A short list of stuff to avoid in Lisbon in order to make the best use of your time.
Traveling can be a stressful experience for some people. If you aren’t prepared or haven’t done minimum planning, you will get overwhelmed with the number of touristic offerings some places provide. With the latest touristic boom that Portugal is going through, Lisbon is no exception to that. It’s yet another city becoming quite complicated to navigate in and prone to stress travelers, especially if you are an interested and responsible one. What to see? When to go? Am I doing the “real” thing?
There isn’t a direct answer to those questions since every traveler has his/her personal goals and what it means authentic to some, may be interpreted as backward to others. However, in life, there are 2 truths for everyone: Taxes and death. In other more down to earth words: you want to make the best use of the little money you have in the short time you have on earth. So here’s the advice: avoid some of the touristic pitfalls in Lisbon, because there are many.
The easiest way to make the best use of your time is to hire a tour guide (Btw why don’t you start with us?). However, we understand that many are not willing to spend an extra amount of well-earned money or simply don’t want the constraints of organized sightseeing. So, in order to secure authenticity, you have to plan your trip. Luckily, Rootfarers is here to help with a small list of things you should avoid in Lisbon. Disclaimer: we are not saying by any standards that these attractions are not worthwhile. However, we know that as a traveler, you will have a limited time in Lisbon so we want to make sure you make the best use of little time you have!
So here’s a list of things you can/should avoid:
1 – Pastéis de Belém
Simple and yet delicious! Following the monasteries eviction in 1834, these custard tarts began selling in the mid-1800s right by the Jerónimos Monastery. They quickly became a household name for Portuguese gastronomy, in such a way that their recipe has since become secret and protected from the public eye, only to be transmitted to a select group of pastry cooks. However, its secrecy aura has led this shop to become stale and hostage to its own success, lately it has become a touristic attraction with a very long queue to get in. While the long queue is mostly for take away, the truth is that there are other alternatives to get traditional custard tarts such as the Manteigaria or Fábrica da Nata. By the way, these alternatives actually have better reviews on TripAdvisor.
2- Going up the Santa Justa Lift
It’s one of the most beautiful Neo-gothic examples of late XIX century in Lisbon, a fine sample of iron engineering that gives access to a nice lookout to Lisbon’s downtown. However, for €5,30 one might wonder if the 45m (148 feet) ride is worth it. The truth is that you can access the lookout for €1,50 from the top of the lift in Largo do Carmo, so why bother paying for a 10s ride? Also, Lisbon is full of other similar lookouts, so if you want to get a grasp of Lisbon’s rooftop scene why don’t you try the Pollux Terrace, Hotel Mundial, Hotel do Bairro alto terrace or the hotel do Chiado terrace?
3- Taking the 28 Tram
Connecting Martim Moniz Square to Campo de Ourique, the 28 tram is probably one of the most iconic attractions in Lisbon. The tram is quite quaint and goes through many of the touristic checkpoints. This said, either you hop-on early in the morning at the departure station in Campo de Ourique, or you will find yourself waiting with fellow tourists in a long queue, only to board and squeeze just like a sardine in a can (local Portuguese expression). As an alternative, we suggest you take one of the 15 trams. You might have to wait a bit if you want to take one of the older trams, but rest assured it will be much less crowded and it will go through many interesting checkpoints along the way. Unfortunately, in both cases, pickpockets are lurking so keep your eyes open.
4- Entering the tower of Belém
Before any European country dared, Portugal invested in some of the most fearless sea voyages the man has ever made. Belém, then known as Restelo was the departure place of some of these trips. While no ship ever departed from the Tower of Belém (it’s a defense point), the tower itself is a reflection of the wealth and architecture that derived from the success of these voyages. But should you enter? Meh… Unless you have a clear and dedicated interest in gothic and Manueline architecture, the visit is not worth the price and the waiting time. Instead, you should take your time enjoying the scenic location of this masterpiece: Take a walk, sit on the stairs, regain energy with a cup of coffee or simply take some time off and enjoy the beauty of the river!
5- Lunch in Rua Augusta and around.
We understand it’s convenient, the esplanade is inviting, it’s located in the heart of the city center and the waiters invite you to seat with a smile as big as the moon. However, if you take a careful look, you’ll notice there aren’t that many Portuguese in these restaurants. Why? Because the food is not amazing and the prices are completely inflated. Portugal is synonym with gastronomy so there are plenty of alternatives, but if you want to find something that is genuinely Portuguese here are few suggestions not far from Rua Augusta: Estrela da Sé, Leitaria “A Camponeza”, O Eurico, O Zé da Mouraria and Maria Catita.
There are many other interesting things you can do in Lisbon, besides what you are supposed to do or what Instagramming compels you to do (Do we smell another blog post here?). Keep your eyes open and plan your trip! If interested in a genuine and authentic tour, contact us!
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