My summer destinations of the year were France for one week visiting friends and family and Portugal for some proper holidays. As it was my first time visiting the country, I planned to go to Lisbon, then Algarve in the south, go up to Porto and finally back to Lisbon. All of this in 6 days. In the end, I cancelled everything on the first night and staid in Lisbon during my whole stay and I have no regrets. This city is just amazing and deserve to be known better.
I felt like being in San Francisco with all the hills around the city, the trams going up and down the streets and the 25 de Abril bridge that looks like the Golden Gate one. I felt like deja vu. But the city is also charming with its cobble stone streets and historical buildings. The lifestyle is very laid back, the food is amazing and cheap and the people so lovely. It is hard not to fall in love with this city
The Portuguese invented the Piri Piri sauce
Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state since 1139.
Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe, The Vasco de Gama bridge in Lisbon 17 km long.
Portugal is one of the world's top surf spot in the world
Portuguese Fado was classified as world cultural heritage by UNESCO.
I learned that the cod actually comes from Norway and the salmon from Portugal. Is it an urban legend?
Couple words in Portuguese
Good morning: Bom dia
Good afternoon: Boa tarde
Good night: Noa noite
Please: Por favor
Thank you: Obrigada for women, obrigado for men
Good bye: Adeus
Where to stay
If you can, try to find an accommodation downtown. I staid at the hub new Lisbon hostel that was located in Bairro Alto district. Only 10 minutes walk to the city centre. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the deco was very hipster-ish, the beds comfortable, and the common areas are great spots to get to know some fellow travelers or just chill anytime of the day. Great wifi connection. I really enjoyed my stay there.
Things to do
1. Get to know the city - One of my favorite things to do when I travel somewhere I don't know is to walk around town and discover the city as you move from district to district. However, bare in mind that Lisbon is a city with 7 hills, you need to be up for the challenge to walk. If you'd rather not be alone, you can join a walking tour guide provided by most hostels and that are usually free or really cheap.
2. Explore the Miradouros or viewing points. As I said the city has seven hills and you can enjoy a different view of Lisbon from each one of them. I went to:
Portas do sol
Miradouro de senhorado Monte, the highest point in Lisbon, less touristy and with an amazing panoramic view of the city
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
and Miradouro de Santa Catarina. Perfect spot to chill at the sunset listening to music from local artists and have a drink.
3.Check out the red rooftops in the Alfama district
This is the oldest district of Lisbon where you can find many restaurants and bars playing Fado, the typical Portuguese style of melancholy music.
4. Get a ride on the historic tram
Originally imported from the US and called "the americanos", it's now become the main tourist attraction in Lisbon.
5. Listen to Fado
As I said earlier, you will be able to listen to Fado in most bars and restaurants. Some obviously better than others, so look for the most crowded places, even if that means waiting for couple minutes to get a table.
6. Go to Belem and eat pasteis de Belem, also called pastel de nata
Belém is home to the famous Pasteis de Belem, a Portuguese egg tart pastry. A very simple pastry that is very cheap, but once you taste one you won't be able to stop how delicious they are. Walk along the strip aka rua de Belém where you will be able to see buildings that are 160 year old and that are still standing. Belém is a great place to relax, visit museums, walk along the shore and enjoy street artists entertainment.
7. See the Santa Justa lift
Located in the main shopping district at the end of Rua de Santa Justa. It's become one of the main tourist attractions in Lisbon. It's been built to facilitate to travel between the lower street of Baixa and the higher one of Largo do Carmo.
8. Explore the street art scene in Lisbon
How to get around
I got around mostly by foot when I was downtown. Otherwise I used the metro or the train to get around depending on the destinations. Metro mostly to go to the airport, train to get outside of Lisbon to go to Belém and Sintra. You can also use Uber in Lisbon. Most of the journey will be pretty cheap 6-10 euros maximum.
What to eat
Pasteis de nata
Go to Timeout market or Mercado da Ribeira. This is a market hall in Lisbon that's been transformed so that food lovers can enjoy treats from the city's favourite food shops and restaurants. It is huge and offer you such a variety of food and drinks. The choice is yours, go wild!
Pub crawls - The best way to get to know a city is to experience the nightlife. I was lucky that my hostel organised pub crawls for their guests. It would cost 15 euros and would include free drinks (beer or sangria) during happy hours in one bar, then discount prices in two other bars and a free entrance to a club. It is very cheap compared to other cities in Europe.
Cocktail bars - I tried out two cocktail bars in Lisbon, Park, located on the rooftop of a car park. I still wonder how they managed to build a bar there,but who cares, the cocktails are great, the decor trendy, the music is perfect, and the view is amazing.
The second one I tried was Pensão Amor, an old brothel where sailors used to go when coming back from their sea expedition, that's been reconverted into a cocktail bar but keeping the spirit of the location with the decoration. Great spot, original decoration and great strong cocktails.
Overall, Lisbon as been a delight as a city to visit and just live in for couple of days. I really enjoyed the lifestyle that is laid back and how people take their time to enjoy life and spend most of their time outside. I believe that's the feeling you can find in any southern Europe countries. It was a great surprise to travel there as I did not expect so much. I was really disconnected from everything, and that was something I needed to have. So, if Lisbon is on your travel list, don't think twice and just go.