Viking’s river cruise on the Douro is preceded by a two-night stay in Lisbon. It often feels like we don’t get to spend enough time in the stops on a Viking cruise, but it’s especially true of Lisbon; based on our limited exposure to the city we definitely need to come back here and explore further.
With our extension in Madrid behind us, we had a bit of an advantage over many of our fellow passengers who were just arriving in Europe that day. We weren’t starting out in Lisbon completely exhausted right after an overnight flight from the States, so we could venture right out to see the sights and get more of our limited time there.
In spite of fog that delayed some of the other flights that day, our flight from Madrid was uneventful so we were in our hotel, the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa, by early afternoon on a Saturday. The hotel was lovely, with a really nice restaurant, situated on a broad avenue that leads to the nearby center of the city. Here was the view from our room’s balcony located on the end of the hotel:
There were hordes of students out shopping in the Christmas markets on the last weekend before they headed home for their holiday break. There were also multiple singing groups performing carols, hoping for tips to help pay for Christmas gifts. This group had not only practiced their music, they had evidently also worked on their choreography:
The picture at the top of this posting and the video above were both taken at the scenic Praça do Comércio, a waterside plaza overlooking the Tagus River. Other views of the plaza:
The blue skies must have helped pull people out of their homes in the middle of December, for the streets were hopping with shoppers:
Spotted on our walk was the famous Santa Justa elevator, a cast-iron convenience from 1902 that helps people up to the higher elevation neighborhoods adjoining the downtown center. Today, it’s mostly used by tourists!
When touring we found that it’s important to look both up and down – check out the details of these beautiful cobblestone sidewalks:
The next day, our only full day in Lisbon, we went on two tours with Viking – with a quick walk through a nearby Christmas market sandwiched in between the tours.
In the morning, we took Viking’s typical panoramic city tour, where the buses drive by multiple sights with a couple stops for photographs and a stop at a museum. In Lisbon, it was the Maritime Museum.
Along the way, we drove past the massive Golden Gate-like Ponte 25 de Abril bridge over the Tagus:
We also went by the Padrão dos Descobrimentos memorial that celebrates the 500th year of Henry the Navigator’s death:
One of our photo stops was at the Belém Tower. The tower is one of what used to be a series of forts guarding the approaches into Lisbon.
Photos were not allowed inside most of the Maritime museum, excluding the displays of royal yachts, many of which featured over-the-top painted decor:
Our last photo stop on the panoramic tour was at the top of the Eduardo VII park, where we also grabbed lunch at the Christmas market:
In the afternoon, about a dozen of us went on our second Viking excursion of the day. It was a tour of the Lisbon Tile Museum. On the way, we passed one of Viking’s ocean-going ships docked on the Tagus, the Viking Sky:
The Tile Museum, like many prominent sights in Portugal, is located in a former monastery, with rich architectural details:
The museum included both early Islamic tile works (which are geometric and cannot depict any works of nature) and the more recent, more wide-ranging creations that include people, animals, and even cartoon-like scenes.
Here are some examples of geometric designs:
Below is a small sample of some of the more elaborate designs. The third image below is a mosaic that provides a satirical take on a royal wedding, where frogs portray the royals and the rich attendees of the ceremony. The fourth image includes a detail from the same mosaic. (You can also click on any of the images to see a larger version.) The lower right-hand image of a dog holding a paint brush served as a tile version of an advertisement for an artist.
A special feature of this museum tour was that Viking arranged for all of us to create our own tile. We painted on prepared blank tiles that were fired afterwards by the museum staff, and Viking had them delivered to us later on at the end of the cruise, giving us each a special souvenir from our time in Lisbon.
On our last night in Lisbon before departing for Porto and our ship, we enjoyed a drink in our hotel’s rooftop bar. It was raining, so we weren’t able to sit outside, but even through the rain-speckled windows we were able to enjoy a great view of downtown Lisbon:
Next up (on our way to Porto): Coimbra!