Alfama District and Santa Rita – Lisbon

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On our last day in Lisbon, we decided to go on a free walking tour hosted by our hostel. She showed us around the Chiado district, where we got to try some Ginjinha or Ginja which is a typical liqueur in Portugal, especially in Lisbon. The liqueur is made by infusing ginja berries which are sour cherries in alcohol and adding sugar to it. The store A Ginjinha is famous for having cheap shots of these to try although our tour guide bought us a whole bottle to share. It’s actually pretty good! Sort of like a brandy and worth trying.

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We were also shown the Hospital de Bonecas or the Doll Hospital, which is a store selling dolls since 1830! They’re known for restoring and repairing wounded toys and even have a museum! Pretty neat.

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Then we started to take a little uphill trek up the Alfama district. Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and was an area that was not destroyed by the famous Lisbon earthquake. Along the way, we saw many beautiful graffiti art, including this one that showcases Fado, which is a music genre that originated in Lisbon in the 1820s. The music is usually linked to a feeling of melancholia, loss, or longing. There is often a man who plays the Portuguese guitar accompanied with a singer. In the Alfama district, you will find many bars and cafes with Fado performances.

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Also, the first thing I noticed about Lisbon was the amount of tile art on buildings. Almost all the buildings have at least a section of tile on the walls and it’s absolutely beautiful. I know tiles are very popular in the interior of buildings, but I have never seen so much on the exterior of a building. You will also see many “azulejos” which are painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tile work. They often show images of Saints and are placed in the front entrances to protect the inhabitants.

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Then we made it to Sao Jorge Castle. It’s a Moorish castle back in the mid-11th century. Today, you do need to pay an entrance fee to go in. We didn’t go in, but we were able to see the exterior which was pretty cool. It actually looked like a fortress in movies!

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We were then taken to a viewpoint to look down at the Alfama district. So beautiful! Sunny day and blue skies with white houses and red rooftops. After we went downhill and also saw the Lisbon Cathedral, which was not too special, although it is the oldest church in the city.

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Our last stop was at the Commerce Square, also known as the Palace Square. This is because the location used to be the Royal Ribeira Palace until it was destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake. I believe the buildings here today are government bureaus. There is also a significant statue of King Jose I in the center as well as the Arco da Rua Augusta, which is an arc that opens into the shopping streets.

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After the tour, we decided to head over to grab lunch at our tour guide’s recommended restaurant. It’s on Rua sao Mamede, very close to our hostel and was actually such a hidden gem. There was no sign on the outside saying Santa Rita, but only a piece of paper with the menu and the name printed on it. I would’ve walked past it without knowing a restaurant existed here! When we arrived, it was very busy with a whole group of policemen eating. We waited a few minutes and luckily got a seat.

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First, we had the Vegetable Soup which was basic and simple, but so delicious! It was a medium consistency and filled with carrots and greens.

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We then had the Portuguese Seafood Rice, which I am still dreaming about 4 months later. It’s like soup in rice, but it was so damn good! There was also so many shrimps in it and they were fresh and big! I could eat this every day. A must order! I believe it was only 7 euros and you could split just this between two and be filled.

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The Portuguese curry is also very well known, so we ordered the Portuguese Curry Cuttlefish. Holy, it was huge! We also got rice with it and we were beyond stuffed. The squid was tender and the curry sauce was so delicious! Portuguese curry isn’t very spicy, which I really like.

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This just looks like curry, but it was really the Portuguese Curry Shrimp. It’s basically the same curry sauce as the cuttlefish dish, but with shrimps in it. There were so many pieces of shrimps and they were so fresh!

At the end of our meal, we were in a food coma and could not even finish all our food. Pretty much all the entrees were around 7 euros, and we still had leftovers to take home. Definitely share the food here since you’ll be so stuffed! Santa Rita gives you such quality local food at such a reasonable price. They definitely don’t cheap out on the ingredients! Recommend to all visitors!

And that was our trip in Lisbon. Later the day, we took the plane back to Barcelona to meet up with K and E. A nice sunny trip before we hit the cold parts of Europe!

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