Lisbon is Good for the Soul
Voice actor, author, sound engineer Ant Richards is also an avid traveler, and music geek who loves sharing his travel & music experiences.
Let's take to the skies
It only took me 30 months, 11 days and 16 hours (ok, that bit I just made up for effect) before I was able to set foot in an airport, let alone an aircraft.
Following my last trip to Madrid in December 2019, I had many travel plans set for the new year.
Then, well, unless you were on a sabbatical in another planet, or leading a very secluded, sheltered life, you all know what happened in 2020.
Nevertheless, it’s 2022; life has shifted to a ‘new’ and cautious normality. And travel – at least leisure travel – is slowly, and not without its hurdles, picking up as best as it can. And by hell, I’m joining this bandwagon once again.
Every year a new city
True to my travel motto, this year I vowed I would set foot in an airport – and by extension on an aircraft – and visit a new city if only to mark this new milestone.
And what better place to rekindle this tradition than Lisbon.
A city that has been in my radar for some time and although I have transited through its airport on three occasions, I never had the chance to venture past the transit zones.
This time it would be different.
This time I would allow a city to steal my heart.
Ant Richards talks you through Lisbon
Let's fly away
And what better way to start experiencing Portuguese hospitality than flying with their flag carrier.
After a surprisingly stressless passage through Heathrow, and an almost two-hour delay on the flight, we arrived at Humberto Delgado airport that serves the Portuguese capital.
Although we landed at 22.33, as we didn’t check in luggage, we headed straight to the Metro (Subway) station which is located just outside the main Departure/Arrival entrance.
We purchased our 24-hour travel pass and proceeded towards the platform.
Check my review on this trip's flights
- Flight Check: Tap Air Portugal to Lisbon
Part 1 of my flight review with TAP Air Portugal
- Flight Check: Tap Air Portugal to London Heathrow
Part 2 of my round trip London-Lisbon in May 2022. Here, I give my impressions on the return flight back to London.
AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
AS FAR AS YOU CAN
AS LONG AS YOU CAN
LIFE IS NOT MEANT TO BE LIVED IN ONE PLACE
Home from Home
Luckily, only the Red Line (Linha vermelha) serves the airport, so it couldn’t be easier to use their underground system to go into the city. Eleven stations, or seventeen minutes later we arrived at our destination (Saldanha), our hotel a mere five to ten-minute walk away in the balmy Lisboeta night. It really cannot get easier that that. Oh, and had we purchased a single ticket, it would have set us back and extortionate €1.50 (£1.39/$1.72). Scandalous I know!
Our hotel for this trip was the magnificent Zenit Lisboa. A smart and neo-classic edifice, if not bang in the centre of the old town, located in a very handsome neighbourhood with close-by amenities and a 20-minutes bus or 10-minute metro ride to the centre. For the more athletic, a 45-minute pleasant walk through gorgeous tree-lined avenues and cobbled streets.
With a contemporary but classy décor, this hotel exudes more luxury than the room rate would suggest. A swift check-in saw us taking the lift to the 7th floor, and into a gorgeous suite into which we had been clearly upgraded. A pleasant surprise after a long traverse from London to here. Who was I to question their decision?
A queen-size bed so large, I almost had to phone my partner to wish her good night. A pleasant and restful sleep followed until…
Hotel Zenit Lisboa
Let's get movin'
Yes, unfamiliar with the city and the hotel location, we opted for a bed & breakfast rate. In my opinion, if you are the adventurous kind, I’d suggest you go for room only, and visit one of the many cafes, bakeries that abound near the hotel for a more authentic breakfast experience.
That said, the breakfast in the hotel if a tad on the practical, utilitarian side, was nevertheless of good quality.
Now, time to explore the city.
A light but persistent rain tried its best to deter our mood as soon as we woke up and during the breakfast, but soon gave up in its vain attempt to dampen our first day and gave way to a light clouded sky.
Taking advantage of our Viva Viagem card, we caught a bus down to Lisbon’s Town Centre, down Av. Fontes Pereira de Melo, turning at the impressive Marques de Pombal square onto the Av. Da Liberdade, a handsome and upscale tree-lined boulevard that eventually ends at Praca dos Restauradores. From here, the bus snakes through narrower roads passing through Rossio, finally terminating near Praca Europa, where a short couple of minutes’ walk would take us to our first destination, Cais do Sodré, where most ferries leave towards Monotijo and Casilhas on the other side of Tagus river (Rio Tajo).
Cais do Sodré is probably the best point to start exploring Lisbon’s Old Town; Bairro Alto, Chiado, Alfama, etc.
Must see places: Palacete de Sao Bento (seat of Parliament), Praca do Comercio, Lisbon Cathedral (and after, very close, Mirador Sta. Luzia), Elevador (lift) Santa Justa, Alfama, Bairro Alto, Chiado, Eduardo VII Park, Sao Jorge Castle, Gloria, da Bica, Lavra cable car rides.
It's the way you move me
You are here - or at least, we were...
A man (and his lady) about town
As like most European capitals, Lisbon is best explored on foot however, being the hilly city it is, walking some of those steep streets, even for the fittest of explorers can be taxing on your feet, not to mention knee joints.
The best way therefore, is to take advantage of Lisbon’s very efficient, comprehensive and scandalously cheap public transport system. A good and cheap way to move around is purchasing a Viva viagem travel card. This is a chargeable magnetic card which costs €0.50 and lasts one year and can be either topped up in increments of €5,10,20 for occasional trips; single bus or metro trips (€1.50) or 24-hour travel pass (€6.45). The latter is probably the best value option for tourists, as it allows 24-hour unlimited travel from the moment it is first activated on metro, bus, funicular (or cable cars) and trams, and some of the commuter ferries.
Tip: Tram No. 28 takes you through most of the important landmarks in the Old Town. Cheaper than an open-top tourist bus!
Off to Belem we go
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Food for thought
Now, my favourite bit.
If you like your food, especially seafood, and particularly cod; my friends, you are in foodie heaven.
As I was saying to my missus, dieting is illegal in Lisbon. And rightly so.
There are restaurants for every budget and palate.
I would say the best introduction is the TIME OUT MARKET food court located in the Mercado da Ribeira opposite Cais do Sodré. Opened in 2014, it is the world’s first editorially curated food market. Every conceivable Portuguese and Portuguese fusion dish can be found here. And despite its fame, it's quite reasonably priced.
My favorite however, and this is not only a feast for the palate, but for the eyes and soul is Marisqueria e Cervejaria Ramiro, a place where seafood is king, what do I mean king, bloody dictator! Beware however, you may need to wait between an hour or two before you can get in, but believe me, it is worth every minute wait.
Now, if you wish to live dangerously while eating, Ponto Final on the other side of the Tagus, is the place. Why do I say living dangerously? Check their website and you’ll find the answer.
Dieting is illegal in Lisbon. And rightly so!
After more than two and a half years stuck in Old Blighty (England for those of you wondering), I was really looking forward to this, my first trip abroad.
As sometimes is the case, expectation can be the killer of joy.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. Lisbon not only met but actually exceeded my expectations. Even though the weather was not the bestest, that was no deterrent to enjoy this wonderful capital city.
The Portuguese are generally very hospitable. The Lisboetas however, are a level above that! And if you are not a Portuguese or even Spanish speaking person, in most retail outlets, English is widely spoken, and if not, they will usually go out of their way to understand you.
Now, is that or is that not a reason to fall madly in love with this charming city?
Like an unexpected mad love affair, you end up yearning for more of this place.
One visit was certainly not enough for me.
Yes, I think I am in love
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Ant Richards