Getting around, Lisbon

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  • D. João I statue and castle
    D. João I statue and castle
    by a2lopes
  • Casa dos Bicos
    Casa dos Bicos
    by a2lopes
  • tiles in Bairro Alto
    tiles in Bairro Alto
    by a2lopes
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    Rossio - Praça D. Pedro IV

    by a2lopes Updated Mar 20, 2009

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    Rossio from the Elevador de Santa Justa
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    Favorite thing: Rossio is the fond name Lisbonners use for Praça D. Pedro IV. The old name "Rossio" was the common name given to the central squares of any town in the country. It is the "center", the heart of Lisbon, the focal point of the lower city, full of souvenir and craft shops, historical cafés, pigeons, where everybody passes by, stops, the meeting point to go somewhere downtown.

    Up high on a marble column (actually with 27 meters is one of the highest in the city) the bronze statue of Pedro IV overlooks the square with its amazing black and white mosaic undulating pebble paving "calçada portuguesa" in a special design -Mar Português (the waves of Portuguese sea)- and the 2 baroque bronze fountains.

    Talking about Pedro, it was a curious sovereign. First of all, his father, João VI, left Lisbon running from Napoleon’s troops in a huge fleet for Brazil who becomes the head of the Portuguese empire. The only sovereign to run away from Napoleon (not giving him the “privilege” of being defeated) and the only European empire with a capital out of Europe... this is quite a story. When his father returned to Lisbon he split the crown and enthroned himself Brazil emperor. But once his father died he was elected (as successor) king o Portugal. First he accepted the throne of Portugal but he only ruled for 6 days and he left this crown to his daughter Maria da Glória. Later on his brother Miguel, an absolutist which opposed his brother’s liberal ideas, started a fight against his nephew Maria (actually to her sister Isabel Maria, who was left as regent) and claimed the throne. This started a civil war between absolutists and liberals and Pedro IV abdicated his throne in Brazil in favor of his son Pedro II and returned from Brazil in 1831. In July 1833 he arrived in Lisbon, and later that year Maria da Glória (D. Maria II) was proclaimed Queen, with Pedro as regent.

    Well, back to the square. In the old days the big Estaus Palace served as the Inquisition office, and as the main square, along with the open market Rossio was frequently used as setting for public executions. Later on, the huge All-Saints Royal Hospital was also build on the eastern side of the square. As many other structures in Lisbon area these important buildings were destroyed with the big earthquake of 1755 (actually the old Inquisition Palace was only completely destroyed in a fire in 1836) and what we can see today is the reminiscence of the Marquês de Pombal reconstruction plan carried out along the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, Rossio was always the most important square in town and so was used for political rallies, bullfights, military parades, etc.

    North of the square is Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II, a neoclassical style building from the 1840’s with six monumental columns and built on the spot of the Inquisitional Palace. It is no less interesting inside, the theater itself being a fine one, with a ceiling painted by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. On the outside, the statue above the theater is the one of Gil Vicente, our first play-righter, also a known goldsmith which was the author of one of the best gold treasures of Portugal -the Belém Monstrance on display at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (see link).

    Next to the theater we have from one side the beautiful Rossio train station and from the other the Largo de S. Domingos. This leads to Praça da Figueira and to the pedestrian street Portas de Santo Antão -a strolling area with shops, leisure esplanades, and several types of restaurants, from the very expensive (but good) Gambrinus, to the small and cheap “tascas”. And of course being here we cannot avoid one of the landmarks of Rossio area - the ginginha- a traditional sour cherry liquor that spread from Rossio (actually the most well known place stands in Largo de S. Domingos) and become popular all around the country. Some places like Óbidos specialized in this liquor but most part of the production of the cherries come from Fundão, near the Serra da Estrela.
    There are 2 quite famous cafés across the square: Nicola, once the hangout of intellectuals and artist, namely the famous satiric poet Bocage, and the famous Pastelaria Suíça, the pastry shop of kings with finest traditional sweets.

    On the other top of the Rossio square stands the bizarre Rua da Betesga (which we can translate as the redundant "alley street" because of the previous dead end street standing there before the earthquake) which is the smallest street in Lisbon (20 meters) but the one with most traffic, as every vehicle entering the Rossio square from the river must pass there. There is a Portuguese saying that can be translated as “you are trying to put the Betesga in Rossio” to address a virtually impossible task. By the way, at the end of Rua da Betesga you can find another good pastry shop (pastelaria), Confeitaria Nacional, which dates back to 1829, and is quite famous for its "bolo-rei" (literally, King Cake) a traditional Portuguese soft dough cake with nuts and fruits, which is usually eaten around Christmas until the "Dia de Reis" (literally, Day of Kings, as a reference to the three wise men) on January 6th.

    Pigeons are a constant in the square but this applies also on many other areas in Lisbon. The square is also the gathering point of ethnic people from the Portuguese ex-colonies (and their second generation) not necessarily related to drugs or poverty, it is just because they are used to come here, and they will not upset / annoy you. But as a foreigner (and they will spot it by the distance) you will be offered some drugs by other youngsters. You will also see some beggars. Well this is the scene you have in all great cities (in Europe at least).

    As Lisbon is quite hilly there are many viewpoints, we call them Miradouros (see link), which have superb views of the town and the river. There are 3 great spots to overlook Rossio square from above -the castle, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (at the top of Elevador da Glória), and the cafeteria at the top of the Santa Justa elevator. I go there often just for the view and admire the Lisbonners and tourists passing by like ants :-)

    The entire square is served by many city buses (remember it is the most important square in town), the Rossio train station and by the metro stations "Rossio" (green line) and nearby "Baixa-Chiado" (blue line).

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    Praça do Comércio Square

    by a2lopes Updated Mar 20, 2009

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    Christmas lights @ Pra��a do Com��rcio
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    Favorite thing: Still known as Terreiro do Paço (the old Royal Palace was here 400 years until the big earthquake of 1755) this is the largest of Lisbon squares. Like a great amphitheater facing the river this is a vast space (112000 sq meters) lined on three sides by yellow buildings of uniform type, with high stone arches housing several public offices (ministries, etc), and a fourth side, which is the river Tejo itself, with a marble staircase with 2 columns, the Cais das Colunas (column quays’), where the caravels and trading vessels once docked.

    In the center of the square stands the 14 meters bronze equestrian statue of King José I. This was the king that ruled the country when we were devastated by the big earthquake in 1755, and although the mentor of the rebuilding of the Baixa (downtown area) was its prime minister Sebastião José, known as Marquis de Pombal, the rebuilding of the town is depicted in the magnificent pedestal of this statue. This is a place full of story for Lisbonners, which celebrates many important events. Many kings were born here (on the palace) and the penultimate was assassinated -king Carlos in 1908. Prior to air traffic this was the place of arrival for the important guests (kings, queens, etc.) as they come from the sea.

    On the right corner, close to the arch, is the famous Café Martinho da Arcada (see link), which has making Portuguese typical dishes and excellent pastries since 1782 (oldest restaurant in Lisbon), and where the poet Fernando Pessoa, one of the biggest Portuguese writers of all time, enjoyed the afternoons taking some aguardente (spirit, literally fire water).

    Contrary to some well known plazas in other European towns, Praça do Comércio is not yet totally exploit as a recreation area in a daily basis, eg. with restaurants and esplanades, and is still a major traffic point in Lisbon. Hopefully this will change in the future since from 2008 they close traffic on Sundays and there are many activities promoted by the city hall entities (a program called “Sundays the Terreiro do Paço is for people”. Moreover, there are many benches around the plaza to relax and after 2010 the Cais das Colunas will be reopen as a promenade place -Passeio Ribeirinho (riverside walk).

    This is also the place to be if you come to spend the New Years Eve in Lisbon and you enjoy a popular night. There are always rock/pop concerts and big fireworks around midnight. Bring your own bottle and join Lisbonners in this town event.

    This area is served by several city bus lines, metro line, and of course by boats coming from the other side of the river. Also nearby we have 2 major train stations: to the west Cais do Sodré (suburban line to Cascais) and to the east Santa Apolónia (departure point to the north of the country and linking to Gare do Oriente).
    From this square it is also possible to take some of the many tourist routes promoted by Carris either by tram or bus. Another nice option is to take the cruise along the Tejo (from April until October). There is also a tourist office, a wine taste point, and some exhibition halls.

    For more information about the square please see here

    NOTE: This square will be under reconstruction in 2009 as the water supply and the sewage systems are under renovation (according to the responsible companies “until June 2009” but you know about this type of announcements).

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  • Usefull Words in Portuguese

    by dimilag Written May 24, 2007

    Favorite thing: In the restaurant:

    Waitress = Garçon
    Fish = Peixe
    Meat = Carne
    Fruit = Fruta
    Dessert = Sobremesa
    Wine = Vinho
    Beer = Cerveja
    Water = Água
    Juice = Sumo
    Coffee = Café
    Bread = Pão
    Please bring me the bill = Traga-me a conta por favor
    Please = Por favor
    Thank you = Obrigada (if you’re a woman)
    Obrigado (if you’re a man)


    I need help = Preciso de ajuda
    How much is it? = Quanto custa?
    Cash = Dinheiro
    Cheque = Cheque
    Credit card = Cartão de crédito
    What size is this? = Qual é o tamanho?
    Shoes = Sapatos
    T-shirt = T-shirt
    Trousers = Calças
    Skirts = Saias
    Books = Livros
    Earrings = Brincos
    Watch = Relógio
    Ring = Anel
    Cigarettes = Cigarros
    Bottle = Garrafa
    Perfume = Perfume

    Asking information:

    Excuse me, can you help me = Desculpe, pode-me ajudar
    Where is... = Onde fica...
    How do I get there = Como posso lá chegar
    Where do I get the bus = Onde apanho o autocarro
    Do you speak English = Fala Inglês
    I’m looking for the museum = Estou à procura do museu
    Library = Biblioteca
    Shopping Center = Centro Comercial
    Lady/woman = Senhora/mulher
    Mister/man = Senhor/homem


    1 = um
    2 = dois
    3 = três
    4 = quatro
    5 = cinco
    6 = seis
    7 = sete
    8 = oito
    9 = nove
    10 = dez
    100 = cem
    1000 = mil
    2000 = dois mil
    3000 = três mi

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  • Lisboa Card

    by dimilag Written May 17, 2007

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    Lisboa Card

    Favorite thing: You should buy the Lisboa Card. It offers you Unlimited use of the public transportation, free entrance or reductions to museums, sights, restaurants etc and additional reductions.

    It offers 100% Reduction at the following places:

    Cold Greenhouse, Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves Dwelling Museum, St Anthony´s Museum, City Museum, Music Museum, Folk Art Museum, Chiado Museum, Museum of the Geologic Institut,
    National Archaeology Museum, National Ancient Art Museum, National Tile Museum, National Ethnology Museum, National Theatre Museum, National Costume Museum, National Coach Museum, Air Museum, Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, National Pantheon, Ajuda National Palace, Pena National Palace, Pena Park, Queluz National Palace, Sintra National Palace,
    Mafra National Palace.

    It offers 50% Reduction at the following places:

    Carris - Aerobus, Carristur - Sintra, Mestre João da Silva Dwelling Museum, Arpad Szènes,
    Water Museum, Science Museum, Macau Scientific and Cultural Center Museum, Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium.

    It offers 40% Reduction at the following places:

    Tourist Train - Parque das Nações.

    It offers 30% Reduction at the following places:

    Belém, Fado and Portuguese Guitar House, St George Castle, Olisipónia - St George Castle,
    Lisboa Experience - Audiovisual show, St. Roque Museum, Tramcars and Buses Museum,Toy Museum, Puppet Museum, Monument of the Discoveries.

    It offers 25% Reduction at the following places:

    Carris - Hills Tour / Discoveries Tour - Sightseeing Tour in an old tramcar, Carristur - Tagus Tour / Orient Tour, Carristur - LVT Cruzeiro, Frigate D.Fernando II and Glória, Maritime Museum.

    Fondest memory: It offers 20% Reduction at the following places:

    Sidecar Touring - Sightseeing Tours, Transtejo - River Tour, Quinta do Sanguinha, Modern Art Center, Design Museum, Portuguese Decorative Art Museum, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum,
    Military Museum, Carmo Archeologic Museum, Knowledge Pavillion, Vasco da Gama Aquarium - Exhibitions and Selling of tropical fresh water fishes.

    It offers 15% Reduction at the following places:

    Cityrama/Gray Line - Sightseeing Tours, Lisboa Zoo, Lisbon Oceanarium, Train and Bus - Sintra -Cabo da Roca -Cascais-Sintra, Belém Cultural Center, Culturgest - Exhibitions, Torres Joalheiros - Jewellery, Valentim de Carvalho, Adega Mesquita - Fado House Restaurant, Lisboa Vista do Tejo ( Restaurant - Cruise ), Tagus Craft Shop, Fábrica Cerâmica Viúva Lamego - Tiles and pottery, Fábrica Sant´Anna - Tiles and pottery

    It offers different Reductions at the following places:

    Monserrate Park - Sintra € 2, Capuchos Convent - Sintra € 2, Moorish Castle - Sintra € 2

    LisboaCard 24hrs Adults: 13.50 €, Kids: 6.00 €
    LisboaCard 48hrs Adults: 23.00 €, Kids: 9.50 €
    LisboaCard 72hrs Adults: 28.00 €, Kids: 11.50 €

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    Lisboa Card

    by irisbe Written Apr 10, 2005

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    Lisboa reduction card

    Favorite thing: If you stay a couple of days, you might consider to buy a Lisboa card.

    It will give you reduction to many musea, it comes with a book with all the addresses and places to visit and you will be able to use the local transportation.

    The time we were there in 2001, you also could have a free ride on the famous tram 28.
    I read recently on another member’s page that you now have to pay for this tram.
    The first time you use it you have to fill in the date and have it stamped and put your signature.

    We took a 72 hour card but we didn’t have much profit out of it as some of the musea were closed for reconstruction and there was also a free museum day during our stay.
    I think it would be better to stay longer then the 72 hours and use the first couple of days to explore and then valid your card for the remaining days and museum discounts.

    Fondest memory: I would have stayed on tram 28 the whole day. Sometimes it was like a helter skelter! On the last evening there were some of the trams not driving but lucky the very last one did! Only the driver was not very happy to have to pick up so many people and he showed it, not only by his expression, but also by his "driver's skills".
    Every one was trying to keep serious, trying to avoid to look at eachother because that driver would have just kicked you off his vehicul should you dear to laugh!.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel

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    by LysDor Updated Mar 9, 2005

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    Favorite thing: Even if Lisbon is located on hills, the best way to get to know the city is to walk if you feel fit enough! Otherwise take the tram nbr 28 to have an overview of the capital.

    During a not-so-hot-day (temperatures were up to 32C while there - and journeys were a bit tough!!)
    but it's a MUST to walk to Castelo de São Jorce (or take the tram 28 East from Baixa).

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    A City of Hills

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 29, 2004

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    Colourful Houses on the Alfama Hillside

    Favorite thing: It did not take us long to find out why Lisbon is called the 'City of Seven Hills'!! As soon as we had arrived in the country and checked our bags in our hotel, we ventured out on foot for a little exploration of the downtown core of the city. Just the way the streets were laid out, as we left from the inland Saldanha district, we headed downhill toward what appeared to be the centre of the city, with this marvelous view of the beautiful coloured houses looking toward the ancient Alfama district of the city.

    This seemed to be a contant theme in Lisbon, you were either climbing up hills or strolling down them wherever you walked. The beauty of it was the great weather, interesting architecture, friendly people and new sights at every turn. However, be prepared to 'crash' early if you are not up to this demanding pace in the heat of a typical Portugese day!

    Related to:
    • Family Travel

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    Driving in Lisboa

    by rp6686 Updated Mar 4, 2004

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    Rotunda Marqu��s de Pombal

    Favorite thing: Before you rent a car in Lisboa, there are a few things you should know:

    -Portuguese drive on the right side of the road;
    -The use of safety belt is always compulsory;
    -Driving and drinking is not recommended. When you drive the legal maximum alcohol level is restricted to 0,5g/l.
    -Usually, vehicles approaching from the right have priority, except in rounds or when the signs tell the contrary.

    Lisboa can be quite confusing and traffic jams are very common on its streets. It can be a nightmare to park in the centre in rush hours.

    Stay within the legal speed requirements, wear your seatbelts, take it easy and enjoy the beauty of Lisboa.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip

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    When you do get a car, take bridge over the Tagus

    by Groentje Written Feb 20, 2003

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    View on Ponte 25 de Abril

    Favorite thing: You might get stuck in traffic during the week if you arrive between 8.00h and 10.30h, but getting into the city via the Ponte de 25 Abril is really cool! When coming from the South, this is the way to get into Lisbon. All traffic coming into Lisbon has to pay entrance fees, all traffic going out does not. It's a good system, but it slows down traffic immensely.
    During the weekend there should be no problem, as business people head out for other places around Lisbon.

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    Get a rental car

    by Groentje Written Feb 20, 2003

    Favorite thing: Cruising through the avenues, finding your way rather easily, getting around by car, .... Wind in your hair, friend by your side: what more does a man want??

    It's also a very easy means to get everywhere you want to, and to escape the city centre!

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    Downtown by ferry

    by b1bob Updated Jan 22, 2003

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    ferry from Barreiro to Lisbon

    Fondest memory: We took the ferry across the bay and caught the train in Barreiro. José had grown a beard since that last photo he sent me. José's mama cooked up something big for supper. She took one look at me (I was so thin back then that you'd miss me if I turned sideways) and made it her mission to fatten me up. (It must have had a delayed reaction.)

    This was my first go of Portuguese. I taught myself the language from a dictionary and a grammar book. I didn't take the first formal class, but for 3 years before, Brazilian pen friends and José helped me along in written Portuguese. This was my first go of real-life Portuguese usage. I hoped I wouldn't make too big a fool of myself. Fortunately, Dulce speaks even better English than her brother and that got me over the rough spots. At 6 feet (1,83 m.), I was the tallest in the house. No, I didn't have to hunker down to pass under doorways, but when I went to lie down on the bed, my feet dangled like a participle in a flawed sentence. I slept all right until the very crack of dawn. Because this was the suburbs, José kept a chicken in the back yard. At that time, the chicken did what came naturally. I was about ready to make chicken and dumplings out of him.

    The plan for Friday, 6 July was to go into Lisbon, get a picnic lunch (hard bread, chicken, and hard-boiled eggs), visit the museum, and walk around Lisbon, hopefully coming home in time for supper. We took the train to Barreiro, the ferry across the bay, and the metro through Lisbon.

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    Visiting José and his family

    by b1bob Updated Jan 22, 2003

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    Fondest memory: The first time I went to Lisbon, I had to match wits with the study abroad programme coordinator in Madrid. Dr. Berroa said it wouldn't have been so bad to miss class on Friday, 6 July if I hadn't missed it on 2 and 3 July due to my late arrival in Madrid under circumstances I could not control (see my Madrid page for details). However, since my late arrival and missing those classes was beyond my control, I would be dipped if I would be punished by it. I pretended to give some thought to what Dr. Berroa said, and I did think about it for a couple of nanoseconds. However, I made up my mind almost straightaway to go ahead with my original plans regardless of the consequences. I got to Madrid on 3 July after class. I went to class on 4 and 5 July. On the afternoon of the 4th, my second day there, I made a dry run from the Universidad Complutense by the metro to Chamartín, timed it and figured I had plenty of time to make the 1.55 pm departure after classes let out at noon. When classes let out on Thursday, 5 July, I made a beeline for my dorm to grab my pre-packed carry-on and head for the train station to get on that Talgo train to Lisbon.

    The ride down there was a long one (7 hours). On this trip, I met a whole bunch of interesting people. From Madrid through to San Vicente, I talked to a 15-year old boy José and his older sister Gema. (That's not too wide of an age difference, I was pushing 21 back then.) There was someone else (from Australia) who was working on travelling the world by backpack, something I could never do. On the last part of the train ride into Lisbon. There was this Brazilian guy who claimed to know me. It couldn't have been anyone other than Eduardo França, the exchange student from Campo Grande (Mato Grosso), Brazil. I arrived in Lisbon round about sunset. However, José wasn't there. Instead, José's Daddy and his younger sister Dulce were there. José was out with Joaquina and would meet us at the train station in Alhos Vedros.

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    Get a metro map, there's a...

    by snmred Written Sep 12, 2002

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    Favorite thing: Get a metro map, there's a underground system, a trolly system and a bus line. One of the three will take you anywhere you want, easily.

    Fondest memory: Sitting at a cafe next to the Governor's castle (sorry, I'm horrible with names but it's the largest on the highest hill) and watching the sunset over the bay while sipping a beer with a good friend.

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    ... see the river on a sunny...

    by Beeku Written Aug 26, 2002

    Favorite thing: ... see the river on a sunny day ... climb any of the hills and enjoy the view ...

    Fondest memory: I was born and live in Lisbon (though my profession keeps me away from it for long periods) and I slowly got attached to the image of yellow trollies crawling the old streets of the city.
    Few of these antiques are still in labour, but there's a museum to celebrate them.

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    Even if Lisbon is located on...

    by Lys-Noir Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Favorite thing: Even if Lisbon is located on hills, the best way to get to know the city is to walk.

    During a not-so-hot-day (temperatures were up to 32C while there - and journeys were a bit tough!!) but it's a MUST to walk to Castelo de São Jorce (or take the tram 28 to east from Baixa).

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