Portugal’s hilly, coastal Capital is rapidly increasing in popularity as a must see tourist destination. It was, and still remains, one of the least visited European cities, however with a recent explosion of bloggers and influencers writing it’s praises, Lisbon is expected to have a sell out 2018 season. Rightly so! The city boasts a brilliant blend of traditional heritage with modern culture and offers exceptional value for money for food, drink, travel & accommodation. Particularly when visiting outside of the peak season.
I spent 3days in this culture packed city in the month of February. Whilst the temperatures were still very low, and it required thought-out clothes packing, the sun was splitting the stones and I was pleasantly surprised at how few other tourists there were. Accessing the main attractions was quick and easy, and as with every city I am sure this isn’t the case when the temperatures rise!
With Lisbon having so much to offer, I recommend careful planning to make the most of your time here. Let me help you along with some of my favourite, must-see’s and do’s.
Torre de Belém (Belem Tower)
The Belem Tower is one of the most iconic structures to be seen in Lisbon. At the grand old age of 500, Belem is now a UNISCO World Heritage Site. Interesting to explore and stunningly admirable on both the inside and the outside. If visiting during peak season it is completely necessary to visit early in the morning to avoid the queues.
Monsteiró dos Jerónimos
A short stroll from the Belem Tower, approximately 10minutes walk, lies the Monsteiró dos Jerónimos. A monastery, a church and a museum all in one magnificent building. The architecture really will blow you away!
Dine on Bacalhau
As with every country, the cuisine varies across Portugal. That being said it’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve Portugal’s favourite dish, Bacalhau, as part of their menu.
Bacalhau is dried and salted codfish. It has been around ever since sailors discovered the ability to make their catch last longer on their voyages by salting and drying it. There are now more than 365 recipes to make Bacalhau, so you could have it every day of the year, and then some, if you wanted to! One of the most common recipes is Bacalhau à brás, a stir-fry of cod, rice, scrambled eggs, and onions, garnished with black olives and chopped parsley.
Why not wash it down with the Lisbon-born-liquer, Ginjinha. Combining macerated sour cherries with brandy and sugar, Ginja (for short) is a much-loved digestif in Lisbon.
Castelo de São Jorge
Majestically perched on top of the highest hill in Alfama, Castelo de São Jorge manages to make an appearance in a large percentage of pictures taken of Lisbon. Whilst the views of this castle are beautiful when looking up from the city, they are even more breathtaking when in the castle looking out at panoramic views the city itself. The battlements of the castle provides spectacular views of the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) and the Baixa district.
The steep climb from the city centre to Lisbon’s most popular tourist attraction, along cobbled streets, can be draining. I especially wouldn’t fancy it during the summer heat, so personally I would recommend cheating and getting an Uber! No shame!
It really is a wonderful place to wander around the rustic streets and explore one of the oldest parts of the city. Why not visit in the late afternoon and catch the sunset? You can even purchase wine in the castle grounds to make the view even more enjoyable.
Ride on a traditional Lisbon Funicular
One of the most famous activities and landmarks in Lisbon is the array of funiculars. They actually look more like regular trams, but they climb upwards and downwards, pulling each-other each way, like a true funicular.
I was lucky enough to be staying in a fabulous Airbnb directly beside the Elevador da Bica route, and I have to say I could very happily wake up to that view and the sound of the Funicular’s bell everyday for the rest of my life.
Elevador da Bica saved my blistered feet on multiple occasions after over-indulging in delicious Portugese food.
“Pink Street” – Rua Nova do Carvalho
Previously Red Light District of Lisbon, the hang out for sailors, criminals and prostitutes. Rua Nova do Carvalho underwent a “facelift” in 2011 in an effort to turn it’s bad reputation around. The brothels and dingy bars closed their doors and in their place an array of cosy cafes and stylish bars and trendy clubs opened. Now known as “Pink Street”, Rua Nova do Carvalho is the place to head for a night out to dance the dinner calories away.
One thing I always aim to find when on a city break, is somewhere that offers a good cocktail menu teamed with vast city views. I couldn’t believe my luck when we stumbled upon “Park Bar”. It was everything I wanted and more. Situated on the rooftop of a multi-story carpark (hence then name) it is second to none for stunning views, nibbles and dinks. Their whiskey sour was potentially the best I’ve ever had. My mouth is even watering as I type this.
Santa Justa Lift
The Santa Justa Lift is now the fastest way to get from the Baixa neighbourhood to the Bairro Alto district. Before it’s existence it was very difficult to travel from lower to upper Lisbon. With an observation deck at the summit, the elevator offers great views over Baixa. It is now one of the most popular viewpoints in the city.
Bring home some cork
A fun fact about Portugal is that it is the number one producer of cork in the world, with more than 50% of global production. Therefore most wine drinkers will have Portugal to thank for keeping their favourite wine fresh! What better souvenir to bring home from Lisbon than something made of cork? You will be spoilt for choice in the souvenir shops. My personal preference is always to bring home something artistic to display proudly in my home. I couldn’t resist this piece, combining Portuguese cork, the traditional Portuguese tile and a scene capturing the famous Portuguese trams. The perfect souvenir!