36 Hours in Lisbon: Alfama
It may be too short to visit Lisbon for less than 48 hours. It is a big city divided into several districts which each has its own characteristic and history. Additionally, panoramic view from the hills, cobblestones path, trams, underground metro, historical buildings, good wines and fresh seafood are something to expect in Lisbon. Despite of this limited time, I find Lisbon is a charming city that I won’t mind to visit again.
Artistic Metro Station
Dutchie and I stay at a clean hotel, with friendly receptionists nearby to Lisbon Metro subway station “Anjos”, green line, just two stops to Chiado Baixa for the blue line connection. Lisbon has four subway lines with icons (to help the color blinds, supposedly): green-caravel ship, blue-seagull, yellow-sunflower, and red-compass/orient. Delegated by Dutchie to plan our 36 hours trip, I planned to take City Tour Bus for our visit, lazy choice but efficient. However I change the plan after reading a review by Julie Dawn Fox on how artistic the metro stations in Lisbon. I love the idea of public art exhibition that integrated to daily human activity and public spaces. Thus I decide to buy 24 hours Viva Viagem Card that can be used in the metro, trams and buses. The cost is 6.50 Euro (Feb 2014), and we don’t regret this choice.
Indeed, Lisbon metro stations have unique interior designs that differ from station to station. Anjos metro station’s mural design reminds me of a swimming pool, but other station such as Cais do Sodre’s mural of “busy” rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, designed by António Dacosta, is strikingly impressive. And so is the colorful art installation by four Portuguese artists at Olaias metro station. My favorite metro station’s mural design is in Martim Moniz. The metro station’s mural is decorated with attractive tiles of bishops, horses, and knights, inspired by Martim Moniz’s story as a bravery knight during the Second Crusade. It’s simple and cute but unfortunately I miss taking pictures of this metro station.
Morning Trip: Alfama District
It was Dutchie so-called brilliant idea to walk around in the Alfama district, the birthplace of Lisbon with hilly area on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. He convinced the walk will liberate us from guilt feeling during the dinner (obviously he has planned to eat a lot). From Baixa-Chiado metro station, we begin strolling through the cobblestone path, until we pass Rua Augusta Arch, a triumphal arc-like. The arc is in front of the Praça do Comércio or often called as Terreiro do Paco (Palace Square). Praça do Comércio is a U shape square surrounded by yellow painted buildings that used to be Lisbon’s Tagus river port administrative offices. At present, some of these buildings served as restaurants and cafes. An equestrian statue of King Jose I stands in the middle of the square, looking up to the river bank. From the river bank, we can see the 25 de Abril Bridge that connecting the city with Pragal municipality. The bridge looks similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, only it is bigger and newer. It was built by an American company in 1966 and most likely the company was inspired by the San Francisco’s bridge design.
We continue walking through the maze of narrow and steep streets to reach Castle of São Jorge. It is not an easy walk, especially with the cobblestone path (I am just glad not wearing high heels shoes!). But the surroundings during our walk are worth seeing. We spot street alley with funky Fado themed graffiti, which is awesome. Fado is Portugese traditional folk music that originated from Lisbon and receives UNESCO world heritage status. The music is sort of soulful and melancholic with poetic lyrics. I have listened Fado songs and they are beautiful. If you wish to know more of the Fado’s history, then Fado museum is a good choice to visit.
The famous old wooden tram, Tram 28, keeps passing us by, it rides so close next to the walking path. Other than Tram 28, we also see tourists in Lisbon’s auto-rickshaw Tuk-Tuk. In Indonesia, these auto-rickshaws called “Bajaj” which is taken from an Indian’s auto-rickshaw company name. Not sure if the Lisbon’s Tuk-Tuk was produced in India, but the design of the auto-rickshaw is certainly more sophisticated than the ones I saw in Indonesia, India, the Netherlands and Thailand.
Finally we are reaching the Lisbon’s hills where Castle of São Jorge offers 360 degree panoramic view of Alfama district and Tagus River. The view is so gorgeous that I believe it will be awesome to visit the castle during sunset. The castle was built in the mid 11th century during the Moors ruling and it was used as last defensive fortress for the Moorish elites. The castle has eleven towers with the most central tower called as Ulysses Tower where the royal archives were stored. On its side, the Palace Tower becomes a museum, displaying archaeological collection.
To be Continued at this Post.