Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lisbon: Navigating the City of Navigators (Part 1)

It was my absolute dream trip come true! I've always wanted to see the city where it all began, where Age of Discovery and introduction of all things exotic from the other side of the world, all began. When Portugal ruled pretty much ruled the world.

Waiting for the Aerobus City Centre just outside the arrivals lobby, Lisbon Airport.

I arrived in Lisbon from a very short flight on Air Europa from Madrid. Even while anticipating the completion of the Metro Lisboa Aeroporto station, arriving tourists still have an easy connection between Lisbon Airport (LIS) and city center via the Aerobus. A trip on this bus also doubles as a mini-tour as it winds through such interesting sights as the Campo Pequeno bullring, the Edward VII Park, the Restauradores Square, the Rossio (or Dom Pedro IV Square) and finally, the Praça do Comércio. Most hotels, hostels and pensions are concentrated along this popular route. My hotel, Pensão Flor da Baixa, was just behind the Restauradores; needless to say, I was in location heaven!

My hotel room itself was unbelievable. I had a really long hallway, 2 beds and a really large bathroom. And I only paid 30 per night, I think! I had dinner just by walking downstairs to Rua das Portas de Santo Antão with its popular "alley dining" smells, sights, tastes and sounds.

The Campo Pequeno bullring, one of the interesting sights along the Aerobus City Centre route.

By the way, the Restauradores and Rossio squares are only a block apart; if you're hotel is located at one, you can board anything that goes to the other. And both, especially the Rossio, are transit hubs. The city bus network is called Carris, while the subway system is called Metro Lisboa. There are four subway lines but as a tourist, you're mostly going to use the Azul (blue) and the Vermelha (red) lines.

On board the tram line 15 headed west for the Belém district to see even more historic sights.

Walking distance south of the Rossio are two fascinating Lisbon landmarks, the Santa Justa Elevator and the Carmo Ruins. The area between Rossio and the Tagus River is known as the Pombaline Lower Town, named for the distinctly practical Pombaline style of building after the earthquake of 1755. Chief bus lines to use up and down this area are [711] [714] [746] [759] [760] and [783]. Or just walk, actually.

The imposing Santa Justa Elevator. Get here on any Rossio-bound bus, Metro or the Aerobus.

Speaking of transit hubs, the jumping off point for the Belém district to the west is the Praça do Comércio square. A modern tram line [15] juts westbound toward Belém attractions Jerónimos Monastery, Monument to the Discoveries (use the Centro Cultural stop) and of course, the Tower (use the Pedrouços stop). The monastery and the tower are exquisite examples of ornate Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic, architecture.

People-watching at the Praça do Comércio. Take the Metro to Terreiro do Paço or trams 15 or 25.

The subway station for the Praça do Comércio is Terreiro do Paço. After saying goodbye to the land of Henry the Navigator, da Gama and Magellan, I took the Aerobus back to the airport in the morning for my easyJet flight back to Madrid.

Carris Aerobus 1 City Centre Line:
Lisbon Airport (end) <> Campo Pequeno <> Marquês de Pombal <> Restauradores <> Rossio <> Praça do Comércio <> Cais do Sodre (end)

Carris Line 15 Tram:
Praça da Figueira / Rossio (end) <> Praça do Comércio <> Jerónimos <> Centro Cultural <> Pedrouços

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