Lisbon or as I like to call it, the place I learned that trying to eat the famous pastel de Belém, (traditional custard tart), along the shoreline is NOT a good idea unless you like fighting aggressive birds.
Lisbon is a popular starting or finishing location for cruise ships so I will cover it in more detail in a Pre and Post Cruise Stays posting. This blog looks at Lisbon as a port stop when you only have a day, or mere hours, to explore.
Where exactly your ship will dock depends on your cruise line and the passenger ship traffic of the day. On a recent sailing where we stopped in Lisbon, there were four big cruise ships in port on the date we arrived. We docked at 2pm and ours was the last ship to arrive. The number of potential cruise ship passengers makes a difference in whether you can negotiate better rates for tours you book in advance of your cruise or as you walk off the ship. The fewer people looking for a tour ties in with better odds at negotiating a lower tour price. The tour operators always know which ships are in port on any given day.
In the case of Lisbon, due to the high volume of cruise ship traffic, I suggest that you have a look at one of the websites that shows you what ships are in port on the day you arrive, and their passenger loads, so you have an idea of how busy passenger traffic is likely to be.
There are at least 5 docking area's for cruise ships in Lisbon: Santa Apolonia, Santa Apolonia Jusante, Jardim do Tabaco, Alcântara and da Rocha. The first three are all within the same area with the last two located close to Ponte 25 de Abril. All docking options have fairly easy connections into Lisbon’s city center.
In my opinion, docking at Santa Apolonia is the best as you are closest to several tourist spots and you can walk the 1.5km from port into the city center. When you disembark and leave the parking lot area, walk to the left along the banks of the Rio Tejo. You will pass the Terreiro do Paco metro station so if you wish to take the metro you can do so. Following this route will take you to one of the main squares of Lisbon, the Praca do Comercio. If you dock at Santa Apolonia Jusante or Jardim do Tabaco, follow the same path to the left after leaving your ship.
If your ship arrives at the docking areas at da Rocha or Alcântara, you will find yourself about 5 kilometers away from the city center and closer to the Belem area. This is a heavy traffic zone so when you disembark, know that there will be a lot of vehicle movement. I believe the best option to get to some of the main tourist attractions from either of these two docks, is to walk to the Alcantara-Mar train station and travel from there.
What to see in Lisbon depends on your interests but there are a lot of things to choose from. Hop on Hop off bus tours are always available but timing is everything. Heavy traffic can mean lots of time spent sitting on the bus waiting for some type of vehicle movement. I once spent a week in Lisbon and often found myself stuck in traffic while on a bus or in a taxi. I soon learned that walking a couple of kilometers was sometimes the quicker option.
Historical São Jorge Castle with an entrance fee of €8.50 is a great option. The 500-year-old fortification called Belem Tower at the mouth of the Tagus or Jerónimos Monastery are two other options and popular tourist photo stops. Across from the monastery, and a little to the right if you are standing in front of the monastery looking out, is a lovely park and from there you have easy access to the sidewalk that follows the water back to the port.
Another option is to visit the statue called Sanctuary of Christ the King (Santuário de Cristo Rei as it’s known in Portuguese). It is a large statue overlooking the city of Lisbon. You cannot walk there from the port so take a tour, taxi or other means of transport to get to the base. If you have been, or are going to Brazil, you will see the Statue of Christ the King (Cristo Redentor), which inspired the Lisbon statue. We were told the two statues face each other across the Atlantic.
There is a large mixed food and tourist market called the Mercado da Ribeira and is open every day. It is fun and interesting to walk around. This topic of segues into a discussion about food tour options. There are several to choose from. I have not taken any of them so I will not comment further but for those who do enjoy food tours, you will have several options to book. My research showed that the prices were varied depending on the type of food tour so there appears to be is a smorgasbord of tour choices. The seafood in Lisbon is phenomenal.
If architecture is an interest, I suggest you walk the old quarter. There are some interesting mixtures of buildings and styles as Portugal was occupied by different groups such as the Romans and Moors. Consequently, there are diverse architectural styles and given the long history of the city, the styles transcend various artistic periods.
For those who follow my travel blog and know my love of historic churches, the Lisbon Cathedral is the city's oldest church and was built just after the Christian conquest in 1147. Its name is Sé de Lisboa but it is also known as Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or simply the Lisbon Cathedral. But you don’t need to focus on only the one cathedral, there are a number of interesting and historic religious affiliated places such as the Church of Saint Roch, the Jerónimos Monastery and the ruins of the Carmo Convent.
If you have been to Lisbon a number of times, consider some quick trips outside the city. On our last trip to Lisbon, we went to Sintra, which I cover in a different blog. There is also the option of taking a trip to the shrine at Fatima which is usually tied to a tour of the convent Batalha. Remember to take traffic into consideration when booking day trips outside of the city because it is very easy to be delayed by traffic jams and you do NOT want to be late getting back to your ship.
If you have any comments about your experience in Lisbon on a port stop, please e-mail me and I will add them to the comments section. A special hat tip to Monty Malloy whose photos were superior to mine and who graciously provided with photos and his permission to use them in this blog.
Georgie L: In Lisbon we hopped on the Hop On Hop Off bus for a city tour. I had read several online reviews prior to the trip and a lot weren’t very favorable, but for about $25 (22euros) we decided to do it anyway. The reviews had stated that a lot of the plug-ins for the earphones didn’t work. It was a cloudy slightly rainy day when we arrived, but it cleared enough do the bus. We opted for the open top of the double decker! There are 3 bus lines – red, blue and green on the City Sightseeing buses. With everyone getting off the ship they had several sellers at the ship but we didn’t know which lines to get on so we made a mistake as we didn’t get to the older section of the city which was a smaller bus as the streets are narrow. The red and blue seemed to be what they were selling the most and we realized why later. Red and blue encompass most of the city, except the older part which is green (castle line). We did hit the highlights of the city but didn’t have enough time to even do both routes on red and blue. Our ship was leaving about 6PM and the bus stopped touring at 5PM in the center of the city, which would have been a taxi ride back to the ship had we continued on the blue line. The red line had most of the tourist sights on it so if you don’t have a lot of time that is the best one to do. The green one would be the other one to do and it is $18 (15euros). Like I said it is the one in the older section of the city.