I’ve discovered so many reasons to travel to Lisbon. It’s one cracking city to visit. I have such fond memories I seriously feel like I could live there! (screw you Brexit). The old and new styles of the city are fascinating; people are friendly; food is delicious and prices extremely reasonable; the sun shines; Lisbon knows how to have fun.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin or subscribe for more posts!
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
ALFAMA | five girlfriends and myself stayed in a fab Airbnb in Alfama. It’s the oldest and arguably most charming suburb of Lisbon, Portugal. Cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, old people chin-wagging on their doorsteps, and plenty of small cafes, bars and shops justify a good amount of time spent aimlessly wandering.
Also check out: Better yet we witnessed a mega street party on the third weekend of June. Around 12th June is the most significant time for celebrations in honour of Saint Anthony. Alfama won the annual battle between neighbourhoods at 2016’s festival parade, so they were partying again.
I won’t rewrite on these amazing festivities but personally enjoyed this account by My Faces + Places blog. Travel to Lisbon in mid June if you can.
BARRIO ALTO | We only scratched the surface of this famous suburb renowned for its nightlife and constant buzz. If I was to travel to Lisbon again I’d try to stay here. Barrio Alto, or ‘upper quarter’, is a grid of trendy streets built on one of the city’s many hills.
Dinner at Restaurante Sul was tasty (I had the octopus salad) and bar-hopping afterwards was brilliant. Every city should have this relaxed alfresco drinking: people from all walks of life were congregating and socialising out on the street. We bailed at about 2:30am on a Saturday and it was still packed.
CASTELO DE SAO JORGE | after a visit to Pena Palace in Sintra (highly recommended day trip – see other post) the fortress walls here are a little underwhelming. The views of Lisbon however are fabulous and it’s a great place to bring a picnic or catch your breath from all of the hill-climbing. Best yet, a little truck at the top sells €5 glasses of ‘wine with a view’.
Also check out: travel to Lisbon is not complete without a daily pastel de nata. Nata Lisboa just outside the castle gate was hands-down the best Portuguese custard tart I tried. This is based on a statistically significant sample size. Another famous spot is Pasteis de Belem further out of the centre – gorgeous interior and old counters, but slightly over-rated.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
CASCAIS | every major city needs an escape option, especially during summer travel to Lisbon when temperatures soar past 30 Celsius. Beautiful Cascais is just 40 min each way by train, leaving every 20 minutes for a couple of €. Of the three city beaches we chose to laze on Praia de Ribeira de Cascais.
GRACA | the area directly above Alfama is Graca, which has a charm of its own. This is partly due to the significant altitude and mega views. Again this is an older area with gorgeous architecture and tiles to die for (a common theme in Portugal). The Church of Santa Luzia is the heart of this area and can be reached by taking the popular #28 Tram.
SANTA JUSTA LIFT | in the centre of impressive and modern Baixa area looms this striking gothic structure. It was built in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, Gustave Eiffel’s apprentice (hence the style). Queue and (presumably) pay to ascend in the lift, or better still walk through the streets of shops and access from above. This is free and the panorama of red-tiled rooftops is stellar. Note the historic rib-bone arches of Carmo Convent to your left, destroyed in 1755.
Also check out: in this easy-to-navigate area you are very near beautiful and expansive Praca do Comercio and the dominating Arch of Rua Augusta.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
TIMEOUT MARKET | whilst this is a great food hall, my only disappointment was that I felt like I could be in any city in the world. The choice of food on offer from around 34 spaces is fantastic (although less so for breakfast options). When you travel to Lisbon, do check it out if you’re walking by anyway. Personally I wouldn’t trek out of my way to go back though.
WATERFRONT | no doubt when all the road works are complete Lisbon’s riverfront will be a prettier spot. Right now there’s a lot of upheaval and noise. Walking along from Praca do Comercio to Cais do Sodre train station is pleasant, but there’s little of note to see.
WEEKEND TRAINS | we had such a nightmare getting to Cascais on Sunday morning! I’m not sure if this was bad luck or normal service levels. The queues for the ticket machines snaked around for ages; half of the machines were broken; staff weren’t helpful. The train journey itself is brilliant so just make sure you get to the station early, or even better buy credit in advance.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
MUSEO NACIONAL DE AZULEJO | or the National Tile Museum. Having developed a slightly-excessive tile obsession in Portugal, I was gutted not to make it to this nerdy sounding museum during my travel to Lisbon. Housed in the 16th century former convent of Madre Deus, the museum has examples of tiles from the 15th century through to present day. We tried to visit on Monday (when it is always closed). It’s free if you go on a Sunday.
AND KNOW THIS: The 1st Marquess of Pombal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, redesigned the central area of Baixa following the devastating earthquake of 1755. It is the world’s first grid system and represents a significant stage in urban design that other countries continue to replicate. it’s also one of the first examples of earthquake-proof construction.