Like the city of Rome, Lisbon is built in and around seven hills, some of which are at such a steep incline that it would be impossible for cars to ascend them. Popular with tourist of all types, Lisbon is especially attractive to backpackers. The relatively mild Atlantic climate offers up balmy temperatures and plenty of sunny days to enjoy all year round, making walking this city a pleasure.
Lisbon is a seafaring city with a noteworthy history of exploration and colonization. Monuments to Portugal’s nautical past in general, and to Lisbon in particular, abound throughout the city. The suburban area of Belem, home to the royal family after the earthquake of 1755, is also home to a nautical-themed church at the Monastery of Jeronimos. The Monument of the Discoveries, built in celebration of the accomplishments of the legendary Prince Henry the Navigator, offers up impressive views of the River Tejo as well as the entire city below.
The massive 1755 earthquake is estimated to have been at least 9.0 on the Richter scale and decimated the city of Lisbon, with the exception of a few areas such as Belem and the Alfama. The Alfama is one of the most frequently photographed neighborhoods in all of Europe, known for its gritty and tangled web of cobbled alleys and winding lanes that were once home to sailors and the like. Today, the Alfama is cleaner and safer, but still retains the charm of years past.
Tips and Advice for Backpackers
Trekking through Lisbon is relatively simple if travelers keep a few tips and tricks in mind. First of all, English is not commonly spoken here and may only be heard in the more touristy areas of the city. Knowledge of some Spanish will be helpful for communicating with locals and deciphering signage, but a good Portuguese phrase book will also come in handy.
Lisbon is inexpensive – a $50 daily budget will easily get one through the day. Dining out is more than common here, which keeps the prices of meals low, while food standards remain high. The meat- and carbohydrate-rich meals are offered in half portion sizes as well as in very large regular portions. Accommodations for backpackers are primarily hostels, plenty of which can be found in and around the city. These communities tend to fill up quickly with travelers, so it is advisable to book space in advance to ensure a place to sleep.
There are more than 50 museums in the city, most of which are free to the public on Sunday mornings. Many other attractions are also free or offer a discounted admission fee with the use of a Lisbon Card. These bargain cards are also valid on public transportation throughout the city.
Lisbon is well-connected via most major European airlines, and cheap flight deals are always available. For those who prefer ground travel, the night train from Madrid is a fun alternative. While the trip is long, many backpackers enjoy the opportunity to connect with others and view the breathtaking scenery of the two countries.