Visiting the Portuguese capital
This morning we are sailing into Lisbon, Portugal. This is the most Western capital of Europe and the capital of Portugal. We took on our pilot at 7am as we entered the River Tagus and he helped us navigate the river to our berth. As we approached our berth we passed under the famed Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge which spans 2,278m wide.
Waking up in Lisbon was pretty special – If you have ever cruised before and woken up to a stunning cityscape you haven’t seen previously, you will know what I mean! On one side of us, we had the wide expanse of the River Tagus, with many small passenger ferries travelling back and forth and on the other side of us, we had the hilly coastal city that is Lisbon. The weather was a lovely 18c at 9am, with only a small breeze. The skies were blue and it looked a great day to explore.
Lisbon is a very popular cruise port, just two days ago five ships were in port together. We were lucky enough to be the only cruise ship in today though. Visiting Lisbon by cruise ship is a joy these days. The Lisbon Cruise Terminal cost 28 million Euros and is just six months old. It feels like an airport inside, it is lovely and spacious and also well laid out. It is great to see cities around the world investing heavily in cruise terminals, it is only going to make things even nicer for us cruisers! Just outside the terminal, there are taxis and shore excursion buses for those that have booked an MSC Cruises excursion.
As we’d never been to Lisbon before we thought that we’d take a walk into the city ourselves. It is literally opposite the terminal anyway. After crossing a fairly busy road outside of the terminal (I meant to say yesterday, the drivers in Porto leave a little to be desired, the same goes with Lisbon – be careful on the crossings!) you end up amongst some small restaurants with seating outside. Many of them actually have the fresh fish and meat that is on the menu displayed in their shop window. Sounds crazy, but the windows are actually fridge units built into the wall – so don’t worry, your fish hasn’t been sat in the sun all day!
Turning right, we decided we’d head up to the São Jorge Castle. Through narrow cobbled streets, you wind your way up to the castle, it is signposted easily. Dotted along the route are the odd cafe, souvenir shops and plenty of local houses – how they manage with all these tourists passing their front doors every day I don’t know – it was pretty hectic as the streets narrowed.
As you approach the castle walls and entrance, you will notice many street merchants, selling everything from fresh strawberries and bottles of water to selfie sticks and postcards. There are plenty of tiny Portuguese souvenir shops and some modern art shops selling anything from landscape paintings to handbags and aprons made of cork.
São Jorge Castle sits on the hilltop overlooking Lisbon and the river. It dates back to Portugal’s medieval period in the 16th century although the first fortifications on this site could date back as far as 48BC when Lisbon was a Roman municipality. You can catch the famous 28 tram to it (but not directly from the port!) Inside the castle walls it has great views of the city, bridge and river. We recommend going early as there can be a line (it was pretty big at midday when we got there). It is the perfect place to learn about the history of Portugal as it includes a permanent exhibition.
After our brief visit to the castle area, we decided to walk back down a different route towards the ship. Enroute we came across the fabled yellow trams that Lisbon is famous for and we found the Garden of Julio de Castilho. Although small, it is a well-maintained garden that pays homage to the famous Portuguese writer. The garden is quite small but makes up for it with absolutely stunning views of the city. There were panoramic views of the cruise terminal and MSC Magnifica in her berth. This is a great photo opportunity if you want a photo of your ship!
Back down at the port level, we headed over to the ship. A series of escalators and walkways and we were at the security checkpoint to board the ship. The security services here are just like an airport and are very fast and efficient for cruise passengers. Just like an airport, there is a large duty-free shop straight afterwards, allowing the purchase of alcohol, cigarettes and of course, souvenirs. Moments later we were on our way down the walkway to the ship gangway.
Once back on the ship we headed up to Deck 13 and outside had a live DJ and the deck was pretty busy. It was lovely and hot outside with little to no breeze by the pool area. We got ourselves a couple of cocktails from the Barchetta bar on the same deck and then headed up to Deck 14 to take some photos from different sides of the ship.
We’re leaving fairly early today as we’ve got some ground to cover to get to Cadiz for 9am. We will be travelling approximately 282 nautical miles South, then South-East to reach the port. We decided to move to Deck 11 Forward to film the sail away. The Bridge on Deck 12 provides a small amount of shade to Deck 11 which was perfect whilst we set up our equipment.
The sail away out of Lisbon on the River Tagus is spectacular. It’s almost a tour of the city itself with great views of the terracotta roof houses, the Church of Santa Engrácia, the Discoveries Monument, Commerce Square with Rua Augusta Arch and Belém tower on one side and the Christ The King statue on the other. The highlight is sailing under the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge, a suspension bridge opened in 1966 that connects Lisbon and Almada. If you look closely you might see a train travel the track underneath the road, this was only added in 1999.
Christ The King is a sacred Catholic monument to Jesus Christ. It is located in Almada and at 104 meters, overlooks Lisbon and the Tagus River. It was inspired by the famous Christ The Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro when the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited it. The statue was completed in 1969.
The Church of Santa Engrácia is the beautiful domed building you’ll see looking at the Lisbon skyline. It served as a church in the 17th century but was converted into the National Pantheon in the 20th century. It is a monument to the many famous Portuguese buried here.
The Discoveries Monument celebrates the Portuguese’ Age of Discovery between the 15th and 16th centuries. It was erected in 1960 on the river where ships would have disembarked on Eastern trade routes to India and Asia.
Commerce Square has been the National Monument of Portugal since 1910. From the ship, you can see the bronze statue of King José on his horse in the centre of the square and the famous Rua Augusta Arch behind it. It’s a triumphal arch that was built from 1755 to 1873, over which time it’s design changed from a bell tower to the arch that now towers the square. It commemorates the rebuilding of the city after an earthquake in 1755.
Belém Tower is a fortified tower built at the mouth of the river to both defend and act as a gateway to the city of Lisbon. It was commissioned by King John II and completed in 1519.
After the sail away, we stayed at the front of the ship for around an hour as we navigated the river. Then, we headed back to Deck 13 and decided to have some of the lovely gelato ice creams they offer. A must-try is the Pistachio flavoured! After a quick shower and walk around the top decks of the ship we decided to have a light dinner in the Sahara (honestly, we’ll get back in the Quattro Venti soon enough – but after a very warm day, a salad whilst sat outside was ideal!). After food it was time to do some blogging, checking emails and managing all the photos we took. Have to say, we had a pretty nice view whilst working:
After a quick visit to the MSC Cruises’ Shore Excursion office, we took a walk around outside on Deck 15 and then headed to bed. The ship is sailing at 21.3knots right now and we’re about halfway to Cadiz.
Thanks for reading, more soon!
Update: Here is our Lisbon sail away!
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