Top critical review
31 people found this helpful
on 30 September 2010
Everything that can be wrong with this guide, is. A few days in our week-long trip we stopped carrying it with us, and were much happier for it. For me the attraction was the pictures. It would have been useful to have a detailed map of Alfama (with the names of all the little streets), and a map of Lisbon showing which area is which. None of this is present. Instead, there is an abundance of 3D floor plans, the same as you would get FREE with your entrance tickets. The additional information, shown in arrows pointing to some parts of these plans, is obvious and factual (rather than historical and interesting), and can usually be found next to the actual object. The leaflets available on location also tend to provide more information anyway.
This setup would make sense if you wanted to read about something beforehand, and come prepared. But due to the absolute LACK of anything more than the obvious, this makes the book redundant.
Central Lisbon is divided into several major areas, and the book sets out to cover them chapter by chapter. Some areas consist of several neighbourhoods, like Baixa and Chiado, or Bairro Alto, etc. Instead of using a map to indicate the layout of neighbourhoods within the areas, the book uses descriptions. This seems like completely missing the point of visual representation.
Most visitors to Lisbon spend a day in Sintra. Sintra is incredibly easy to get to if you know several facts, like that direct trains only depart from Rossio, and trains originating from other stations travel on the same tracks for some time, and then go off in other directions, so some changes will be necessary if you travel on those. This information is not shown on the train stations, but has to be deduced in a roundabout way. And, as usual, the Guide Book does not mention any of this at all. It also does gives no mention of the circular tourist bus in Sintra, and that you can hop on and off once you have a ticket. It does give a map of Sintra, a larger and better version of which you can get in a tourist office or even directly at the train station. This better map will even show you the two main attractions, Pena and the Moorish Castle, which the Guide Book considers too far away to include in the small map of the centre. The point is, the centre is so small that you don't NEED a map of it! Once you see the two huge chimneys of the National Palace everything else is pretty obvious. And, as usual, the Guide Book didn't do justice to Quinta de Regaleria, arguably one of the more interesting estates around the historic centre.
The Guide Book was also of no help with the beaches, how to choose one and how to get there; and in what way they are different from each other. Considering that beaches are almost a must, that was a huge omission.
But the biggest drawback is simply the lack of information. Take the main castle, Castelo. As usual, there is a two-page 3D map, with arrows and captions saying things like: These little streets are full of restaurants, or This is where the Camera Obscura is. It's as if it's made for a person who wants to rush around the famous areas and tick the things they've seen. If something has a historic value, it seems to have been taken out of its context; and if something is there to be enjoyed, like beaches, then no actually useful information is devoted to it. For example shopping is given half a page. The major shopping centres are mentioned, but obviously not indicated on a map, so you have to look up each one by name in the index and only then understand whether its close to your hotel or not.
We expected to be able to walk along a street and look up what's interesting on the right and on the left. That is not possible with this guide. It gives you an indication of what major attractions there are, but you can get this from any hotel; and I'm sure that any other guide would have this and much more. In short, we have found this absolutely useless. It is not something to take with you as you go walking or traveling to nearby places of interest.