I recently traveled to Portugal for a work conference. I opted to spend my first night in Lisbon before heading to Porto. Although I was massively jet-lagged, I was determined to see some of Lisbon in the few hours I had available. Luckily, Pats contacted me a few days prior to my departure, offering me a personalized Lisbon walking tour. I was happy to take her up on the offer. She created a fantastic itinerary for me. Here is the run-down of my four-hour tour of Lisbon and a few other things you should know if you ever come to Portugal.
1. Take a Break on Avenida da Liberdade
Walking down Avenida da Liberdade, lined with flags, was one of my favorite parts of the day. The view of the arch and water was really stunning. Also, the cobblestone walkway was so gorgeous. Since this was the very start of our tour, I didn’t stop for a bite to eat or for a coffee. If I came back to Lisbon, I would definitely make a point to sit at one of the many cafes here to enjoy the scenery.
2. Go to the Top of the Rua Augusta Arch
As we approached the arch, I was pleasantly surprised as my guide led me into a building to purchase tickets to go to the top of the arch. For a mere 2.50 Euros, we were able to go to the top. Unlike the Arch de Triumph in Paris, this walk was not at all difficult. Some of the stairways are very narrow and windy, but I found the walk quite simple. I recall when I climbed the Arch in Paris, I was profusely sweating and out of breath.
At the top of the Augusta Arch, there is a fantastic panoramic view of the city. It was quite windy on top of the arch, so we didn’t stay too long. However, it was such a treat to be able to have the expansive view of the city, to get a sense of the layout of the city, and also take in the coastal views. It was also fun to be able to see the giant statues close-up. For the low price and great views, a trip to the top of the Rua Augusta Arch was definitely a major highlight of my day.
3. Eat and Shop at the Timeout Market
After walking along the waterfront for a bit, my guide took me to the Timeout Market for a little snack. Since we visited on a Sunday, it was packed with people, eating, drinking and visiting. However, the moment I walked in, I wish I had come on an off-day. I loved the look and feel of the market. The building itself felt very historic, but the inside was modern and open. A bunch of shops and restaurants surrounded an open center filled with tables. My guide suggested I try one of the custard pastries Portugal is known for. I’m not one to turn down a pastry, and for a mere 1 Euro, I enjoyed my first Pastel de Nata, a Portuguese custard tart. If you’ve never had one, it is like crème brulee, but in a little quiche-like tart shell. It was yummy.
In the very short time, we were in the market, I also eyed a little art shop that had interesting representations of Lisbon and Portugal in prints. I picked up a little modern art magnet representing Lisbon, as I collect magnets from every city I visit. If I ever come back to Lisbon, I’d definitely like to spend more time at the Timeout Market. It was probably my favorite part of the Lisbon walking tour. It is open from 10 am to midnight nearly every day, so I would like to come back to check out more of the shops and try more of the eats here.
4. Site See at Jeronimos Monastery
The architecture of the Jeronimos Monastery is a must-see for anyone who visits Lisbon. The external view of the building is quite breathtaking. I opted to tour the inside of the building. The cost was 10 Euros. In retrospect, the day I visited, there was free entrance to the church. The parts of the building that only those who pay admission to see were quite beautiful, but I would not recommend the additional cost. The façade of the building, in my opinion, is better than the inside anyway. Plus, if the church admission is free, then you’ll see the very best part of the space, in my opinion.
5. Visit the Belem Tower
The Belem Tower was by far my favorite thing I was able to see in Lisbon. The 16th century building is so striking, sitting out in the river, surrounded by crashing waves. Although I didn’t go inside, I loved walking along the coast, taking in the view and watching others as they sat on the steps facing the Tower. What amazed me the most was thinking about this being built so long ago. How did they build it in the water way back then? How is it still standing more than 400 years later? This was one of the last things we saw during my tour of Lisbon. If I hadn’t been so jet lagged and tired by that point, I would have liked to go inside. If I do come back to Lisbon, I will definitely make the time to take the tour of the inside of the building.
6. Wear Sunscreen
The sun felt almost oppressive at times. I live in Arizona, but I don’t actually spend that much time in direct sunlight. Nearly the entire afternoon in Lisbon was in direct sunlight. There were just not that many places we visited where there was shade. Luckily, I did put on some SPF on my face before I left for the afternoon, but I definitely wished I had brought sunscreen with me.
7. Bring a Scarf or Hat
The sun is very bright, so a hat would be very handy for your time in Lisbon. Beyond a hat for the sun, it was also extremely windy. My guide told me the sun and wind are very common, so she suggested in the future that I should wear a scarf. I definitely needed something to keep my hair in check. By the time I returned to the hotel, my hair was a complete mess. I looked like I had ratted my hair for an 80s throw-back party. It was not a good look. For me, the sun and the wind combined were quite uncomfortable and a bit overwhelming. I assume my lack of patience had something to do with the 3 hours of sleep I had the night before. However, I definitely didn’t enjoy the weather this hot day in June.
8. Don’t Wear a Flowy Dress
Another thing about the wind, well, it gives you the whole Marilyn Monroe vibe. There were at least a few times I’m sure I flashed the people of Lisbon. While I was at the top of the Arch, there was a girl in a very flowy dress that nearly ripped off of her. The intensity of the wind and the billowy nature of her dress left her basically naked on top of the arch. So if you travel to Lisbon, I’d suggest wear shorts, a romper or a very stiff dress (think denim, something that can’t catch the wind).
9. Visit in Fall, Not Summer
I was in Lisbon in early June, and it was just too hot for me. Even though there was a very strong wind, I just thought it felt too hot. I was quite sweaty and felt gross nearly immediately. It is humid in Lisbon. The combination of the wind, the beating sun, the high temperature and the humidity was just not that pleasant for me. My guide suggested I visit in the fall, when the temperatures are milder. Just other places I’ve been in Europe (Italy, Spain, France), I prefer going in May or September, when temperatures are a bit cooler and there are less tourists.
Overall, my 4 hour Lisbon walking tour was quite enjoyable, despite my distaste for the weather. There were many gorgeous things to see and with it was so nice having a guide. If you get a chance to visit Lisbon, and would like a personalized tour, you should check out Lisbon with Pats. She is very knowledgeable, speaks English very well, and created a great half-day tour for me.