Quirky sights of Lisbon
We saw many what I would call ‘unconventional sights’ in Lisbon today.
Don’t-miss-dos are riding Lisboa’s old trams, the Santa Justa elevator, as well as finding one of those Portuguese miradouros. As a must-try I would add shredded bacalhau, the mazagran and awesome pastelarias to the list.
The Elevador da Glória, is actually not an elevator but a funicular (an old tiny tram going up steep slopes) that has been taking passengers up and down the hill between Restauradores Square and Bairro Alto.
Dating back to 1885 the old tram has an antique wooden interior. The ride is very, very short and you can walk up yourself along the tracks, but only Scrooge would miss out on the rattling Portuguese experience. Our tram was adorned with crappy graffiti smears but along the way you can see more elaborate street art.
I am not walking.
The Elevador da Glória takes you right up to a fancy terraced viewing platform from decorative past times, the Miradouro da Graça. It reads 1876 on the cobbled sidewalk. The views over Lisbon are one of the best.
It is a popular student meeting place and you can watch students wearing typical black robes and uniforms, looking like Harry Potter. JK Rowling was actually living in Portugal for some time before she wrote the Potter series. To me it seems that she may have been inspired by Portuguese outfits.
Just a 10 minute walk away is Santa Justa, the famous Lisbonian landmark looking like a fragile tower, that actually is an elevator – located on the street that goes by the same name (Rua de Santa Justa in the Baixa district).
It is a tall and thin building with a viewing platform on top. The whole iron structure from 1901 looks absolute surreal and a bit science fiction-futuristic, despite its age. It was constructed to ease the way for pedestrians in hilly Lisbon, inspired by Eiffel tower architecture, connecting Baixa, the high street shopping centre with the Carmo Square higher up (where you can visit the equally famous church ruin). There is a gracile walkway when you like to board or get out of the elevator from the Carmo Square.
The views, the views.
Looking down onto Restauradores Square.
Tip: You can scan your regular Lisbon travel card to ride the elevator and save money. Alternatively buy a (bit more expensive) ticket at the operator, inside the elevator.
Having admired past riches, we were looking forward to admire a meal for dinner. A band was playing right outside the cathedral ruins on Carmo Square with restaurant tables facing the music, and the pretty location won us over. Although the place was admittedly rather touristy.
Mum asked which of the seafood on the menu was fresh and I was amazed to learn that most is imported from Egypt or Norway, only corvina, the local fish, was fresh. We ordered and got it adorned with a side garnish of potatoes and broccoli.
Tomek ordered today’s menu which included Portuguese bacalhau com natas and so we had shredded cod with cream and potato. It is tasty once you get over the obvious visual disadvantage. The meals came with one drink, a desert and coffee (typical tourist menu option). Service was slow – after the main plate, the extras had been forgotten. So was the olive oil we asked for. Waiters were struggling. A typical tourist restaurant.
For a relaxed finish, we treated ourselves to the temptations of a Portuguese pastelaria (pastry coffee shop). We ordered a Portuguese drink, called Mazagran, adding some more conventional choices… fresh lemonade, orange juice and tea with milk.
The highlight was Mazagran – cold coffee with lemon (and ice cubes and a slice of lemon) served in a tall glass. The taste. Definitely quirky.
Welcome to the sweet world of Lisboa’s pastelarias.
This one was the prettiest we saw in Lisbon. Location: Pastelaria Benard, Rua Garrett 104, Lisbon.
Of course, we did not just come for drinks.
A strange sight was the menu – with three pastelaria price categories. The cheapest: eating while standing at the bar, the next price chart was for table consumption and finally, the most expensive category was for a seat outside. I was wondering before why Lisbonians would prefer to stand at the bar when seats were empty. Totally solved.
And finally, the winner of today’s quirky award!