Because March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, I decided to tell you about a city where I personally always felt happy. Like in the early morning days in Baixa – Lisbon old city town, where the picturesque streets are quiet and the sunlight plays with the buildings bearing the signature of Marquis of Pombal. Baixa Pombalina is perhaps the best choice for your accommodation in Lisbon. From here, by foot, you can arrive in minutes to some of the top famous landmarks – Praça do Comércio (with Paços da Ribeira or the Royal Palace), Praça da Figueira, Avenida da Liberdade, the picturesque neighborhood of Alfama, Castelo de Sao Jorge – Castle St. George and the Elevador Santa Justa that takes you to the Bairro Alto and the Fado restaurants & clubs. As everything is at hand, there is no shortage of bars and restaurants in which to rest your tired feet alongside stores and shopping malls to ruin your budget in.
A few hours at the zoo are a must
Now let’s talk about one of the most beautiful places to spend your time: Jardin Zoologico de Lisboa, a zoo that redefines the concept of interaction with animals: 2,000 animals and over 360 species, whose playground is the size of a neighborhood. In fact you have to walk for hours if you want to see the whole complex which includes a Dolphins area, an enchanted garden where birds fly free, the reptile house – crocodiles included- and a cemetery for animals. You can feed the sea lions and the pelicans; admire the peacocks walking free on the paths, the giraffes leaning toward you for a good photo. If you are more comfortable up in the air, take the open chairlift and you will enjoy a ride a few meters above the animals head J ! Lisbon Zoo is located in the center – Praça Marechal Humberto Delgado, Sete-Rios and is easily reached by metro using the blue line, station “Jardim Zoológico” or buses no. 16, 31, 54, 70, 96, 701, 726, 746, 755, 758. Keep in mind that with the Lisboa card you will get 15% discount on the entrance ticket.
From the Zoo to Oceanario for shark interaction
Still up for another stroll? Take the metro and go down to Oriente station. Crossing the street and the inside of the shopping center Vasco da Gama you will reach the esplanade, where you can take the cable car to see the city from above or go to Oceanario. It was opened in 1999, with the leitmotif “The oceans, a heritage for the future” and will keep you captivated for about 1.30 min. Enjoy the adorable otters, play with the dwarf penguins and stop in front of the huge cylindrical aquarium (spread over 3 floors) to watch the sharks, the stingrays and dozens of oceanic species swimming calmly in your presence.
Go to Belem for history and the amazing pasteis
Belem is located in the west part of Lisbon and it was the departure place for the explorers and the royal residence after the earthquake in 1775. If you are in the city center than take tram no. 15 and you will be in Belem in about 15 minutes. The final stop is in front of the impressive Jerónimos monastery – where you can visit the tomb of Vasco da Gamma and the monument of Discovery. Here you have the Belem Palace, the former royal residence – now the official residence of the President of Portugal, the National Museum of carriages created in 1905 ( it is a must, it is certainly unique) and the Belem Tower, built in the sixteenth century as part of the defensive system of Tejo River. As for Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém , they were included in 1983 on the UNESCO World Heritage list. And no visit here is complete without the sweets, obviously! The unmistakable taste of the famous pastry called – pasteis is a touristic main attraction that never diminishes. You will find them in any bar or restaurant at about 1.40 euros a piece.
Tips from Lisbon:
- The most effective way to see the city remains the metro. And as public transport is quite expensive compared to prices in Romania (2.80 E – a tram ticket, 6 E – a metro card valid for 24 hours) I recommend buying the Lisboa Card. The card gives you free passing on any means of transport, free access to 31 museums, castles, monasteries and discounts up to 50% for the rest of the touristic sights.
- Most streets in the old town are cobbled so comfortable footwear is recommended.
- From January to mid-February, in every store in Lisbon there are crazy sales and the shopping frenzy begins. Prices drop by 70%!
- The best locations from which to observe the city panorama: the platform of Elevador Santa Justa, the terraces of the St. George Castle and the platform of the Cristo Rei statue