Wandering the Old Streets of Lisbon

I have a confession to make.

I went to Lisbon last week – for a whole week – and I did absolutely nothing.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I ate what seemed like huge numbers of pastéis de nata (custard tarts to you and me) and equally large amounts of grilled sardine. I discovered a taste for the local vinho verde, or green wine. I read three books that had been patiently waiting on my bookshelf for almost six months, and I baked my sun-starved skin on the riverfront every afternoon along with most of the rest of the city. I went to bed late, and got up late, and I danced on the balcony to the reggae that pumped out every evening from the tiny bar downstairs. I didn’t even look at a guide book, or any Lisbon blogs or websites, and the attractions I did see were pretty much by accident. I didn’t write a word – in fact, I didn’t even take the laptop.

I’m guessing that I had what most people would call a proper holiday!

When I wasn’t eating or drinking or reading, though, I wandered. No goal, no destination, nothing in mind. It’s a favourite pastime of mine! And the streets of the Moorish Alfama, where my apartment was hidden, are made for it. It’s the oldest part of the city – the only part to have survived the earthquake (and subsequent devastating fire) of 1755 – and while the whole of Lisbon seemed to me to be a place of old-world charm and bohemian vibrancy, in the Alfama time appeared to be standing still. Tiny, cobbled streets wound up and down the hill, sometimes so narrow that you could reach out both arms and touch the tall, colourful houses either side. Washing draped over wrought-iron balconies, and most doorways had someone sitting in them, watching the world go by with a coffee and a cigarette. Tiny, specialist shops looked like they’d been fashioned out of someone’s front room; hole-in-the-wall bars, serving the local (lethal) cherry liquor, were on every corner. Old-fashioned gas lamps were still suspended over the streets. The modern sights of cars and motorbikes (and sounds of that reggae) only added to the other-worldly feel of this part of town, and, while it was tempting to jump on one of the tuk-tuk tours that whizz up and down the hill, it’s really best explored on foot. A decent pair of shoes and a few euros for sweet treats and coffee (or shots of that cherry liquor!) and you’re good to go!

But take it slowly. Life in the Alfama can’t be rushed…….

Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town


Lisbon - old town



I should maybe add that I did a bit of an experiment in Lisbon, and I left my camera at home. These were taken on an iPhone, and haven’t really been edited – I’m quite pleased with the results! Even if I did spend most of the week feeling like something was missing / thinking that I’d left it somewhere……

Linking up with Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox for Travel Photo Thursdays.

Categories: Lisbon, Portugal

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33 replies »

    • Thank you! I’d definitely recommend it. I was with a friend, but we did our own thing – it would be the perfect city to travel to alone. Very safe, very friendly, and small!

  1. I’ve never been before but well done you for leaving behind your laptop and your camera and just taking it in nicely – I’d have had a custard tart (or twenty) as well!! Sounds like it was very relaxing and the photos are great! I’m not a fancy camera person myself – I tend to take most of my holiday snaps on my phone and when people look at our holiday pics, they can never tell which one’s were taken from hubby’s SLR and which ones were just from my phone 😀

    • Thank you! I was pleased with how they came out – and it saved lugging a DSLR around in the heat! I’d definitely recommend Lisbon if you haven’t been, it was a really lovely city 🙂

  2. The photos are great, think iPhones are possibly the way forward! Lisbon looks a lot like Porto, it must be the Portuguese air as I didn’t feel like rushing around Porto either and just enjoyed wandering the streets enjoying watching the ladies shout out at each other from their windows and seeing all the laundry floating in the breeze x

  3. What a fantastic break. We went to Lisbon without a guidebook and had a wonderful time discovering it too. We were in Spain, heading to Morocco and thought we would drop in on Lisbon on the way back. The best decision EVER. 🙂 Lisbon was a big beautiful surprise and you did well to relax and enjoy it, it is that kind of place and the people are so lovely. We loved Alfama too we stayed in an apartment just up the hill a bit. Your IPhone photos are delightful, I would never have known they were taken from a phone. I am awaiting my IPhone 6S to arrive and hope it takes ones just as good. 🙂

    • Your trip there sounds wonderful, Jan! I was surprised by Lisbon too, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it was so lovely :). Ooooh, a new iPhone! Mine’s a 5c, but I’ve been impressed with the photos so far :). Thanks for reading!

  4. Wonderful shots! I do use my iphone a lot for photos, but the quality is always spotty. Sometimes great, but often end up with a lot of noise. Lisbon and Portugal are high on my bucket list, and your shots make me realize why. Thanks for linking up to Travel Photo Thursday this week. #TPThursday

    • Thanks, Nancie! I was surprised with the quality of the photos – the only time I found it didn’t work as well as a normal camera was at night / low light. I would really recommend Lisbon, it’s a wonderful place!

  5. I think Lisbon is one of the most under-appreciated cities in Europe. it has everything: culture, history, food, architecture, wine! and on a smaller more manageable scale than other higher profile cities. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • I know – it did feel a bit strange not lugging a great big camera around! It was lovely for an autumn break, still nice and warm :). Thanks for reading!

  6. I almost believed that you did nothing, but your pictures and description of the little details of Lisbon tell me otherwise. Still, it sounds like you were free to do as you wish without being constrained by any preset plan. Sounds wonderfully relaxing. I’ve only transitted through Lisbon but have never had the chance to explore.

    • I would definitely recommend going back and exploring if you get the chance – it’s a beautiful city! And you’re probably right :). I very rarely have a holiday where I do absolutely nothing, but maybe the lack of planning and proper sightseeing made me feel like I had one! Thanks for reading 🙂

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