48 hours in Lisbon
It all kicks off in the Portuguese capital this summer, but the city's not just about football. Ben Ross enjoys the food, the views and, of course, the port
Saturday 22 May 2004
A sizeable proportion of Europe will be wishing they were here this summer. From 12 June to 4 July, Portugal plays host to the European Football Championship ( www.euro2004.com), with the final held at Lisbon's Estádio da Luz. Those wishing to soak up the atmosphere should bear in mind that accommodation will be in short supply (although it's easier to find a bed during the later knock-out stages). Known hooligans will, one trusts, already have surrendered their passports. Alternatively, there are festivals in the city throughout the year, including the gaudy St Anthony parade down Avenida da Liberdade on 12-13 July. For more information, contact the Portuguese Tourist Office (0845 355 1212, www.portugalinsite.com).
I flew with TAP Air Portugal (0845 601 0932, www.tap-airportugal.co.uk), which flies three times a day to Lisbon from London Heathrow and twice a day from London Gatwick. Fares start at £114.10 return. British Airways (0870 850 9 850, www.britishairways.com) flies four times a day from Heathrow. Air Luxor (020-7589 8171, www.airluxor.com) flies daily from Gatwick. Portugalia (08707 550 025, www.pga.pt) flies daily from Manchester. Other UK departure points are served via Amsterdam on KLM (0870 507 4074, www.klm.com). From the airport, 20 minutes north of the city, a shuttle-bus (€2.35/£1.70) runs every 20 minutes. Alternatively, the tourist office at arrivals (00 351 21 849 4323, open from 8am-midnight) issues taxi vouchers, which cuts out haggling and queuing. Vouchers cost €13.97 (£10) during weekdays and €16.76 (£12) at weekends and at night.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
The last city-centre stop for the airport bus before it terminates at the Cais do Sodre railway station is Praça do Comércio, the wide square which lies at the foot of the grid-like Baixa, the city's 18th-century commercial district. On the west side is the Lisbon "Welcome Centre" (00 35 1 210 312 800, www.visitlisboa.com, open 10am-6.30pm daily), good for maps, brochures and the Lisbon Card. This costs €13.25 (£9.50) for 24 hours and entitles the holder to free transport, free admission to most museums and exhibitions, and discounts at others. Only buy it if you really plan to hit the galleries: a one-day travel card costs just €2.85 (£2) and is valid on all public transport, while many public attractions are free on Sundays. High above the Baixa to the west is the Bairro Alto, the upper town; to the east are the winding streets of Alfama, the old town, where the Castelo de São Jorge looms. South of the Praça do Comércio lie the docks, and beyond them the River Tejo.
TAKE A VIEW
The Elevador de Santa Justa (open 9am-9pm daily), at the western end of Rue de Santa Justa, dates back to the early 20th century. It's an elegant lift which until building work interrupted things whisked Lisboans from the Baixa up the Bairro Alto. Nowadays the exit at the top is blocked, so it's just a fun route to a 360-degree view of the city (and a café, reached via a spiral staircase). €1.30 (90p) takes you all the way up and back down.
TAKE A HIKE
From the Arco da Rua Augusta the impressive arch at the north of Praça do Comércio head east along Rua da Alfândega towards the Doca do Jardim do Tobaco, with its view out over the Tejo. Turn up Rua dos Bacalhoeiras, then north to the twin towers of the Sé, Lisbon's grand cathedral (free admission, open 9am-7pm daily). From here, turn up Rua Augusto Rosa. About halfway up, you'll see signs for the Museu do Teatro Romano (00 351 21751 3200, www.museu-teatroromano.net, open 10am-1pm and 2pm-6pm, Tuesday to Sunday, admission free), which houses the excavated remains of an ancient Roman theatre. The museum itself is entered further up the hill, at Patio de Aljube 5. From there, follow the route northwards and upwards to the Castelo de São Jorge (open 9am-9pm daily, admission free). Cross the ancient (and empty) moat and walk the ramparts of the inner walls.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
After your hike up the hill, you'll be desperate for some refreshment. O Café do Castelo (open 9am-9pm daily), set within the castle's grassy grounds, has a terrace with an all-you-can-eat buffet for €7.50 (£5.30).
Take the metro north from Baixa to the station at San Sebastião, where you'll find the Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian at Avenida de Berna 45A (00 351 217 823 000, www.gulbenkian.pt, open 10am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday, admission €3/£2.15, free on Sunday). Set in leafy grounds next to a lake, these squat modern buildings may not look like much, but they house a 6,000-piece collection of ancient and modern art and a separate gallery devoted to Portuguese art (same opening hours, joint ticket €5/£3.50, free on Sunday).
Where better to enjoy a glass of port than in the bar of the Instituto do Vinho do Porto the Port Wine Institute at Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 45 (00 351 213 475 797, www.ivp.pt, open 2pm-midnight, Monday to Saturday), where a thimble of 10-year-old tawny goes for €1.90 (£1.35) and the 40-year-old equivalent is yours to cherish for €24.20 (£17.30).
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
Beer after port might seem like a recipe for disaster, but proximity dictates that your next stop should be the Cervejaria da Trindade at Rua Nova da Trindade (00 351 213 423 506), a cavernous beer hall festooned with murals, just down the road from the Instituto. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the menu is strong on shellfish and the food is simple, cheap and tasty. Cabbage soup costs €1.95 (£1.40), fried cuttlefish €8.05 (£5.75).
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
Opposite the cathedral is the church of Lisbon's principal saint, Santo António (open 9am-7.30pm daily, Sunday services at 9.30am and 11.30am, admission free). The exterior may be less impressive than its larger neighbour, but the inside is a gaudy riot of gilt and velvet. A postcard costs €0.75 (50p).
OUT TO BRUNCH
Away from tourist-friendly Rossio, the pretty square to the north of the Baixa, the restaurateurs of Lisbon rise late on a Sunday. One quiet place in Alfama that's open by 11am is Divina Comida at Largo de Santo Martinho 6-7, close to the Sé. The interior is comfy, or there are chairs on the decking outside. A rotating selection of main courses range from €8.50 (£6) to €12.50 (£8.90). Sandwiches are €2.50 (£1.80); coffee €2 (£1.40).
A WALK IN THE PARK
At the top of tree-lined Avendia da Liberdade is the Parque Eduardo VII, named after Queen Victoria's son. A maze of formal hedges runs down the grand central avenue; at the top there's a crumbling fountain with commanding views of the city.
TAKE A RIDE
Two options: up or along. Up means catching the Elevador da Glória, (open 7am-1am daily, €1.30/90p) the funicular which runs from the north of the Baixa to the Bairro Alto. Or catch the speedy No. 15 tram from Praça do Comercial along to Belém, the riverside district 15 minutes to the east of the city centre. Here an imposing monastery, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (00 351 213 620 034, www.mosteirojeronimos.pt, open 10am-6.30pm daily, free admission; cloisters €3/£2.15), dominates the north side of a large square, the Praça do Império.
WRITE A POSTCARD
Take your Santo António postcard to Praça das Amoreiras, a tiny square dominated on one side by the Aqueduto das Aguas Livres, which rises high above nearby houses. This astonishing feat of engineering, designed in the 18th century to slake Lisbon's growing thirst, should inspire you to epistolatory excellence.
THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Uniquely among European capital cities, there's no need to adjust your watch upon arrival so get up early and see as much as you can!
If you arrive without accommodation booked, the tourist office at the airport (see Beam Down) will be able to help. However, the staff may not be able to get you into the Pestana Palace at rua Jau 54 (00 351 21 361 56 00, www.pestana.com). This self-styled "hotel and national monument" near Belém is well worth booking ahead for a sumptuous five-star conversion of a 19th-century stately home, set behind high walls. The 173 rooms are in modern blocks linked to the old building by glass corridors, but despite all the trimmings original oils on the walls, manicured grounds and indoor and outdoor pools the hotel manages to maintain a sense of intimacy. Doubles start at €150 (£107) per night, including breakfast.
Equally luxurious, the Lisboa Regency at Rua Nova de Almada 114 (00 351 21 325 6100, www.regency-hotels-resorts.com) is of a more modern design, with a vaguely oriental styling to its décor, a hip roof-top bar and stunning views of the city. Doubles start at €180 (£129), including breakfast.
Near the cathedral is Solor dos Mouros at Rua do Milagre de Santo António (00 351 218 854 940, www.solardosmouros.pt). All the 11 rooms are designed differently; the attic room reached by a small spiral staircase may be impossible to stand upright in, but it has a lovely terrace. Doubles start at €156 (£111) including breakfast.
One cheap but friendly option is Residencial Florescente on Rua Portas de Santo Antão 99 (00 351 213426 609) which has a fountain in its blue-tiled reception. The rooms are clean, comfortable and air conditioned. Doubles start at €60 (£43) per night.
Wherever you go in Lisbon you'll see azulejos, the hand-painted ceramic tiles that cover most houses and shops. You can buy antique examples from tiny shops scattered through the old town, or modern versions at the Loja dos Descobrimentos at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 12A (00 351 218 86 55 63).
High-street shoppers will pass a happy few hours on the pedestrianised Rua Augusta, the Baixa's central avenue, but real shopping addicts should board the metro to Gare do Oriente at Parque Das Naçôes. This vast leisure complex boasts restaurants and an aquarium as well as the huge Vasco da Gama shopping centre (open daily, 10am-midnight), home to hundreds of high-street names.
TASTE OF THE CITY
If you've got a sweet tooth, there are pastry shops pastelerias all over the city, but it's worth queuing with the other tourists for a couple of pasteis de Belem (€0.75/50p each), special custard tarts only available from Antiga Confeitaria de Belem at Rua de Belem 84-88. For more substantial fare, head for the seafood restaurants of Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. Here, white-aproned waiters will beckon you into the darkly formal interior of Escorial at No 47 (00 351 346 44 29). The prices are high (starters €9/£6.40; mains for around €15/£10.70; lobster €90/£64 per kilo), but even the tank-bound lobsters seem to be enjoying themselves, albeit briefly.
On the other side of the road at No 82, it's much cheaper at Andorra (00 351 213 426 047), where a huge dish of prawns costs €12 (£8.50). The ultimate Lisboan dining experience, however, has to be at the Caso do Leão (00 351 218 875 962), built inside the walls of the castle. The stunning setting is complemented by the menu, which, by Lisboan standards, isn't cheap: starters are €12 (£8.50); mains €17 (£12). For those on budget, Suiça at Praça Dom Pedro IV 96 (00 351 213 214 090), a café which connects Rossio and Praça da Figueira, is open until 10pm and serves a round of sardines on toast for €4.95 (£3.50).
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