The convent as seen from Santa Justa

View of the convent and Pena district

Our apartment was halfway up Santana – one of Lisbon’s seven hills  – in the southern most point of the Pena district. Whilst only a few minutes walk from Rossio Square, it is a very quiet area and full of history as Pena is part of Lisbon’s ‘Casco Velho’. Yet you will see very few tourists wandering around this area apart from the few who discover one of the first street funiculars in the world – Ascensor do Lavra.

Our stroll begins at our apartment on Rua Convento da Encarnação. Turning left up the hill to a small square full of the smell of orange blossom, your eye is immediately drawn to the Convent of the Incarnation. In fact you may have already spotted the Convent from Rossio square as it is large and peachy pink! The convent building dates before the great earthquake of 1755 and much of it survived the aftershocks and the fires. Reading a lovely post we understand it is no longer a convent but there is a still an order in situ.

DSCN5964Following the road around to the right, well alley way, you end up on Calçada de Santana , the main road and heart of the district. It was just off this street that the some of the earliest meetings about creating Portugal’s 1st republic took place. Towards the top of Santana is the Igreja da Pena dating from the early 18th century; the first church in Lisbon to be decorated in the baroque style. It wasn’t open when we were strolling past, so we kept going to find the Sant’Anna Palace at the top of the hill. This was once the Embassy for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the views behind me though that kept capturing my attention. Not only do you get to enjoy a typical Lisbon street but there are glimpses of the Rio Tejo. 

Unexpected sightsAt the top let us turn right along Rua do Instituto Bacteriológico, not its original name but one that it was given in 1918 to recognise the importance of the institute built here, replacing the religious buildings which once stood here. At the end of the road we find ourselves in Jardim Braancamp Freire. A lovely small park, full of locals, cockerels and ducks enjoying their sunny Sunday afternoon when we strolled past. Not sure I’ve seen cockerels running loose in a city park before. Would they count Jude for your March Wildlife Garden? Unfortunately I didn’t take many photographs of the garden itself so perhaps not! The garden, named in honour of the republican and historian Anselmo Braancamp Freire, once housed a slaughterhouse, a bull ring and flea market. views from the parkWhilst the area between the garden and where we are heading next is known as the ‘Field of the Homeland Martyrs’, and was where a collective hanging occurred in the early 19th century. These days fortunately there is nothing gruesome about this area. Rua Júlio de Andrade, a short street which runs between Jardim Braancamp Freire and Jardim do Torel, is full of beautiful trees and 19th century revivalist palaces.

InsideSo on to Jardim do Torel, a real find with its wonderful views of old town Lisbon. A perfect place to while away a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. We can’t stop too long though as I want to take you on one of Lisbon’s funiculars. The Lavra funicular was originally water-powered and on its opening day in 1884 carried 3000 people. It only takes a few minutes to descend/ascend, and they run every 15minutes off-peak.

The funicular brings you down Calçada do Lavra and you find yourself immediately back amongst tourists on a lively street called Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. The street is full of restaurants and is also home to Coliseu dos Recreios, Lisbon’s coliseum. The elegant Rossio square is just a few steps away, and well worth a look if you haven’t explored it already.

By now you are probably ready for a break, so why not stop at Ginjinha beside Igreja de São Domingos before returning via Pátio Salema and a flight of steps to our apartment for a cup of afternoon tea (or glass of wine) and a superb view over Lisbon’s rooftops.

Alternatively if you are still feeling energetic why not go and say hi to Jo, and enjoy another stroll with her Monday Walks.