In Love with Lisbon | Above the city: spots with a great view

Lisbon is a time machine. Living simultaneously in Portugal’s glorious historical past and its more recent economic struggles. A city of contrasts, it grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go. From our first glimpse of the city from Marqes de Pombal to the last dinner in Alfama: it is stamped on a pile of great wine-infused memories.
One of my favorite things about the city was definitely its layout. Like a small European version of San Francisco the streets run like serpents: high and low across town, shaping several elevated areas from which you can enjoy wonderful views of the area. Some of these spots are full of tourists, others are small local gems, which you have to find on your own.
Here are several of the best ones (and you don’t need to queue for the Elevador Santa Justa to see them).
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The Moorish castle of Sao Jorge is not a palace: it is a fortress with beautiful views from the watchtowers with very limited number of museum collections inside. There is more to see outside than within the castle: apart from a tiny small archeological exhbition of ceramics and Moorish coins.
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The elevator of Santa Just can be seen in the distance

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However, the location allows you to enjoy Lisbon from above. The Portuguese way would be with a good company and a glass of wine.

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Best view ever (pun fully intended)

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Some people swarm in visitor crowds, others enjoy reading their book in solutide while overlooking the city. Couples breathe the serenity of the view, locking hands around each other or around glasses of white wine. Some stick only to sunset conversations, while others try a crossover straight to Sunset Boulevard…

Sao Jorge is open for visitors until 9pm so I would really recommend it for a late afternoon walk. It is definitely worth the hemstring challenge of the steep streets leading to it: especially if you stumble upon some of the small staircases with street musicians and Fado-themed graffitti. It is also above the charming neighbourhood of Alfama, so you can combine the visit with a dinner and Fado.

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Park Bar: (A sort of) Secret Spot Above the City

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Panorama of the Park Bar | Shot on Huawei P9

I learned about the Park bar online and I don’t think it is a place which is easy to discover by chance. It is in a quiter part westward of the busier streets of Bairro Alto: without the exact address, a map and a mighty thirst to quench we would have easily passed it by. There are no signs outside and to reach the bar you have to use the staircase of a 5 storey parking.

On the top of the building there is a small bohemian oasis which opens after 1pm and offers a rooftop space to chill in the middle of your city walk.

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Rooftops, seaguls and airplanes: Lisbonian idyll shot from the top of the parking lot. A piece of advice: the Park Bar opens at 13.00: do not arrive there earlier unless you are really into getting sunburnt | Shot on Lumix Gx8

I recommend the fresh and fruity housewine and the tapas (petiscos) with shrimps or garlic calamary (Delicous!) You can go with friends or just hang out on your own: reading or writing & getting your inspiration from the view above town.

Bairro Alto at Night

“Bairro” is the name of communities/neighbourhood regions in Portugal and its colonies. The name Bairro Alto literally means The Upper District of Lisbon: a neighbourhood full of restaurants and bars located across a set of steep streets slowly ascending to small hill overlooking the lower part of the city.

We were joking that basically your evening follows the geography of the streets: you start with Petiscos (the Portuguese version of tapas) and dinner at the “lower” streets and then as your mood goes up, you continue on the upper streets with wine, Porto or Ginja (typical local sour cherry liqueur). You can simply enjoy the taste of local drinks or dive into a pool of cheap vodka and complimentary shots if you are a British tourist on a mission to crawl drunk on the sidewalk by midnight.

I recommend just walking around with sangria and enjoying the view: the bars are full of too many wasted tourists: something which is fun when you are in your 20s and frankly: sort of boring once you discover the joy of actually having fun without the need of tons of alcohol.

There is a lovely small park with fountains and terraces overlooking the city if you want to enjoy your drink with a view above the city.

Alfama (going up on Travessa Merceeiras)

Alfama is a whole new story on its own. Discovering  the dozens of small city spots with a great view on your own is one of the greatest thrills about walking around Lisbon.

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Creamy sunset over Alfama | Shot on Huawei P9

Practical Tips

Sao Jorge Castle entrance fees: €8.50/€5.00/€20.00 per adult/child/family. The castlelo is open every day from 09:00 to 21:00 (peak season) and 09:00 to 18:00 (low season) | Google Maps
✓There are wonderful spots all across Lisbon which I personally prefer to discover by chance, but if you prefer to visit only recommended places here is a nice Conde Nast list of some of the best rooftop bars in the city
✓Lisbon is not a huge city: unless you want to enjoy the small vintage trams just walk around it. It is easier and faster to take public tansportation but the most charming spots are usually those you stumble upon by chance not those you meticulously pursue on your GPS

Disclaimer: With the exception of a few mobile shots made with my Huawei P9, all photos are taken on Panasonic GX8, kindly provided for a test by Panasonic Bulgaria

Francesca Porzio about Valencia on and off the beaten path

I met Francesca on our first visit to Valencia a few years ago. It was our first trip to Spain with Stef and we quickly realized that the city is nothing less but love at first sight because of: the street art, the architecture, the wonderful urban atmosphere and above all: the friendliness and the positive attitude of the people around us.

Francesca was one of these smiling people: a charming curly Italian girl, who liked Valencia so much that she decided to move to live there. Now, just before we leave for our second visit to the city, I wanted to ask her a bit more about Valencia and see the city through the eyes of a local who is not only a visitor but also an owner of her own hostel …

*All photos (apart from Francesca’s portrait) were taken during our previous visit in the city, you can read more about that old trip on the Bulgarian website of National Geographic

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Travelback Thursday | Valencia’s Amazing Oceanographic Museum

 

I am a travelling nerd. Apart from the joy of experiencing new places, I take great pleasure in learning more about the world in a deepr sense. How things funciton, what is the history of a certain place, why an exciting natural phenomennon looks this way? Biology was one of my all time favourite topics: especially when it comes to marine life. If it has to do with water, seas, oceans: I love it. So naturally: it was on my Bucket list to visit one of those great acquariums where you walk beneath the glass floor and can see all kinds of great ocean creatures roam above or around you.

The Largest Marine Complex in Europe

So when we chose to visit Valencia a couple of years ago, I was more than excited to see the famous El Oceanografico: the largest marine complex in Europe which represents all major water ecosystems in the planet: from the Mediterranean to the Artcic.

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The Devetashka Cave | From the Paleolithic period to Hollywood action movies

Saturday trips are my favourte! Sometimes we plan them way ahead of time but most of the time we like to improvise: we brainstorm the type of locations we feel like visiting and then choose one pretty much at the last minute. It takes more planning when you travel on a motorbike, but car trips provide a lot of freedom. So here we are: sleepy and chillaxed on  a Saturday morning: making our way to the Lovech province.

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Our main goal for the day is the Devetashka Cave: one of the biggest and most beautiful caves in Bulgaria. If you are somewhere in the area- definitely don’t miss it. It is impressive to be there and the place is full of intriguing history going back to the Middle Paleolithic period.

Some interesting facts about the cave

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Bella Italia | Things to do in Bologna

 

Returning to Italy after several years away was a truly thrilling experience. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss a country until you go back there and all memories start rushing in. I had passed through Bologna dozens of times, but never roamed across the city so the trip felt both familiar and completely new.

So what should you know about .Bologna? It is the home of the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088) and apart from its long-term inhabitants, it also attracts a lot of students from all over Italy and Europe in a mixture of old and new, of tradition and novelty.

As any city in Italy: it offers a lot of beauty and charm to the casual visitor and if you are into history and culture: the Etruscan and Roman roots of Bologna, its medieval importance and the Dolce Vita charm definitely make it a place worth visiting. Although it is the 7th most populous city in Italy, its historical centre is compact and cosy and everything is within a walking distance. Here are some tips how to enjoy your stay there:

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Imola | Visiting the monument of Ayrton Senna

On May 1st, 1994 Ayrton Senna – one of the all time legends of Formula 1- tragically died on the Imola racing track in Italy. I was too young to remember when it happened, but my boyfriend (as men usually do) is really into sports and clearly recalls where he was and how he learned about it. He is a very big fan of Senna so on our trip to Bologna, Imola was part of the Must-see list.

The small Italian town, which hosts one of the most (in)famous racing tracks is just a 30 minute train ride away from Bologna Centrale (train tickets vary depending on the type of train and the most “busy hours” but tickets should be around 6 EUR in one direction).

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The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is about a 20min away from the train station across the bridge over river Santerno: a pleasant walk across the Imola city center and its outskirts filled with lovely Villas and cosy gardens.

 There are many signs on the road which make it quite easy to find: you pretty much take Viale Andrea Costa from the train station and continue straight as the street merges into Via Appia,  which takes you to the bridge across the river from where you can clearly see the park.

 

You cross a small underpass with beautiful graffitti drawings and from there you just follow the many signs and small maps showing the way to the Ayrton Senna monument. Some 10-15 minutes into the park there is a statue build close to the fatal turn where he lost his life.

 

It is a very emotional place: the whole area around the monument is covered with  flowers, flags, t-shirts, photos, posters, hats, etc with the name and face of Senna and handwritten notes by his fans, saying he will stay forever in their hearts. 

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Outdoor Adventures | The Longest Hike

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Summer weekends are a thrill!

There is no better way for recharging your batteries than a short outdoors trip after a busy week. It energizes you,  takes your mind off work & stress and (If done right) it also gives you a chance to get a good workout: by swimming, hiking or taking up extra physical activities.

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The last weekend has not only fitted well into the whole concept of “Relaxing while being active”  – for me it brought a whole new meaning to the word “hiking”. As a couple we enjoy outdoor trips but we are by no means professional mountaineers and for both of us this has been the most strenuous hike so far. It felt like a really exciting (and painful) challenge to put behind us more than 20km (12.5 miles) of rocky mountain terrain and “conquer” 5 peaks within a single day (10 hours, to be more precise).

We started with Musala: the highest peak on the Balkan peninsula (2925metres). It owes its name to an old Arabic expression which means “Close to God”. The peak is in the gorgeously beautiful Rila Mountains and depending on your pace it takes about 3-4 hours of hiking after you get dropped off the lift [see some additional practical details on the hike].

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