December 10, 2010 / 10:11 AM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Lisbon

LISBON (Reuters Life!) - Full of elegantly decadent charm, the compact, cozy Portuguese capital is an ideal place to explore on a weekend getaway.

<p>The skyline of the city of Lisbon and the city's port are seen from the Tagus River December 16, 2008. REUTERS/Nacho Doce</p>

Remember that Lisbon is known as the City of the Seven Hills, which are quite steep, and many streets are paved with cobblestones so choose your footwear wisely. In winter, prepare to endure gusty winds on hilltops, but the views are worth it.

Local correspondents help you get the most out of a stay in a capital city with a warm yesteryear feel to it.

FRIDAY

5 p.m. - Start your trip at one of the city’s highest points, the viewpoint at the top of the Edward VII Park that offers a commanding view of most of Lisbon you want to see, including the ancient Sao Jorge Castle and the river Tagus.

Have a coffee by the park’s lake and stroll down the paths past greenhouses with exotic plants down to the Marquis of Pombal square with an imposing statue of the statesman who rebuilt Lisbon after the Great Earthquake of 1755.

Hit the Avenida Liberdade thoroughfare’s tree-shaded promenade paved with elaborate designs in black and white stones, or choose the broad sidewalks lined with expensive boutiques and numerous, delicious-smelling pastry shops and cafes. Portugal is heaven for those with a sweet tooth.

6:30 p.m. - On the right-hand side where the boulevard meets the vast Restauradores Square, take a turn at Calcada da Gloria and catch one of Lisbon’s elevadores -- a cross between a tram and funicular with a bulky lower end to eliminate leaning.

This functioning museum piece will take you up a very steep street to the quiet Sao Pedro de Alcantara belvedere and a tiny terraced park, complete with a waterfall and a wine bar.

7 p.m. - Enjoy the view and a glass of chilled, lightly sparkling “vinho verde” young wine in summer, or a robust Alentejano red when it is cold, with a “bolinho de bacalhau” codfish croquette.

7:30 p.m. - Up the main street, visit the Principe Real square with a century-old cedar tree that hides a dozen benches in its mighty shade. Straight narrow side streets, with antique wall-mounted lamps, lead toward the Tagus river and offer some of Lisbon’s most picturesque views.

8 p.m. - Walk down to the posh Garrett street with its expensive shops. Pop into the Art Deco “A Brasileira” cafe, once frequented by poet Fernando Pessoa, whose bronze statue in his trademark fedora hat sits at a table on the sidewalk.

9 p.m. - Dine at Royale Cafe (Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, 29 here), inside or on its cozy patio. Try octopus with "punched" potatoes or "Spiritual Codfish" with a white wine from the Ribatejo region.

After 10 p.m. - Check out the nightlife in the Bairro Alto (Upper Town) next door where dilapidated buildings house dozens of taverns with live fado music, discos and modern art stores. The reveling switches into high gear around midnight.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Have breakfast at Cafe Nicola on Rossio Square or at Confeitaria Nacional on Figueira Square in the neoclassical Baixa downtown. Try the Cornucopia (The Horn of Plenty) pastry.

10 a.m. - Visit the majestic Praca de Comercio square by the Tagus and walk up the hill toward the Sao Jorge Castle with a brief stop at the Se Cathedral. The morning sun shining through its vitrage fills the Gothic cathedral with coloured sparkles.

Have a drink on the romantic tiled terrace of the Santa Luzia viewpoint before entering the medieval castle.

Make sure you take a walk on the citadel’s wall, where the Crusaders once fought the Moors. The place breathes history and offers a superb view of the Tagus and both Lisbon’s bridges.

12 p.m. - Back at Santa Luzia, take tram No. 28 -- the creaky veteran yellow tramcart will take you to another belvedere, Graca, where you can enjoy the sound of live jazz in summer with a view of Lisbon’s red tiled roofs.

1 p.m. - Hop on the 28 again toward Baixa and then tram 15 along the Tagus to Belem, where the Jeronimos Monastery towers in all its Manueline splendor. It was built in the 1500s as a house of prayer for seafarers departing or returning from long journeys when Portugal was a key pioneer of oceanic exploration.

2 p.m. - Walk toward the river and have a mariscada (grilled crayfish) or crab (sapateira) lunch on the riverfront at the Portugalia beer restaurant by the Discoveries Monument.

After lunch take a stroll to the Belem Tower nearby -- one of the world’s most elegant fortifications.

3 p.m. - By the Jeronimos, find the shop (there’s usually a queue outside) that sells a Lisbon favorite -- Belem tarts with custard-like filling. Have one with a glass of Port wine at a table inside and you’ll want to take another half a dozen to go.

Take the same tram back to Baixa, shop for souvenirs and Port there, then find the neo-Gothic iron tower of Santa Justa Lift, built by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel. It will take you to a calm square by the ruins of the Carmo Church for some rest.

7 p.m. - Take a taxi to Largo do Chafariz de Dentro in the Alfama district. The Museum of Fado (www.museudofado.egeac.pt) there has a restaurant with traditional live fado music.

Some find the genre too mournful, but not all fado is tear-jerking. In the Esquina de Alfama restaurant (book a table in advance, www.esquinadealfama.com) waiters, dishwashers and the maitre d' take turns singing a more light-hearted "idler's fado", which some experts say is truer to fado's roots.

Have a grilled codfish or pork “febras” while you are at it.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - Have breakfast at the century-old “A Tentadora” (The Temptress) cafe (Rua Ferreira Borges 1), popular with Lisbonites of all ages. Then walk down the Rua Domingos Sequeira to the verdant Estrela park, across the road from a beautiful white Baroque basilica, which is also worth visiting.

11 a.m. - Follow the Calcada da Estrela downhill until you reach the imposing neoclassical Sao Bento palace -- a former monastery where the Portuguese parliament sits. The ceremonial guards standing at the doors allow you to photograph them.

12 p.m. - Take tram 28 to the Praca de Comercio, go up the Augusta street to the fairytale castle-like Rossio railway station with its intertwined portals with Celtic motifs.

1 p.m. - For a farewell meal and travel mood, stop at Beira Gare near the station and have a “cataplana” dish of cod, shrimp and clams or a “bifana” sandwich - one of Lisbon’s best. (Additional reporting by Liete Couto, editing by Paul Casciato)

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