If you have been reading endlessroaming.com you are aware that I have been blogging about previous adventures across the USA as well as currently Roaming the globe in 2019. I have based myself in Lagos Portugal for the time being, rather than write about this which I intend to get to I thought Id cover some previous adventures. I have been twice to Portugal in just over two years which is a lot considering how far I am from home in Sydney Australia. As I intend to head to Morocco after my stay here, I thought Id blog about my previous visit to Portugal, Porto and Lisbon in April 2017 and comparing the two cities.
Porto wow what a pretty place, one of Europe’s oldest cities dating back to around 300 BC when built by the Romans, the population is just under 300,000 and is located in the countries northern area. Porto is named after its Port location along the Iberian coast, more importantly though it lends itself to the “Port” wine it famously produces and exports globally, its the basis for the name of the county itself which is all easy to understand.. Id booked myself into a backpacker hostel in the northern area of the city but as all the attractions tend to gravitate towards the river Douro in the city centre. I found myself ascending down a few kilometres towards this area and found myself feeling slightly giddy after a few nights on the Port wine when climbing the steep road back to my hostel.
The city is a maze of buildings in various condition, some falling apart and others freshly painted and brightly coloured which makes quite a contrast, its very easy to get lost walking around the cobbled curved streets that make up the downtown area. If you find yourself hungry there is plenty of opportunity to have a glass of Port and sardines with crackers when attempting to find your bearings. Fortunately you cant really get to lost as most of the tourist attractions are located near the Douro river itself so just walk downhill. Whether its walking across the Dom Luis double deck bridge, riding a cable car that overlooks the city or getting a river cruise on one of the many barges along the river, its easy to get a view of the city.
As I only had two nights, I did all three of these which is a great way to see this very beautiful and brightly coloured river front. The bridge sits top of the city, the cable car is located in the market shopping area and gives a nice view of the riverfront running up to the bridge. The boat ride also does much the same thing as the the river is it sits in a steep basin surround by two tall hills where the city is built so you can see both sides quite clearly. I also toured the Clerigos Tower, a tall clock tower and museum which is located at the top of the city and has an excellent view of the surrounding maze that is Porto below. In the evening mostly I spent my time sampling Port which is available all along the riverfront in restaurants or wine bars, the city was not in peak tourist season so the nightlife was relatively quiet and I engaged in a lot of samling. Unfortunately, my time in Porto was to brief to go into anymore detail and before you know it, I was on the train to Lisbon approximately 3 hours south.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal is located south and has a population of just over 500,000 people, settlements were built by the Phoenicians and Celts dating between 800 to 600 BC though there is history found there going back to Neolithic man, its Western Europe’s oldest city and is also a Port city. It was flattened by an Earthquake in 1755 and rebuilt so he city does not appear as ancient as it actually is. While the majority of the tourist attractions I encountered in Porto were around the Douro river, Lisbon’s attractions are much more spread out and the city area is a much larger area so lot more walking is involved if you want to take it all in. There are plenty of buses and trams available however if feeling lazy there are tram tours of the city which are hugely popular. Lisbon is not as hilly as Porto but there are some steep climbs.
While Porto is a mix of modern and ancient Roman with some buildings in a ruined state, Lisbon is Gothic and the buildings are predominantly are white or creamy yellow in colour with red tiled roofs, the two cities looks very different. Walking though the Chiado, the centre district and main shopping area, are thousands of people shopping, eating in restaurants and taking photos of the 6 story high buildings that overlook the streets This eventually leads you into the Praca do Comercio, a great big open space on the river Tagus. After walking around this large square I continued along the river on a 10km walk to Belem Tower past Padrao dos Descobrimentos. Built in the 1519 the Belem Tower originally sat further away in the river on an island, it was originally a lighthouse that became a fortress to protect trade, after the 1755 earthquake ravaged the city the river expanded and the Tower now sits on the shore rendering its original purpose useless. Its Lisbon’s most famous tourist attraction and the old fortress is fantastic for taking photos, unfortunately I did not go inside as the queue was way too long for my liking. I then headed to the Jeronomis Monastery which largely survived the earthquake intact and was opened in 1495, this had a much shorter queue and was a very interesting tour TIP I have included hyperlinks so if you want to know more about these places just click, if not hope you enjoy the picturesque photos.
Now someone had mentioned to me that there was a fairy tale castle on the edge of the city and that it was a must do. Located in the municipality of Sintra the train ride was about an hour from the centre of Lisbon so I figured had to go and see this. I arrived at the station and I joined all the other tourist in the approximate 3km walk through the beautiful mountainside and village area to this castle named Pena Palace….. and my mind was blown, its spectacular. Originally built in 1493 like everything else in the area it was flattened during the earthquake and reconstructed in 1854. The palace is painted in vibrant yellow, grey and the joining clock tower in red. It sits on the top of the mountain looking over the surrounding forest and countryside below, words can’t really describe how impressive and colourful the structure is. The interior was designed for the royal family and the entire complex as well as the park make for an amazing day tour. Not finished I then headed to the Castle of the Moors, more a series of walls than an actual castle, construction was completed in the 9th century and it’s a complex of walls and towers that can be walked upon and like Pena has spectacular views. There is a lot more that can be checked out in Sintra but unfortunately one day is not enough to tour the entire area and I had somewhere I had to be.
Id been told if I want to understand Portuguese and what they’re really enthusiastic about then Id have to go and see football, Lisbon’s own Benfica. Benfica is apparently the most widely supported club in the country and its most successful, football team. Football is considered to be bigger than religion and it brings all different Portuguese people together, I’ve not been to a nation where such a team is universally supported in such a way and Cristiano Ronaldo is hugely popular . Most Portuguese friends Ive made support this team so I figured Id go to a match and see what the deal was. I like football (I am a Chelsea FC supporter which is a much better team than Benfica) so I jumped off the Sintra train and went to the match.
First this involved a few beers outside the stadium and purchasing some supporters gear, talking to a few locals about the game, I’m not sure who the opposition were but whoever it was they appeared to have no support as the entire crowd were dressed in red and white the team colours, I then entered Estadio da Luz. Prior to kick off the team mascot, an eagle, was let loose about 10 rows behind me, it swooped around the crowd who were in a frenzy and then headed back to its handler. Unfortunately, it landed on a crowd member about 4 people over who then freaked out, fortunately the eagle was retrieved by the handler and the poor bugger it landed on whilst appearing traumatised had no visible injuries. The game itself was a shambles but went to script, it ended up in Benfica wining 4 0. This is typical for the club, if you have the best stadium, players, biggest supporter base and most money, you are rarely going to lose.
The nightlife in Lisbon is kind of frantic, crazy and fun, much like football. Typically, people go out at 11pm and this is still considered early. I being an Australian head out usually around 8 (which is late for an Australian), I went to a crowded Irish bar for a few pints and watch some sport, At around 10 I headed to a local bar for some cocktails and complimentary petiscos (tapas in Spanish). The nights I went out I based myself in Rua Nova do Carvalho, Lisbon’s old red light district which has been revitalised, easy to find there is a road is painted pink and is land-marked by a yellow bridge. This is the location of Lisbon’s main dance clubs and restaurants, after a considerable amount of cocktails and complimentary food it was time to enter a few clubs. The entire area was buzzing with a lot of people shouting and dancing, if you are not aware of this already Portugal has decriminalised all forms of drugs so if caught and its for personal use you will be let go.. This is one explanation as to why everything goes on so late into the morning however keep in mind Portuguese like to eat late and may not go to a club till 2am. Personally I like to stick with alcohol.
There are a lot more tourist sites within the city of Lisbon than those that I have briefly covered, however as my time in in Porto my time in Lisbon was fantastic but my three night stay was brief. After visiting both cities, I have the impression that these are very different places. Porto in the north with its historic hillside city, many tours and focus on Port wine and slower pace compared with the larger Lisbon with its newer structures, bustling crowds and almost hedonistic nightlife. There is a lot of history and nightlife to suit everyone in both of these fantastic cities.
As indicated, this is my second visit to Portugal, but as my visit in 2017, I am currently spending most of my time in Lagos on the Algarve in the south of the country. When I have time I’ll blog about Lagos and why I enjoy this area so much. I hope you enjoyed the read and plan to be blogging about 2019 again soon cheers