We are not done yet with our overview of big cities on our long distance hiking adventures. After our Camino Frances through beautiful parts of Spain, it won’t be fair towards Portugal if we don’t also write about their big cities on the Portuguese Camino!
- We have done the Portuguese Camino during March/April 2018. Our journey started in Lisbon and we covered 620km (385 miles) in 26 days.
- Thinking back, we have not encountered many big cities on the Portuguese Camino. Lisbon was definitely one and don’t forget about beautiful Porto. But we will cover a few smaller cities in between and also share some photos of the walk itself.
Day 1 (in Lisbon):
We arrived on a Sunday in Lisbon and had to take a train from the airport to Rossio Station, which is situated in the very center of Lisbon. From there we had to walk approximately 2km (1.2 miles) to our accommodation.
This meant that we had to familiarise ourselves very quickly with the Portuguese metro ticketing system … I’m always a bit apprehensive when it comes to this, but Berto likes a challenge and bought tickets not only for us, but also for a couple from the UK who couldn’t master the machines!
Berto with our train tickets
To get to our accommodation, we had to climb a few stairs and take a lift/elevator (from the one street to an upper street) … I quickly realised that Lisbon is a very hilly city! Our hostel, ‘This is Lisbon’ was on a high hilltop with a beautiful view over Lisbon.
The view from the hostel’s terrace
After a refreshing shower (we just spent 13 hours on planes and airports), we decided to take a stroll to find something to eat, while seeing more of this beautiful city. We only had 2 days for a bit of sightseeing before our walk would start on the Tuesday. Though, once again, we kept in mind that we shouldn’t walk too much … we will do enough of that for the next 26 days!
Our first stop was at a lovely castle, Saint George’s Castle (Castelo de São Jorge), situated on a hill – of course. This historic castle dates to at least the 8th century BC while the first fortifications built date from the 1st century BC.
But typical pilgrims, we were more interested in the views from the castle than the castle itself – we tried to track down the road we would walk in a few days.
Enjoying the views from the castle
Views over the Atlantic Ocean
And we quickly fell in love with the tiled buildings
We didn’t hang around too long at the castle, because we were actually quite hungry. And as luck would have it, we found a Sunday market close to Rossio Station. This was the perfect introduction to real Portuguese food … and we were not disappointed!
As meat eaters, we will surely not go hungry in Portugal
We also found (and enjoyed) Portuguese Sangria
It turned out to be a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon at the market. We were quite jet lagged and decided to just hang around at the market, sampling smoked pork loin, various sausages and cheeses … while drinking a few more glasses of sangria, of course.
People were sitting (and lying) around on Rossio Square at the Sunday market
We could see the top of Castelo de São Jorge from the market
On our way back, we bought a bottle of wine which we enjoyed on the terrace of the hostel.
Evening view from our hostel’s terrace
Day 2 (in Lisbon):
Since we didn’t want to walk too much before starting our Camino, we decided to buy tickets for a sightseeing tour on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus (except, we won’t be doing any ‘hop off’ and just enjoy the ride).
Here is a gallery of a few statues and buildings we saw on our ride:
Dom João (ruled Portugal up until his death in 1433) at the Praça da Figueira in the downtown area
Rossio Railway Station
Monument to the Restorers
Driving past Eduardo VII Park with a view over Lisbon
Construction on the Jerónimos Monastery and church began in 1501 and was completed 100 years later. It is near the launch point of Vasco de Gama’s first journey.
View of the Jerónimos Monastery
Capela Memorial – this monument pays tribute to over 9,000 Portuguese soldiers that lost their lives while fighting in several colonial conflicts/wars
We also drove past one of Lisbon’s most well-known monuments, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries). It’s situated on the northern bank of the Tagus River and celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Monument of the Discoveries
After 2 hours of driving on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus, we arrived back at Downtown Lisbon, known as Baixa Pombalina. This part of the city was almost totally destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. It was rebuilt and today it is an early example of a ‘planned’ city with a series of straight and perpendicular streets running both sides of Rua Augusta.
Statue of King Joseph I, the Portuguese king at the time of the 1755 earthquake
The Cais das Colunas quay was used to welcome some prestigious figures that have visited Portugal. That was the case of late Queen Elizabeth II, who in 1957 arrived here and made her way into Lisbon through these two columns.
Cais das Colunas
We also walked past the well-known Santa Justa Lift. This lift (or elevator) in the historic center of Lisbon connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Carmo Square. The top floor is a lookout with panoramic views of the city. The queue was just too long, so we opted not to make use of the lift … and rather went on a hunt for something sweet …
The Santa Justa lift as seen from Rua de Santa Justa
What were we looking for? The delicacy that Portugal is so known for … Pastel de nata! It’s a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry (sometimes dusted with cinnamon) and something I enjoyed almost every day while walking the Portuguese Camino!
Pastel de nata
Day 3 (in Lisbon – just for a few hours):
We started our Portuguese Camino on day 3 in Lisbon. Which mean we still had to walk through parts of Lisbon – let’s show you more of this beautiful city.
The first few kilometers took us all along the Tagus River, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. We then reached quite a modern part of Lisbon – Parque das Nações. This is a redeveloped area on the Tagus River with green spaces, striking buildings and the Telecabine Lisboa cable car.
In Parque das Nações with a view of the cable cars
We also walked past the Vasco da Gama Bridge. This is the second longest bridge in Europe (after the Crimean Bridge – however, the Crimean Bridge was recently damaged with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine when an explosion caused midway sections of one of the two carriageways of the bridge to collapse into the sea – Wikipedia).
Construction of the Vasco da Gama Bridge began in 1995 and was officially opened in March 1998, just in time for the Expo 98, the World’s Fair that celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Vasco da Gama of the sea route from Europe to India.
The bridge is more than 12km (7.5 miles) long
We ended our walk through the Parque das Nações with a view of a bronze statue of Catharina de Braganza. She was the daughter of King John IV of Portugal and left Lisbon in 1662 to marry Charles II, after which she became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Statue of Catharina de Braganza with the Vasco da Gama Bridge in the background
There is so much more of Lisbon that we wanted to see, but this time it was not meant to be. We loved the introduction to our first Portuguese city and couldn’t wait to see more of this amazing country!
Stay tuned, because we will soon introduce you to another city on the Portuguese Camino.
You can read about our stay in Lisbon, while we were getting ready for the Portuguese Camino, here