After a solid 12-hours of sleep, we were up early this morning to take Tram 15 into the city center. We had two strong bicas and a pastry at Confeitaria Nacional, a pasteleria that has been around for a couple of years (well, since 1829). At this early hour, it — as well as the surrounding Praca da Figueria — was just waking up.
Outside, we hopped onto vintage Tram 28, for a rambling ride up one of Lisbon’s many hillsides to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, the city’s highest lookout. From this vantage point, we could take in the red tile rooftops, the Golden Gate-esque bridge crossing the Rio Tinto, the tolling of church bells. Essentially, Lisbon.
It was hard to overlook the iconic Castelo de Sao Jorge sitting on a nearby hillside, so after quick stop at the Saturday morning Feira da Ladra market, we made our way in that direction.
The castelo dates back over 1,600 years. It was used by the Visigoths in the 5th century, Moors in the 9th century and royals in the 14th to 16th centuries. We explored the shaded courtyards, cobble-stoned streets and towers, staying far from the unprotected edge.
Back outside, we got lost among the Alfama district’s back alleys and unmarked streets. This is an area that shows working-class life in the country’s capital, with old women hanging laundry to dry and children playing in the small, leafy squares.
It was time to refuel — and our guidebook suggested Pois Café, an Austrian-run neighborhood spot with a kind of Village bohemian feel to it. After a couple of sandwiches and Coke Lights, we continued descending downhill until we hit the waterfront and sprawling Praca da Comercio.
Deciding where to head next, we realized that our city map was sponsored by El Cortes Inglés, the amazing Spanish department store that required a visit. A short metro ride brought us to the 8-story behemoth, where we ended up buying a nice vino roja, freshly baked rolls, goat’s cheese and Jamón ibérico to snack on later.
Back at the hotel, we rested up for what we knew might be a big night. We started by taking the gold-plated elevator to the trendy lounge of the Bairro Alto Hotel, with its view of the twinkling lights of the riverfront. A couple of beers later, it was onto a dinner at Sul, hyped by Lonely Planet as a “fixture on the late-night dining circuit.”
The dish of choice was an essentially “grill your own steak.” Ingredients: raw filet, salt, seasoning and a hot as heck stone. Result: Completely delicious.
In the center of Lisbon’s social scene, we hit several (many) of Bairro Alto’s bars, staying out too late and more than making up for last night’s weak performance.