A RELAXED SUNDAY WALK THROUGH LISBON

May 25, 2024City, Cruises, Portugal0 comments

Are you looking for a fun but relaxed (and inexpensive) day in Lisbon? Then this walk may be for you!

Lisbon was one of the ports on my recent Norwegian Dawn cruise and I had plans, definite plans. And if you read any of my other port adventures on this cruise you already know where this is going…

Yep, the plans were scrapped and I ended up taking an impromptu walk through town. As it turned out my route worked really well with a good mix of churches, quaint streets, busy tourist spots, and lots of places to just chill and relax.

Follow along to see just some of what Lisbon has to offer! (You will find a very rudimentary map of my route at the end of the post)

Pink houses and trees with purple blooms

This walk will pass by many beautiful city squares

My Sunday walk through town

I love Lisbon and spent several days there and in Sintra last year so I decided to take a quick trip to Cascais which I hadn’t gotten around to. A good choice as there is easy and inexpensive public transportation to this seaside town.

But when I got off the ship and started walking towards the train station I just didn’t feel it. The train station was still a ways off, I was exhausted from my other excursions, it was a bit later than planned, and I was (unreasonably) worried about not making it back to the ship in time.

So I decided to just chuck the Cascais plan – one of the biggest advantages of solo travel is that you can just change your mind whenever. But what to do instead?

Well, I have seen a good number of the main sights in Lisbon – from Castelo de S. Jorge to Belem – so I thought, why not just wander and see what I will find?

Of course you can just do the same and set out without a plan  but if you are looking for some inspiration you can follow along on my lazy Sunday walk!

1. Praca do Comercio

As I originally planned to take the train from the Cais do Sodre station, I was walking along the port westwards.

Right at the quite impressive Praca do Comercio I decided to just see what I would find.

I have since learned that this square was completely rebuild after Lisbon’s big earthquake of 1755 and was the site of the assassination of the penultimate Portuguese king!

Cruise Port at Port Canaveral

This large square was the turning point – away from my plans to a more unscheduled day

2. Arco da Rua Augusta

After crossing the square, I went through the large arc at the other side which leads directly into Via Augusta, a busy pedestrian street.

The arch was constructed to commemorate the rebuilding of Lisbon after the big earthquake.

3. Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta is a busy, bustling street with typical houses, shops, and loads of cafes and restaurants.

Here I noticed a lot more tourists than I remember from my previous trips. Luckily, I would soon find less popular streets.

Via Augusta in Lisbon with beautiful floor mosaics, sidewalk cafes, and pretty houses on both sides.

This is the view of Via Augusta if you look back towards the ark you passed through

4. Elevador de Santa Justa

Okay, saying that I just went without a plan isn’t quite right either. I did take a peek at Google Maps and saw that one of the Lisbon sights I had not yet seen was close by: the Elevator of Santa Justa.

I actually saw this metal contraption on my first visit to Lisbon but had no clue what it was. Subsequently, I learned it was an elevator that saves you from climbing steps/the hill to get from the neighborhood of Baixa to a higher level in the city. Lisbon is indeed steep!

 

Busy street with elevator to higher street level at the end. The elevator is made of metal and reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower.

Lisbon was quite busy on this Sunday morning

There was a clearly marked line and there weren’t too many people waiting so I joined the queue.

The process is fairly easy. The line will move slowly until it is your turn. As you enter the elevator, you either pay the attendant or scan your card. If you pay, you will receive a receipt good for a second trip on the elevator.

I had a vague recollection that you could use the regular public transport tickets to ride the elevator but didn’t have one of the cards with me. Too bad, as it would have saved some money!

As it was, tourists pay €6 for a ticket that lets you ride twice. It is per person, i.e. you can’t buy one ticket and have two people go up.

As so often in Lisbon, there is only one way of payment – in this case cash only (some places are card only).

Tip 1: If you have a Lisboa card that includes public transit you can ride the elevator for free. Make sure to scan/show the card prior/instead of paying!

Tip 2: If you do not have a Lisboa card but a regular Via Viagem public transit card, the ride will cost you the regular fare of currently €.

Tip 3: When touring Lisbon it is best to always have a credit card AND cash with you as some places take only one or the other.

The line really wasn’t very long so I waited maybe 10 minutes. Was it worth it? The elevator is pretty but the ride fairly unspectacular.

I am glad I did it once and it did save climbing some steps but if the line is long I personally don’t think it worth spending too much time waiting for your turn.

5. Top of Elevator and Archeological Museum

From the top you do have a good view over the city. However, you could enjoy the same view by going over the bridge to the elevator without actually riding it if you walked up.

I believe there is a special viewing platform higher up but that was closed during my visit.

The view over the city is nice

Right next to the elevator exit on the upper level is the Museo Archeologico do Carmo. This archeological museum in church ruins has also been on my to-do-list for Lisbon but unfortunately is closed on Sundays.

However, if you follow my lazy Sunday walk on a different day of the week, the museum would make a great additional stop!

6. Igreja do Sao Roque

The next stop was probably the highlight of my walk and definitely the biggest suprise. This church is fairly plain on the outside, but stunning on the inside.

Plain church exterior of Sao Roque in Lisbon

I almost passed by the Church of Sao Roque without entering as it didn’t look too special

The inside was a real surprise – I am not sure what I expected but I have rarely seen such an ornately decorated and rich looking church!

Between the painted ceiling, the many pictures, and all the gold it was quite extraordinary. In many churches, gold is combined with white walls which looks pretty but a bit chilly. In Sao Roque the atmosphere was rich but also homey, almost like a library!

 

Lisbon Church Sao Roque with painging on ceiling and golden niches

Aside of a tour group, the church was fairly empty so made a good spot for some reflection

There were also a lot of treasues and reliquaries, much more than in an average church. If you are in the area I highly recommend stepping inside!

I have since learned that the attached museum is well worth a visit. This is the disadvantage if you go on an impromptu stroll – you never know if entrance fees are worth it so may miss out on stuff (especially if you hate spending money like me).

Altar to Virgin Mary in Sao Roque richly decorated with carvings and gold

The amount of detail and wealth displayed was extraordinary

7. Miradoro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara

Just a couple minutes from the church is a wide viewing platform with sweeping views over the city. There were also plenty of benches there so you can rest after walking up the hill (especially if you skipped the elevator).

Sky Princess docked in Puerto Rico. Next to ship is a promenade with comfortable benches

This is not a good photo of the view. For some reason I only took one picture?

8. Botanical Garden of Lisboa

Like with the elevator earlier on, I did look at Google Maps occasionally during my walk to decide where to go next and as I love gardens I was slowly making my way towards the Botanical Garden of Lisbon.

It was good that the Botanical Garden was a planned destination because it isn’t the kind of place you stumble across. While not hard to find, the entrance is quite unobtrusive so you could easily walk by without ever noticing.

The entrance fee at €5 wasn’t very high but when I went to pay at the entrance they just waved me in. Apparently, entrance is free on Sundays as long as you enter the gardens before 1 pm! The same is true for the nearby Natural History Museum.

Lucky me, that made up for “wasting” money and basically overpaying for the elevator. You win some, you lose some (unless you do a better job planning).

If you get to the Botanical Gardens at any other time than Sunday mornings, my tip 3 above will be handy. This venue accepts cards only!

Tip 4: Entrance to the Botanical Gardens (and the Natural History Musuem) is free on Sunday mornings as long as you enter before 1 pm!

Botanical Garden Lisbon with steps and cactus

Just like the rest of town, the Botanical Garden is built on a steep hill

Lisbon’s Botanical Garden is not one of those gardens with beautiful flower borders and sweeping views. Actually, I saw more colorful blooms and flowers outside just walking through town.

However, you do feel like you are in woods and no longer in the city. It is indeed a piece of quiet nature in the middle of a bustling town.

Another highlight of the gardens are the many different statues/figures found everywhere. Definitely fun to look at!

Wooden Owl Statue in Lisbon's Botanical Garden

I enjoyed the different art work/statues found everywhere in the garden

In the Botanical Gardens you will also find two bathrooms – quite welcome after trekking all the way there!

So is the Botanical Garden Lisbon worth a visit? If you are only in town for a day or two, there are probably more important sights to see. The Botanical Garden is nice but not an absolute must-see.

However, if you are looking for a bit of nature or if you are visiting in the summer heat and are desperate for some cool and shady relaxation this is the place for you!

For me, the Botanical Garden was a great choice. The perfect place to slowly stroll, take a break on one of many benches, and read a bit. Perfect for a relaxing Sunday walk!

Shady pond with bridge surrounded by trees in the Lisbon Botanical Gardens

The Lisbon Botanical Garden offers many benches to just sit and relax in the shade

9. Igreja de Sao Mamede

After spending a bit of time at the garden I started to circle around. Just a street or so over I found another church, Igreja de Sao Mamede.

This church is not as stunning as Sao Roque and quite different, but also interesting with a very Portuguese decoration of blue and white tiles.

I happened to get there just as the Sunday service had started so didn’t take any photos. I did however stay and take part in the service.

My Portuguese is non-existent and for some reason Spanish helps with reading but not with understanding so I have no clue what the sermon (or even the readings) were about. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant service and a chance to take part in regular life instead of just doing tourist activities.

10. Strolling along Lisbon’s quiet streets

After church, I walked along some quieter streets and enjoyed the colorful buildings.

Now, what you think of this part of Lisbon will depend on personal taste. Some of the houses definitely could use a bit of a renovation/upkeep. There is quite a bit of peeling paint and some grafitti.

But on the other hand, the pretty pastel colors of the houses, the ornate ironwork balconies, and the sleepy atmosphere made for a rustic and quaint picture so I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Sloped street with colorful houses. On some, the paint is peeling off.

Though some houses were a bit run down the overall vibe was pleasant

If you take the time to look more closely at buildings you will see so many ornate and unique building facades in Lisbon!

I do wish more cities offered similar color and details instead of just grey in grey!

Older house with beautiful traditional tiles on the outside wall and cast-iron balconies

Aren’t the tiles on this house stunning?

11. Avenida da Liberdade

The quiet street ended on a main thoroughfare, Avenida da Liberdade. If you are exhausted at that part of your walk you could catch the Metro nearby.

I was determined however to make my way – slowly – back to the ship so explored along this street.

There was a small market with stalls selling clothing, souveniers, jewelry etc. Apparently, this flea market takes place on the second weekend of the month and I just happened to be there on that weekend!

I am not a huge market person so just walked by but I know many do enjoy browsing so this could be a welcome chance to pick up a souvenir.

Stalls with souveniers and jewelry along a tree-lined street

A bustling market offered all kinds of doo-dads

Even without the market Avenida da Liberdade is an impressive bouleverd with beautiful pavement, large trees, cafes, and plenty of benches.

For my taste it was a bit loud and smelly due to the traffic, but if you enjoy sitting in a bustling park and watching life go by, this would be a good spot for a break!

Fountain with statue and trees next to a kiosk and table on a busy Lisbon street

I loved the way this fountain looked and just wish the street wasn’t so busy

12. Praca dos Restauradores

At the end of this street I got to Praca dos Restauradores, another impressive square. Lisbon really has plenty of those!

Praca dos Restauradores commemorates the restauration of the independence of Portugal after Spanish domination. And yes, I had no clue when I was there and just looked it up so I could share it with you (and know on a future visit).

This is clearly part of the main city center with impressive buildings, old hotels, theaters, and stores.

Fountain with statue and trees next to a kiosk and table on a busy Lisbon street

One of my favorite things about Portugal are the mosaics on the ground

13. Praca do Rossio

Almost right after the Plaza de Restauradores you get to the next square, Praca do Rossio. (Incidentally, we are now almost back to the Elevator de Santa Justa).

On this square, there was a small market, almost like a Christmas Market (I think they called it Spring Market?). The stalls sold various treats, like Sangria, tapas, etc. and looked quite tempting.

Looking back, I wish I had bought something but I was getting rather tired by that time. Though it was just a stroll through town, Lisbon is hilly!

Fountain with statues on Praco do Rossio

The weather in May was perfect – warm but not so hot to make touring miserable

Looking around I saw a beautiful and imposing building and it took me a minute to realize that this is the Rossio Train Station. 

I would have thought it is city hall or some other official building. So in case you visit Lisbon and want to know what to look for when you are searching for the train station, here it is:

Fountain with statues on Praco do Rossio

Love the entrance gates shaped like horse shoes!

On my first trip to Lisbon, I entered a store selling piles of small, pretty, colorful boxes. At first I thought it was one of those fancy shops for soaps or chocolates.

But when I looked closer, I realized the goods were instead canned sardines!

Well, along Praca do Rossio I found a similar store but in this one you can get a sardine can with your birth year! (Presumably not the year the fish was canned!)

It was quite busy so sardines must be a popular Lisbon souvenier. Not being a big fish fan, I passed (but did take a photo). Definitely an Instagram-worthy spot if you are so inclined!

Store shelf with colorful sardine cans with birth years on top

Canned sardines – not your everyday souvenir!

14. Return to Ship

To get back to the ship you can take one of several parallel streets, including Rua Augusta where I started out.

I went down R. dos Douradores for no particular reason – choose whichever one you like. If you have more energy than me, you could easily make a small detour to the Lisbon Cathedral as it is only minutes away.

As I had visited the Cathedral on a prior trip and was quite exhausted by that time, I just went back towards the seafront.

Keep your eyes peeled to your left and you can see the cruise ship peeking out at the end of a diagonal street.

One of the best parts of having Lisbon as a cruise port is that ships can dock at a central location right there in town (or at least all the cruises I have been on have done so).

Walking back to the ship, I passed several interesting buildings but I especially like this “pokey” one right next to the cruise terminal.

House with spines and other pretty houses close to Lisbon port terminal. Cruise ship at the end of the street.

See the ship hiding behind the buildings?

Map and some practical info

Map of my Lisbon walk

I went ahead and drew a little map of where I went. This is just to give you a basic idea of the route. It is neither true to scale (well, I kind of tried…) nor does it show all streets/sights but only the ones I explored/mentioned.

I definitely recommend you take a proper map (or of course Google Maps) with you but hopefully my map will give you a bit of an overview.

How long does this walk take?

I would estimate about three hours to cover the route if you do not take many breaks. It took me a good 4.5 hours but I did spend quite a bit of time in the Botanical Gardens and attended a church service.

However, if you want to take your time and add in a couple of additional sights, like the Archeological Museum (if you are not there on a Sunday), Lisbon Cathedral, or even Castelo S. Jorge, you could easily spend half a day or even an entire day exploring Lisbon with this walk.

Is this walk difficult?

There is nothing difficult about this walk per se but Lisbon is very steep and hilly so how easy you will find the walk depends on your stamina. Decent shoes are definitely recommended on those steep cobblestone streets.

If you do get exhausted there are many chances to stop walking and use the tram or Metro instead.

Is this walk specifically for cruise stops?

Not at all. I just happened to visit on a cruise but this walk would work for any visitor to Lisbon.

How about food, drink, and bathrooms on this walk?

There are bathrooms at the Botanic Garden (and presumably elsewhere but those are the only ones I saw).

You will pass many cafes, restaurants, and shops so getting food or drink on this walk is easy. Still, taking some water along is recommended as it can be easy to get dehydrated while touring!

Conclusion

And there you have it – my completely unplanned but quite successful walk through Lisbon.

Is this the only or the ultimative Lisbon walk? Of course not, but it did include a nice mix of churches, gardens, shops, squares, and city views and both busy areas full of tourists and quieter streets frequented by locals.

So all in all, I think it is a good route to follow and of course you can always stray from the path if you feel like it. You know I would…

Pink houses and trees with purple blooms

Hi, I am Kitty and I love to travel! Welcome to my blog, where I share all I have learned on my trips - good and bad - to help you have a better, cheaper, and more perfect vacation!

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