Most of my days in Lisbon were spent shopping and dining downtown. Although I’ve enjoyed those easy afternoons, my last day in Lisbon, I wanted to take the opportunity to see the sights.
I set off with my roommate and her boyfriend in search of the Military Museum, the oldest museum in the city. The museum houses guns, swords, cannons, and medals from different eras. The boyfriend was like a kid in a candy shop looking at all the gadgets. For me, the highlight of the visit was seeing the building. There were murals painted on the walls and ceilings, gold carved wooden molding, sculptures, and the signature Portuguese tiles.
Next, we stopped for a bite to eat and discussed our options for the rest of the day. I had heard good things about the tuk tuk tours in Lisbon, and luckily, I was able to convince both my friends to join me for a tour.
We started walking towards the cathedral to find a tuk tuk. The cathedral was beautiful, and as we hoped, there was a tuk tuk driver ready to take us around. The driver was a handsome young man. He told us that he started doing tours one month ago to supplement his usual job teaching physical education. He speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French, so he’s well suited for dealing with tourists.
The first stop on our tour was the Castel St. Jorge. We just saw the outside since tickets were expensive, but it was still lovely. Our tour guide explained that half the walls had been rebuilt. The larger stones were part of the historic section, and the older looking walls with more variety in stone size and shape were actually part of the renovated area that had intentionally been built to look old. We also learned how to spot the difference between old and new homes around the castle. Old homes have very short doors, and you often have to step down when entering.
Before getting back in the tuk tuk, we stopped for 1-euro shots of port at a nearby shop. If I had been allowed to, I would’ve bought a bottle to bring back to the ship with me!
When we hit the road again, our driver learned that we were sort of thrill seekers, so he started racing down the hills en route to our next destination. On the way, we stopped to see an old villa built in 1890. It used to house factory workers. The owner of the factory lived in the penthouse, and there was a central courtyard for the employees to socialize in.
Our next two stops were lookout points at the two highest parts of the city. The views were fantastic! We were able to see the difference between the parts of town built recently and those built before the earthquake. The architecture and layout of the four main areas were markedly different. There was a beautiful cathedral at the first lookout point. The streets between the two spots were full of locals. Our tour guide said that many of them never leave that neighborhood. The second, higher lookout point was his favorite place in the city. Looking out, shaded by an old tree, I could see why!
We then drove past another old church and then stopped in front of the Pantheon. The Pantheon took a total of 270 years to build! Due to financial constraints, construction was not continuous, but it still is a remarkable period of time to spend on one building. It houses the remains of many Portuguese figures. The most recent body added was an opera singer 3 years ago.
Next, we drove through Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in the city. Doors were much smaller than other parts of the city, and streets were very narrow. Only residents were allowed to have cars there. Since our driver knew we enjoyed alcohol, he stopped at a small shop to get us free samples of Ginjinha, a local cherry based drink. It was sweet, but very enjoyable. While driving around, we learned that the locals had mixed feelings about the tuk tuks coming through. They liked the money brought in by tourists, but didn’t appreciate the noise and pollution from the vehicles.
The tour ended at the Rua Augusta Arch. We stopped at a nearby wine bar to enjoy our last hour on land. All in all, it was a pretty perfect day! The tour and the museum made me appreciate the beauty and history of Lisbon on a whole new level.