Lisboa, the capital of Portugal, is divided into two districts, Baixa and Belem. While Belem houses a UNESCO monument and the icon of Portugal; Baixa is the commercial centre and therefore the heart of the city. It is also where the major shopping malls are located.
Praca do Comercio
After a most satisfying snack at Pasteis de Belem, we took a tram from Belem district to Praca do Comercio, the gateway to Baixa.
Behind this magnificent looking Arco da Rua Augusta lies the heart and soul of Portugal, Baixa.
Church of Saint Anthony (Igreja de Santo Antonio)
Our first stop was to the birth place of St Anthony of Padua, Church of Saint Anthony’s. Well known as the Saint of Lost & Found, he had indeed lived up to his name by answering our prayer during our trip. So, if you need something to be found….”Something lost and cannot be found, St Anthony please search around!”
Unlike many other churches that we had seen, the inner hall of the church is built with colourful ceramic tiles, a product Portugal is famous for.
The basement of the church is the birth place of St Anthony of Padua.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Still fresh and energetic, we made our way to Castelo de Sao Jorge, a moorish style castle.
We took longer than the supposedly 15 mins walk to the castle. The road started at around 30 degree up slope and the intensity increases as we moved closer to the castle. Though physically trying, it was worthwhile. There are shops in every corner of the streets. The one that caught our attention was an old bakery selling lesser known Portugese snacks. One of those that we bought was this….
The patient shop lady tried explaining what it was in Portugese. But, as much as we tried, we couldn’t made out what it was (if you know what it is….do let me know 😉 ). It has a slightly firm chewy texture and a sweet caramelised taste. It was especially irresistible when eaten warm. Before we knew it, it was time to fight over the last piece!
The other snack that we bought was Filhozes D’Abobora. It’s a ball shaped sugary donut made of pumpkin. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. In fact, it is a little similar to the sweet potato balls that we had on our way to Cameron Highlands. Since we only bought 2 pieces, the snacks didn’t got pass the photography stage! 😛
Up at the castle, you can view the overall Baixa district. But, we prefer the spectacular view at Miradouro da Graca more.
Santa Justa Elevator
Back at the city centre, we took the Santa Justa Elevator to the highest point (45 metre) of the city. Being an old nostalgic elevator, it was really slow. The alternative way to the top is via the spiral staircase. However, it seems to have closed for good (at least that’s the understanding we had).
Ruins of Convento do Carmo
This is the first convent ruins that we had been which is smacked right in the middle of a city centre.
Walking among the ruins temporarily shut us off the hustle and bustle of the outside world and allow us to internalise the quietness and calm it brings.
Camara Municipal de Lisboa
As the sky slowly turned dark, we made our way to the first of our final two destinations, Camara Municipal de Lisboa. The attraction we were after is the front facade of the municipal office known as the Portal de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Velha.
This facade, richly decorated with Manueline details, is the only thing that remains of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Misericordia which was destroyed during the 1755 earthquake.
House of Spikes (Casa dos Bicos)
8 mins walk towards the Arco da Rua Augusta direction brought us to our final destination, Casa dos Bicos or House of Spikes.
It may not be as impressive as Gaudi’s buildings, but it has its originality and artistic flair. Very creative and definitely the most eye-catching building here!
Finally, we completed all of our must visits here. With so much walking, we were famished. While exploring the streets leading to Castelo de Sao Jorge, we were attracted by the many family-run cafes there. Compared to the cafes in the shopping belt which target tourists, these family-run cafes are patronised by locals and tourists. That means we have a higher chance of savouring authentic Portugese food (and the prices are much lower).
So, here we went uphill again! We decided on a small shop that only seats 12 people. It was here that we had our most flavourful dinner.
The shrimp chowder, with big and generous portion of prawns, was creamy yet light on the palate. The sweetness of the prawns just explored in our mouth with each spoonful. The moment we started, we couldn’t stop till every drop was slurped up!
Our main dish was Portugese seafood rice. It is a totally different rendition from the Spanish Paella.
Isn’t the prawns huge? The Portugese seafood rice is very similar to Chinese porridge. In fact, it is a hybrid of Singapore’s prawn noodles and seafood porridge.
Having tried both Spanish paella and Portugese seafood rice, while both has its own distinct characteristic and taste, I would say the Portugese version really blew our mind off mainly because of the soup. It is beyond words. You have to try it to appreciate this amazing dish.