I am so happy to say we have FINALLY ticked Lisbon off the bucket list. After our Europe travels in 2016, it has been a city we have both been dying to visit but just hadn’t got round to it… until now! Intrigued by the candy coloured buildings, the festive cobbled streets and the incredible pastry goods, we decided it was about time we embarked on our next trip, so at the beginning of October we flew over to Portugal’s capital for a short 4-day getaway.
Following our three month stint across the pond earlier this year, we’re both well and truly hooked by the nomad lifestyle (but also very poor hence the lack of blog posts since). The prospect of visiting and exploring new countries is something that really excites us and whilst we have the constraints of 9-5 jobs to compete with (and a bit of money again), we’ve taken it upon ourselves to make the most of Europe being right on our doorstep, so we packed our bags and headed for the sun!
With little planning on what we wanted to cover in our four-day trip, we decided to explore the city by wandering, in the hope of stumbling across some beautiful sights. Luckily for us, Lisbon is a pretty small city and it’s very easy to find your way around, especially considering every street you walk down is amazing in its own right.
After a short two and a half hour flight, we made it to Lisboa. Our first experience of Portugal, and what a treat we were in for. We were met with the 30 degree heat, manic Portuguese roads, erratic drivers and general hustle and bustle of the city (glad we chose not to hire a car! – especially as Ubers are so cheap).
As huge advocates of Airbnb, we headed straight from the airport to the apartment to check out our home for the next three nights. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our lovely host who showed us around and ensured we had everything we could need for our stay, she even provided a travel guide which included local restaurants, must-see places and locations of all the local amenities – it was fantastic! Our Airbnb was a small first-floor studio located on a lovely little cobbled street, perfect for what we needed and in a great location, walking distance from all the main hotspots, including one of the best cafe’s in Lisbon which we could see from our window!!
Arriving late afternoon, meant there was little time for much other than dinner and drinks – not that we’re complaining – so we headed over the road to the Lisboa Sky Bar, it was beautiful! We caught a glimpse of the sunset whilst polishing off a bottle of Portuguese red wine (some of the best we’ve ever had) before heading off for dinner at a little restuarant, Sr Lisboa – the food was wonderful, albeit a little pricey but worth every penny in our opinion.
Our first full day to explore Lisboa and all it has to offer. Like I said earlier, our itinerary was not overly detailed, however I think this is the best approach to visiting a city like Lisbon. The city has so much to offer just by walking around, so there is no need to ensure you have ticked off EVERYTHING on the ‘must-see’ list. Although saying that, there a few things we would definitely recommend and all are accessible by foot.
- Bairro Alto
- Comércio Plaza
- Elevador de Santa Justa (not the lift, just the view from the top)
- Castelo de S. Jorge
One of the most beautiful districts in Lisbon, filled with colourful houses, historical buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants – count us in! The district has something for everyone, and is a fab place to explore the real Lisbon. Whilst there are loads of things to do / see, the funicular railway seems to be the main attraction in this district, the traditional carriage travels to from the bottom to the top of the hill, and back again – ALL DAY! Although, we didn’t actually ride on the railway, it was well worth the visit.
After spending some time in the beautiful streets of Bairro Alto, we continued our explorations towards the river and the Commércio Plaza. This waterside plaza is lined with shops and restaurants, perfect for a spot of lunch and people watching. The plaza is located close to the edge of the river, with a statue right in the centre (like most european city’s main square), whereby locals and tourists can both be found in their masses. Once we’d had a quick bite to eat at a very tourist heavy restaurant (not ideal but adequate), we headed back into the more central districts in search of the Elevador de Santa Justa.
Elevador de Santa Justa
The elevator is a huge structure that can be seen from all over the city. It connects the lower streets with the higher streets as the inclines are pretty steep. This attraction is huge with tourists wanting to see Lisbon from up high, however the queue is nearly always huge. With this in mind, we opted to walk the long way round, up some pretty step hills, to the platform that is connected to the elevator. The view is just as fantastic from the lower section of the platform and in my opinion, the cost for the elevator is not worth it to go a few feet higher! We soaked up the 30 degree heat whilst drinking a nice cold Super Bock beer and enjoying the city views. The elevator is located right next to the ruins, however due to construction works, these were closed, which was a bit of a shame.
Castelo de S. Jorge
25,000 steps later, we made it back to our Airbnb. We’d decided the previous night that we would visit the castle, that we could see from the Skybar, for our second sunset in Lisbon. We brought a bottle of wine from the little supermarket across the road, and off we went in our very cheap uber to the castle. If we thought the roads were steep so far, the ones connecting the city to the castle are on a whole different level! There were a few moments when I thought our uber was going to roll back down the hill… Anyway, after a short 5 minute drive, we were at the base of the castle grounds. Upon arrival at the entrance, we paid a small fee – this is worth every penny for the beautiful sunset we saw that evening. We walked around the grounds for a short while, before heading to one of the stone seating areas carved into the castle walls. We must have got there at the perfect time as shortly after we sat down, the walls were full of locals and tourists ready to enjoy the show! Glass of wine in one hand, camera in the other – we were ready for the sun to set over the city we were falling in love with.
After an amazing couple of days, we couldn’t wait to see what else Lisbon had to offer. With a few items still to tick off our bucket list (listed below) – including buying a traditional custard tart – of course – we headed off (via some of the cutest doorways I’ve ever seen) in search of a tuktuk to take us to the top of the Alfama district.
- Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
- Mercado da Ribeira
- River Cruise
After locating a tuktuk a short 10 minute walk from our apartment, we managed to haggle ourselves a lift to what we thought would be the Pantheon. Either our Portuguese is awful, or he mugged us off, we were dropped a 20 minute walk from the Pantheon at a terrace vista / church. At first we were a bit miffed that he hadn’t taken us to where we’d asked but after entering the church (narrowly missing a bride entering her own wedding) we realised he’d actually done us a huge favour. The building was magnificent and the views from the terrace were equally as amazing.
We spent the rest of the morning milling around Alfama, stopping occasionally as we headed in the direction of the water. During our wander through the Alfama district, we stumbled on a sweet little bakery (that also sold beer) and saw our opportunity to finally try one of the infamous custard tarts! I was slightly skeptical at first so we opted for the mini tarts to try. WHAT A MISTAKE! They are incredible, possible one of the nicest sweet treats I’ve had in Europe – wait, no, the world!!! We both were in heaven and from then on made it our mission to try as many as we could during our last 24 hours in Portugal.
As our explorations continues, we made our way back along the river front – in the opposite direction from the previous day – towards the food market… a must when visiting a new place. This one did not disappoint, foods of all kinds – including our new favourite treat! The place was rammed, so much so we decided to head elsewhere for our lunch.
After food, we headed back to our Airbnb via the Bairro Alto district (yet again) and some more beautiful streets. One of the things we love about this city is you don’t need to spend your time heading from one tourist must-see to the next, you can soak up all Lisbon has to offer just by walking around and exploring the streets filled with funicular railways, boutique shops, washing hanging across the road and old lady’s doing their ‘neighbourhood watch’ – no need for CCTV around here!
After a quick change, we headed over to Zenith (the brunch and cocktails place across the road from our Airbnb) for a few cocktails before getting a uber to the port for a last minute sunset cruise! We knew before arriving in Portugal that we wanted to go on a river cruise at some point during our stay, and thanks to the beautiful weather we had, we opted for the sunset cruise with a company called Nosso Tejo. The boat was HUGE and probably a little too touristy for our liking but we tried to have an open mind taking into account their amazing Trip Advisor review and the fact there was an alcoholic welcome drink included!
Upon arrival at the location stated on our ticket, it was a bit disorganised, but like I said, we were trying to be openminded… Finally we were taken to the jetty where the boat was docked and we boarded on. Once we were on our way, they brought round some sparkling wine (as they were celebrating their 500th Trip Advisor review) – things were already looking up. Luckily for us, a couple of people weren’t drinking which meant more for everyone else – woohoo! Once the sparkling wine was finished, they continued to top up our cups with Portuguese white wine – what a bonus!
The tour was great, with the captain talking us through the various sights we were seeing, before turning us to a point where we would stop to watch the sunset. It was beautiful.
Our final day in Lisbon has arrived. After a wonderful evening on the sunset cruise – with a lot of free alcohol – we were feeling a little worse for wear. Luckily the brunch cafe opened shortly after we woke up so we headed straight over to re-fuel. The food was just as good as the reviews said, and was well worth dragging ourselves out of bed for. By the time we left, there was a queue out the door! Despite our headaches, we decided we had to make the most of our last day so spent a bit more time exploring Avenida and the surrounding area, before packing our bags and heading for the airport.
Goodbye Lisbon… for now
To round up this post, we can honestly say Lisbon has a piece of both of our hearts. The stunning architecture, the bright buildings, the food and the people have all made this city one we are now very fond of. Four days just wasn’t enough to see everything so we will certainly be back!
Now we’re back on English soil we will be planning our next adventure – which city will be next?!
Adios for now,
Love Char & Mar xxx