I had heard many people say that when you visit Portugal’s big cities you fall into one of two camps. You either love Porto or Lisbon. It seems loving the two equally was not an option and I was eager to find out which fate was to befall me. The verdict is in. Lisbon won. No offence to Porto, which has its own charms and beauty and delicious food (check out my Taste Porto food tour review here) but Lisbon wowed me in the sunshine. Lisbon is a photographer’s dream and full of delicious, Instagrammable spots. Early morning rises means you feel as if you have the city almost to yourself before the populous packs the streets and floods your photo ops. And if you aren’t an early morning fan then not to worry as there is plenty to keep you entertained.
Must see sights
1. Rua Augusta Arch
Let’s add the big ticket, must-see, Instagram famous sights to our list first, starting with the Rua Augusta Arch. It was built to commemorate the rebuilding of the city after the 1755 earthquake (which I knew NOTHING about by the way. shame on me). This arch is right at the Praça do Comércio and if you fancy a photo, sans too many people, aim to be at the arch by 8 am, at the latest. The square opposite the arch is great for photos too and leads right to the water’s edge. Another pretty spot for Insta photos.
2. Elevador de Santa Justa
Head to the Santa Justa lift for some amazing, city views over the Baixa district. The lift is open from 7 am – 10:45 pm so you have plenty of time to check it out on your visit. You can join that long snaking queue if you want or… you can walk up to Rua Do Carmo and skip the lower queue. Stand at the Carmo Archeological Museum and as you face it look on the right-hand side. There’s a walkway down along the side of the church ruins. Here you will see the entrance to the Bellalisa Elevador Restaurant and the platform can be accessed from here. You must pay €1.50 to climb to the viewing platform but if you fancy saving money you can snap a few Instagram worthy photos from the lower platform too, for free.
Unless of course riding in an elevator is kind of your thing, in which case be my guest. Instagram does not love queues but does love views. For more info on the lift and its history click here.
There are so many Instagrammable treats waiting for you here that you could easily spend hours strolling and snapping your way around Belém.
Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos
So if you’ve gone to the trouble of waking up early to get your Rua Augusta photos make the most of it and head on down to Belém. Take a taxi directly there or try the bus 15E (Algés) or 714(Outurela) outside Praça do Comércio for about €2, or, alternatively, the 15E tram for €3 will get you to the Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos in the Belém district. The extravagant monastery was the place sailor’s wives came to pray for the safe return of their husbands who had set off on exploratory voyages. It is also where the remains of the famous navigator, Vasco Da Gama, lie.
Walk on over to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (the Discoveries Monument) and marvel at the detail of each of the explorers portrayed on the statue shaped like the prow of a caravel. This iconic Lisbon statue honours the great Portuguese explorers of the ‘Golden Age’ of Voyaging and Exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries and includes Henry the Navigator at its fore. Snap your Insta photos beside the monument at the river bank from where ships departed for India and the East. Certainly Instagram worthy, right?
This tower once formed part of the estuary defence for the city of Lisbon and the Moorish influenced design can be seen in the balconies, tower and decorations. Can you really say you’ve been to Lisbon without a glimpse at this beautiful if small, fortress? Instagram says no, so snap your photos from the many vantage points around the tower. I visited before 9 am and while there were a handful of visitors around the tower there was ample time to set up my camera and get a few photos.
Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar
I also loved the architectural design of the nearby monument to fallen, Portuguese soldiers, Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar. This war memorial lists the name of each soldier who died during the Africa independence uprisings of the 1960-1970s.
Curiously, right at the edge of the Jardins Belém is a Thai shrine. This gift to celebrate Thai Portuguese relations was opened in 2012 and the ornately decorated shrine stands out amidst the structures around it.
4. Pastel de Nata
While you can get a pastéis in many locations around the city of Lisbon the more famous pastry shop is in Belém. Getting there early means you can get your ‘wake me up’ coffee and custard pastry fix before the crowds. By the end of my visit to Lisbon, I was pretty convinced I was part custard pastry myself considering the number of those delicious treats that I ate. And I was not one bit sorry.
5. Tiles for Days
Portugal is synonymous with those delicately painted azulejo tiles and the myriad of colours and styles they capture. Building facades and doorway frames, inconspicuous walls and corners are festooned with these works of art and the splash of colour and interest they provide utterly delights. Lisbon has plenty of azulejos for your Instagram captures. Just find your favourite tiled wall or facade and snap away.
6. LX Factory
This artisan haven is located under the 25 de Abril bridge, in the Alcântara neighbourhood and is certainly one of my favourite places to photograph in Lisbon. This industrial space offers a variety of art in many mediums from street art murals to social commentary quotes and bylines as well as recycled junk creations by famous street artists. There are cafes, restaurants, bars, performance spaces and more all nestled away from the bustle of the city. Take your camera and you won’t regret a minute.
Plus, it has the quirkiest bookshop I have seen and no doubt one you have noticed popping up all over your Insta feed.
7. Pink Street
I read about the pink street in Lisbon on a list of regenerated locations around the city and put it on my list for my recent visit. Rua Nova do Carvalho was once the city’s Red Light District and a frequent haunt for sailors, local criminals and ladies of the night. The rejuvenation project to clean up the area in 2011 meant that the brothels were out and retro cafes were in. Some of the buildings and premies off the pink asphalt have held on to memorabilia from their past and retain an unpolished sheen.
8. Time Out Market
All of these wanderings make for hungry tourists so since you’re in the area stop at Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira near Cais do Sodré. This trendy landmark opened in the 1890s and is now home to the Time Out Market, a food hall after the Time Out Lisboa Magazine. Tapas is always a great idea so when you have umpteen stands, kitchens and booths to choose from I suggest you set up camp in the market’s long wooden benches and enjoy some of the treats the market has to offer. There are seafood and meat vendors as well as sandwich and dessert stands all to be washed down with a glass of something local or cocktail-y. Get your Instagram food snaps of as many dishes as your followers can handle!
9. Casa do Alentejo
Casa do Alentejo is like a portal to another country. This Moroccan style palace is hidden off the beaten track and look so unassuming from the street that it could easily be missed. While I can’t vouch for the quality of the food, as I didn’t eat there, I can attest to the beauty of the courtyard which catapulted me right back to Marrakech from the bustle of the Lisbon street I had been on moments before. Put Rua das Portas de Santo Antao 58, Lisbon into your maps and walk up the steps to this stunning, hidden, lofty foyer that will at once confuse you as to where you really are.
10. Lisbon’s trams
Let me save you some queuing time, the tram ride is overrated. There I said it. Am I the only one who thought that sitting (because I was lucky enough to have gotten a seat) on a crowded tram as it rattled along the bairro’s of the city would be anything other than claustrophobic and hot? Yes, the trams are quaint and picturesque. Yes, they are a novelty if like me you come from a city where the vintage trams have been replaced by modern, sleek designs. However, I genuinely don’t see the attraction in queuing to board the tram and ride along the route passing the sights you want to explore. Why not admire the trams from the outside at various vantage points around the city. If you are dead set on a tram ride, the #28 is the most famous and runs from Martim Monitz to Campo de Ourique. A 24-hour transport pass from the metro stations ticket booths costs about €6.80 including the cost of the card, 50c. Or a single ticket costs about €3.
Lisbon is teeming with history, culture and views. I have barely scratched the surface in these photography spots but if you are short on time and want to make the most of your visit on Instagram then these are your top picks.
Tag #mysuitcasediaries on your Instagram photos at these locations and show off where you were.