How I Fell In Love With Portugal | Part I - Lisbon
You have to put Portugal on your list of places to visit. Especially if you live in Europe, you have no excuse - it's one of the cheapest destinations, and, in this little travelling photographer's humble opinion, one of the most stunning places to visit. It was a bit of a spontaneous trip for me, and I ended up going with one of my best friends! I wanted a little city break but with a little beach getaway too.. does that make sense?? And I thought Portugal fit that criteria perfectly. We loved everything - the food, the people, the capital as well as the little towns, the secluded beaches and the hikes. And the topless sunbathing too, hehe. And ALL the pasteis de nata.
Did I mention flights + AirBnbs + car for 4 days was £160 per person? Probably the cheapest trip I've ever done - and I wanna share how priceless the experience was. In this first blog post - let me show you my favourite bits of Lisbon! Scroll down for recommendations and highlights. And make sure to check back soon for part II - all about the stunning Algarve coast.
I knew for sure I wanted to see Lisbon, and it's also the easiest destination for flights when going to Portugal. All together we spent two (almost) full days in Lisbon - we landed there in the morning, rented a car, drove into the city (which only took about 15 minutes), checked in to our AirBnb (here's a lil discount link) which was absolutely wonderful and even had a lemon tree in the back garden. I did a bit of research beforehand and decided that we should definitely stay the night in Alfama - the really pretty romantic old town part of Lisbon. If you're as big of a fan of colourful houses as I am, you will be in paradise :) I struggled with switching between my camera and my phone to capture all the gorgeous buildings and hidden pathways.
The main central area was walkable distance from Alfama, or you can always take one of the iconic old trams! Now that I think about it, we didn't actually ride one - that means I have to go back and do it, right?
You can spend hours just wandering through the streets, taking pictures on every corner, or just sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee with the locals. There's so much character, so much colour! Be prepared, you'll be going up and down many hills and stairways... but it's worth it - and needed - for all the pasteis the nata you'll eat. We got a few recommendations from our AirBnb hosts on where to get the best sugary custard tart fix, and we wanted to try them ALL. But as we took that first bite of the steaming hot melty goodness from Manteigaria Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata, we were hooked. To the point where we planned next days meals around these dreamy custard tarts ;) Definitely put this place on your list to try one of their freshly baked warm tarts, but we also heard that it's worth travelling to Belem for them.
- FOOD - being used to London prices, I found food in Portugal quite cheap. Both Ance and I love sharing food and trying a bit of everything, so we absolutely loved TimeOut Market (I've heard that it's coming to London too - can't freakin' wait!). They had stalls with lots of different cuisines, and then also market stalls with menus created by famous chefs and restaurants. And they also have Manteigaria Fabrica in the market! Dessert sorted. Or appetizers - I was travelling with a nutritionist so we started with the sweet stuff :)
Now, if you're a vegetarian - you might struggle a bit. I follow a vegetarian diet at home, but on this trip I was full on pescetarian, just because there weren't that many veggie options. I'm sure you can find some, but Portugal is the place to indulge in some really amazing fresh seafood.
- COFFEE - they all seem to drink it. I personally can't, but you definitely should. Not the best recommendation, ha - but I can only imagine how good a good cup of coffee would be with the goodness that is pasteis de nata.
- SHOPPING - I recommend going to see the impressive Comercio Square, and then walking down Rua Augusta and the side streets, you'll find lots of boutiques!
- VIEWPOINT FROM ABOVE - we were lucky as on our way back home after dinner around sunset time, we accidentally stumbled upon an amazing viewpoint - Miradouro das Portas Do Sol. Other recommendations we got - Viewpoint of Santa Catarina, Castelo de S. Jorge, and Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.
- IF YOU WANT TO FEEL LIKE A TRUE LOCAL - go to Lisbon during the working week. We spent our Tuesday and Wednesday morning here, and we truly felt like locals as there weren't many tourists around. At times it was so quiet in Alfama that it almost felt like a ghost town (yet very welcoming and colourful!).
- WATCH OUT - for hasslers, especially when trying to park. If you're driving around looking to park, you might see someone gesturing and showing you a parking spot, then asking for money. We fell for this once, parked in a spot that turned out to be a no-park zone, and the guy pretending to be the in charge just disappeared into thin air. I've also heard stories about selling fake drugs to tourists - not my scene, but do watch out.
It's a big city so of course you'll get these kinds of people, but let me re-assure you - it's way better than Paris or Rome.
- WHEN TO GO? We went in mid - late May, and it was perfect. It was already hot and sunny, but not yet the peak of the season. If you go in the heat of the summer, make sure to schedule in a day to escape to the beach. I imagine September / October would also be similarly good, with the average temperature still staying above 20!
Lisbon, I give you 10/10. I love cities with history & character, and Lisbon has plenty. Go with friends or with your lover - either way, it'll be a blast. After Lisbon, it was time for a roadrip to the beach - but more on that in the next post.