Lisbon is one of the European capitals that you don’t expect much from before visiting it, but that makes you change your mind from the very first moments you arrive in this city. The places, stories and experience you’ll find and get here are unique and will instantly make you fall in love with this city.
The city has it all: history, elegance, a cool vibe that is perfectly adapted to today’s times, good music and delicious food. It also has beautiful people, impressive buildings, breath-taking views and a lot of sun. All these combined, and some extra characteristics, create the perfect context and the main reason why you should plan a holiday to Lisbon.
Maybe it’s the geographical localization, at the South-Western corner of the continent, or maybe it’s the economic problems it had had over the past decades or maybe it’s the general confusion that most people make, believing that if they have already visited Spain, there’s no point in visiting Portugal as well, as the two countries are one and the same – which is, obviously, wrong! It’s only during the past few years that people from other European countries have started to see Portugal as a holiday destination. Check out the Blue Air flights to and from Lisbon!
Whether you decided to visit Lisbon in 3 days or a week, you will definitely change your opinion for the better on this city and you will want to return again to enjoy even more of it.
When in Lisbon, you must:
- Take the wooden tram no. 28 and see the city through its old windows. Its route goes through the main touristic neighborhoods, such as Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estela. The entire tram ride experience is amazing, with hills and old buildings mingling together into a perfect scenery, tiny streets that represent a real challenge for the motorman, and tons of colorful and picturesque landscapes.
- Visit one of the many sightseeing towers – mirador in Portuguese – where you can admire the city from above. The most famous ones are: Santa Catarina and Santa Luzia, as well as Santa Justa, the famous elevator that also has a panoramic 360-degree view of the city.
- Enjoy a spectacular sunset on the Tagus river bank (Bonus tip: Placa do Comerco offers the best sunset view in Lisbon) and then go wandering among the streets filled with all sorts of shops.
- Go at least once to Mercado da Ribeira – an old market that dates back to 1892. The first things that had been sold here were fish, fruits, vegetables and flowers. The entire building is covered in some oriental scent. Since 2014, Time Out has reorganized it and turned it into a place for culinary delights made of organic and fresh ingredients. There are about 35 stalls with a wide variety of delicacies that you just can’t resist. The tables are large, holding numerous people and there’s no need to pre-book before going there. Additionally, there are high chances you’ll also make some new friends there while enjoying your dinner or your glass of wine.
- Walk on those old streets, visit the castle, the gothic cathedrals and then go and relax in one of the many parks located in the modern area of the city, built longways the main boulevards, such as Avenida da Libertade. The contrast between the new and the old, the colorful houses with facades covered in faience and painted in the industrial grey show you once again that you are in one of the coolest cities in Europe.
- Go for a walk in Bairro Alto and visit the art galleries, boutique shops with all sorts of interior decorations, antique shops and cafes decorated in the most creative and original ways.
- Go to a fado concert in the evening: the Alfama area is famous for the small bars where every evening there are people singing fado. The bars – tasca in Portuguese – serve traditional food, wine and beer. They pull the curtains and the only light in the room is the one coming from a small lamp. The guests are welcomed here to sing their emotions, such as missing someone, love and pain, until late in the night. Tasca do Chico is only one very good example.
- Try the local food: croquetas de bacalhau – cod fish croquets, which you can buy from nearly anywhere and you can enjoy them either with or without sauce, octopus – polvo a lagareiro, which is usually served in traditional restaurants, francesinha – a sort of hamburger or aroz de tamboril – another delicacy that contains cod fish and rice seasoned with bay, basil and tomato sauce.
- Take the train or the tram and go to Belem – located several tens of kilometers away from Lisbon, this is the place where the famous Pasteis de Belem were “born”, right next to The Jerónimos Monastery. Those delicious cookies with egg and vanilla cream, with crispy coating made of butter were first made by the Jerónimos monks. They used the egg white to starch their monastery clothes and so, the yolk would have remained unused. That’s how they came up with the idea of baking some cookies using the yolk and other ingredients and selling them to others. This happened during the beginning of the 19th century and the monks of Belem used to sell cookies to get some extra money. Pasteis de Belem is a registered trademark and the only place you’ll find it is here, in the same spot where 200 years ago the recipe was invented. You’ll find variations of this cookie elsewhere in the country, but under the name of “pasteis de nata”.
- Take the train and explore the surroundings of Lisbon – one of the places that are definitely worth visiting is Sintra, a city where many American celebrities like to spend their holidays and a place where you’ll find some fairytale castles. The Moora fortress that watches over the entire region and built between the 8th and 9th centuries, the mesmerizing Palacio Pena, a vivid colored castle built in the 19th century in the neo-Romanesque style, with an emotional love story behind. The entire park, with its impressive gardens, and the interior of the palace deserve at least half day of your time. Also, you shouldn’t miss visiting Quinta da Regaleira either, which is another impressive palace, included in the UNESCO world heritage. From Sintra, you can easily get to Cabo da Roca, either on foot or via public transportation. Cabo da Roca is the most Western place in Western Europe, which the Portuguese poet Luis Camoes described as the place where the land ends and the sea starts. Other interesting places to explore are Cascais and Estoril, well-known for their beautiful beaches and landscapes, as well as for their perfect surfing conditions.
Lisbon can be visited throughout the entire year and a holiday here can fit within nearly any budget. Also, it promises to offer unforgettable experiences every single time. The public transportation is well organized, and you can easily and rapidly get from one part of the city to another. The local people are very friendly and many of them also speak English. You’ll also find many tourists and some of them may even help you with some recommendations or information.
Do add Lisbon to your “next holiday” list! It’s worth it!
Article originally written by our friend, Ralu Calatoreste.
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