Where to start? We spent a lot of December and January with Lisbon as our base of operations. This gave us plenty of time to explore the city at our leisure. Which was a very good thing, because there is a lot to do in Lisbon, and it can get pretty overwhelming, especially when it is crowded. Having a base of operation was a nice way to balance how much you can do with some down time.
We took a walking tour, one of three we took with the same guide, and were advised to check out the Lisbon Geographic Society to see the collection. We took that advice and enjoyed an informative time looking at the building and many treasures from Portugal’s 19th Century explorations. They had items from India, China, and Africa. Brazil was already independent when the Society was formed, so it was not represented in the collection. The building is worth the visit, and the displays were very interesting.
Our guide for the walking tour, Peter, also recommended we go to the Pantheon and the Monestary nearby. Both buildings were well worth the visit. Many notable Portugese are entombed in the Pantheon, politicians, poets, sports figures, and explorers are all there.
From the Pantheon, it is a short walk, and only slightly uphill, to the Mosteiro de Sao Vincente de Fora. The monestary is well worth the visit for both the building and the exhibits.
We happily recommend the walking tour we took, it was very informative and served as a “sampler platter” of the area because Peter, our guide, recommended various places that were worth a more in-depth visit. One of those places was the 11th Century Se, or Cathedral. Harking back to the rule of Portugals’ first king and rebuilt after the earthquake, it holds a wealth of history and artifacts. And, across the street in the small square, the public toilets are built above some Roman ruins. They are visible from the steps before you need to pay to use the toilets, so you can visit even if you don’t need a pit stop.
The municipal trains around Lisbon will take you to many notable sights, some are historic, some are beaches, and all are easily accessible and affordable. We took the train out to the west of the city center and enjoyed a lovely day walking along the river and looking at the lines of people to visit some of the iconic sites of Lisbon. As we waited for our return train, we noticed the Coaches Museum across the way from the train station. As it was late in the day and we were a bit punchy, the speculation included “sports museum” and “train engine barn.” When some expats living in the city said ‘it’s well worth the visit,’ but didn’t tell us why, we added it to the plans. It is an amazing museum. There are royal coaches – you know the horse-drawn carriages, like the one that took Cinderella to the ball – dating back to the 1600s on display. They are in great shape, and, even better, the displays have really good interpretive signs detailing the provenance, engineering, and other significant information about the coaches.
With so much time in Lisbon, we indulged in many random activities, including weekend craft and art markets, museums, and long walks that may have included checking out scenic and fancy cemetaries.
Lisbon has a lot going on, and this long post is just a small sampling of what we were able to do!
When the boat broke down the nice lady from England exclaimed "oh goody, an adventure!" That changed the possible problem into a great story and improved attitudes. It has become the motto for our travels. We hope you enjoy the stories as much as we enjoyed the adventure.
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