We took an overnight train out of Madrid, as much for the experience as for the convenience. Admittedly, sleeping in bunk beds while in a moving train that takes corners with the enthusiasm of a kid taking candy is an adventure all its own. We woke about an hour out of Lisbon and peered out the window at the pre-dawn fogginess of the rolling countryside, then switched trains and took a metro into Lisbon to find our Airbnb.

Here’s some fun (and one dumb) things we did in Lisbon.

We walked the old town and waterfront.

Lisbon’s a beautiful city, and the fairly navigable streets of the old town have a very historical aesthetic, which is spoiled slightly by the plethora of modern brand labels on ancient buildings. We walked the waterfront from the old gate along the river, alongside nightclubs, sunset bars, tennis courts and under bridges, looking at the huge Christ figure on the opposite bank, and the industrial plants that take over the hillsides on the southern side of the water.

We visited the Belem Tower (and I fell over).

Belem Tower is a Gothic fortification and monument on the waterfront that draws big tourist crowds, and for good reason. Striking in appearance, it’s a castle rampart rearing up from the water, solidly placed and surrounded by stone steps and the Oceanside wall. Unfortunately, I managed to find a really slippery bit of algae-covered stone while trying to get a better photo, and fell straight on my butt. Not my finest moment, and while I didn’t smash the camera or anything in my bag, I definitely felt the damage in my back for a few days afterwards. The photo above is the photo I took from exactly where I fell, to prove the camera was okay and make sure I got the shot after all!

We visited an old monastery.

The Jeronimo Monastery in Lisbon is a huge, open courtyard (cloister) surrounded by stone walls open at ground level and at the upper leve , that was used for contemplation and relaxation by the local monks. It’s attached to a pretty spectacular chapel as well. We found it particularly interesting not only because of the way the space has been preserved, but that it includes a display of the last two thousand years of history, in a concurrent timeline of world history, Portuguese history and the history of the monastery!

We found an amazing food market.

Franchesina - bowlful of heaven
Franchesina – bowlful of heaven

There’s an indoor food market in Lisbon that’s sponsored by Time Out, the lifestyle publication. We found it on a wander and were amazed by the quality and range of foods available. It’s more like a food court with prepared meals than a raw ingredients market, but we tried some incredible stuff. Of particular note is the franchesina, a sandwich with lots of different types of meat, served covered in melted cheese (and I mean covered!) in a bowl of tomato soup. Absolutely stunning!

We ate amazing meals.

As well as the food market, we also found a great local restaurant at the bottom of our apartment building. Tasty grilled octopus, a big jug of local sangria, amazing bread and a chorizo that was flame roasted at the table in a pool of brandy! It was a nice quiet night with a strong result for our taste buds.

So that was Lisbon, and from there, we headed north to Portugal’s namesake, Porto. Which is the next blog post!