with bars, food places and music, can become so alive as they do in the late evenings.
The best time to head to Bairro Alto is normally after midnight when the narrow streets are crowded by people moving from bar to bar and refilling their cups at each stop. A summer night in Lisbon starts and ends in Bairro Alto they say. Somewhere lost in a bar of which you cannot remember the name anymore the next day. When you talked to so many different kinds of people that you can hardly remember which story belonged to who. All you will remember is that feeling what makes you feel happy and sad at the same time – Saudade.
This was a Saturday in Lisbon – it’s okay if you skipped some parts or replaced them with something else to see or do. Anyways, one Saturday is not enough to really understand and catch the city’s soul. Nevertheless, it’s enough to fall in love with every single corner.