Our second and last full day in Lisbon started with less of a sense of urgency. We’d planned for about the same amount of sightseeing as the day before, and now knew that we had ample time to see everything while taking our time to soak everything in. Another plus: the sun was out! After a more or less dreary first day in terms of weather, it was amazing to see how a little sunlight could transform a city almost completely. Of course, I should be used to this, as a perpetually frustrated Seattleite who has a profound appreciation for cloudless days.
Our leisurely pace proved necessary after waiting at the Tram 28 stop near our apartment in Graça for at least a half hour. Although at least two came by, passengers were literally spilling out of the windows, including a couple teenagers hanging on from the outside. I knew this line was popular with tourists (it takes a great sightseeing route from one end of town to the other), but this was just crazy. A taxi driver pulled up to offer us a solution, and took us where we needed to go along the same tram route, for about 5 euros less altogether. When traveling in a small group, taxis are your best friends in Lisbon.
As we made our way across town, we found ourselves driving back through the Alfama/Castle district from the day before. It looked as though the soot-covered buildings had undergone a total makeover overnight. The physical brightness and the buzzing people made me long to stop and rediscover the neighborhood all over again. Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury most travelers get. When you have two days in a new city, the quest to cover as much ground as possible almost always wins over retracing your steps. And as someone who is used to spending weeks or even months stationed in one place, I know how special it is to get to know one part of town really well.
We got out of the cab at the Basilica da Estrela, mostly because it was a good starting point for exploring Bairro Alto and Chiado.
You’d be surprised at the number of churches you’ll see over two weeks in Europe, and on our last day on the continent, we were in and out of there in record time. If I could re-do this trip, I’d cut the number of churches I saw in half and spend that extra time soaking in some culture at a local café
We then meandered through the nearby Estrela Gardens, admiring the ducks and exotic plants with the warm sun beaming down on us. The nice day put us in the mood for wandering, so we started walking down to Bairro Alto. Eventually, we caught one of the Tram 28 cars to get the rest of the way to Camoes Square. The square was full of people, sitting outside cafes in the sun, snapping photos, and gathering around street performers. We saw one traveling group of belly dancers at several restaurants around town throughout the day. We managed to find a table at a restaurant for lunch just off the square, with less commotion and better prices.
Once we had restored our blood sugar levels, it was up the steep hills of Chiado for our last few sights, including the São Roque Church and the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara. After our in-and-out visit to the Estrela Basilica, the gaudy décor of São Roque was much less-suited to our taste. Even so, the afternoon we spent relaxing at Alcantara was the highlight of our two days in Lisbon. The sun, the views, and the pleasant atmosphere left us lingering long after we’d imprinted the skyline of the city below into our memories.
Lisbon was a great, relaxing way to end our European tour. There are plenty of ways to travel, and it’s tempting to try to pack a full schedule in a city knowing that there’s no guarantee of returning. But sometimes, it’s more rewarding to see a few things and experience the city itself, rather than racing from attraction to attraction and missing everything in between. I’m certainly glad we took this approach in Lisbon, and my experience made me want to come back, for more time, to enjoy the culture and see all the great things we missed the first time around.