After spending a couple of days in Lisbon and absolutely loving it, I wondered why it’d taken so long for me to visit Spain’s neighboring country. For whatever reason Lisbon doesn’t typically seem to be at the top of people’s europtrip destinations, but after visiting I really think it should be! There’s so much the city has to offer- and it’s one of the most affordable European cities I’ve been to!
My good friend Sapna (from Seattle) came out to do a little Europe trip and we decided to meet up in Lisbon. And let me just say, it’s always so nice having a little of piece of home out in Europe. Sapna and I decided to stay at Lisboa Central Hostel, which despite the name isn’t as central as you’d think, though that was really the only con about it. The hostel was staffed with friendly locals who were eager to help make the most of our stay. The rooms and bathrooms were clean (though there could have been a better guest to bathroom ratio). But my favorite part was probably that we’d wake up to freshly made pancakes everyday…for free- who could complain about that? 🙂
SIGHTSEEING– Neighborhoods & nearby attractions
There’s so much to see in Lisbon and its surrounding areas. I could have easily spent a couple more days in Lisbon. Especially since I don’t really feel I got to see everything in the 5 days I was there (it didn’t help that I felt really sick on my second day and had to stay in bed for a pretty much the whole day). But I did the best I could given the circumstances!
Chiado, Almafa, Barrio Alto, Graca, and Baixa neighborhoods
Lisbon is divided into a bunch of little neighborhoods each of which have their own unique charm! I think that Alfama and Barrio Alto were my two favorites- both had tons of cute little shops, restaurants, and some really beautiful panoramic views.
Caiscais was recommended to me by several people so I figured it was a can’t mis since it’s just a short train ride from Lisbon (about 30 minutes). It’s got a cute little beach super close to the train station which Sapna and I bummed around at for a bit. Emphasis on the little though, don’t go expecting a beach that goes on for miles like we did. Most of the beaches in or near Caiscais were on the smaller side, which did make they feel a bit more private.
The little beach town randomly also had plenty of Thai and Indian food- which I obviously indulged on. It’d been a while since I’d had good ethnic food!
But my favorite part about Caiscais was probably the cliffs at the Boca de Inferno (Mouth to Hell) and the walk to get there- which is basically a beach walk that extends out of the city center. Along the way there was a beautiful little lighthouse with a quiet little creek that eventually merged with the ocean water right next to it.
Boca de Inferno cliffs were also really beautiful- not quite Cliffs of Moher- but definitely beautiful in their own right!
Sintra and Pena Palace
Sintra & Pena Palace was another highly recommended day trip for Lisbon. If you haven’t already seen or heard of this palace- it’s basically a flamboyantly colored borderline toy-like looking palace in the city of Sintra. Most castles are obviously beautiful, that’s kind of the whole point of then, but a lot of them do kinda start to all blend in together after a while. This one does no blending at all though- in fact it’s pretty hard to miss or mistake for anything else!
The city surrounding is nothing too special, but I thought that a trip to the castle was worth it since it’s so uniquely different from anything I’d seen before!
Portugal is probably best known for the Bacalao (dried salt cod) and Pastel de Natas (basically little custard pies), but has plenty of other things to offer! Before getting to the other yummy eats I have a confession: the Pastel de Natas were so good I had at least one per day- whoops.
Anyways, other food highlights were the the Bifana (pork sandwiches which we tried in the Alfama district), everything I ate at this restaurant called O Trigueirinho Restaurant (still can’t pronounce the name of it, but seriously had the best cheese, olives, and fresh fish for very fair prices), bacalao croquetas, and some tasty cherry liquor called a ginjinha.
The not so yummy dish I had was the famous street sardines which I bought at a stand in Alfama. They basically serve the whole fish (guts, bones, face and all) on a piece of bread- this guy took pity on me and helped me debone the fish after seeing my reaction to the presentation of the street food. Not my fav dish- but at least it was cheap. That was probably one of the best parts of the food in Lisbon, everything was so cheap that even if you didn’t like it, you couldn’t feel too terrible about it because was affordable.
Santo Antonio Festival
We arrived at the tail end of the Santo Antonio festival, one of the country’s biggest festivals that’s usually celebrated for about a week but especially on the 12th and 13th of June. Of course I arrived on the 14th so I just barely missed it. My walking tour guide said that our timing of visiting Lisbon, was like missing NYE celebration and arriving on the 1st of January when everybody is hungover and festivities are over haha……I was pretty bummed about hearing this, but it turns out that a lot festivities continue well into the following week. The streets were still decorated with colorful banners and lights, many of the food stands were still up, and there were plenty of little concerts scattered around the city.
Soccer (or Football, so nobody gets offended 😉 ) Watching
The EuroCup was well underway during my time in Lisbon and there’s no doubt that the Portuguese are passionate about soccer- I guess I would be too though if Cristiano Ronaldo were from my country haha. Anyways, the city had set up a viewing area with a giant screen, seating area, and plenty of beers stands just past the Rua Augusta Arch in the center of the city. I was lucky enough to be there when Portugal played a match, and although it ended in an anticlimactic the atmosphere was still fun !
Fado, is an expressive and melancholic music genre that can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal (but probably with much earlier origins) but still plays a big part of Lisbon’s cultural identity today. The Portuguese people themselves are also known to be quite melancholic- quite the opposite from their Spanish neighbors. The free walking tour guide told us that a lot of the reason Portuguese people were like this was due to the tumultuous/difficult history that Portugal’s faced- from being one the world’s colonial powerhouses to a struggling first world country.
She also happened to be a fado performer so she sang for us during our tour once we’d reached a pretty view point! After Sapna arrived we also went to a restaurant where they had live fado performances. It was beautiful but short lived since the food prices had us running out pretty quickly haha. To our defense, we asked to see the menus before entering but the man out front insisted we could just go in without any compromise to buy anything. I couldn’t hold back my laughter once I looked at the menu- it was ridiculously expensive- so we left after a couple of songs. Embarrassing, but at least the staff was super nice about it.
The streets of Lisbon are lined with buildings that are decorated with ceramic tiles called Azulejos. This was probably one of my favorite aesthetic parts of the city! They added such vibrancy to the city:)
Sooooo, basically if you haven’t been to Lisbon I say bump it towards the top of your list. It’s cheap, has great weather, good food, and is absolutely beautiful. What’s not to love?