I escaped the miserable British weather for a sunny city break in Lisbon to kick off February, arriving Monday and leaving on Friday gave me more than enough time to explore the city whilst also allowing for down time.
I’ll kick this blog post off with some general reccos about visiting the city:
It is a city of cobbled hills, you can’t really go anywhere without walking up or down a hill in the city centre so if you are heading to a specific location, consult your map if you’re not 100% sure you’re heading in the right direction to avoid unnecessarily walking up one!
Uber is so easy and cheap to use in Lisbon, a 25min drive cost €10, so honestly anytime we were headed somewhere that would have been a 30min walk or longer we just summoned a cab and never waited longer than 2mins for one.
June - August is peak season and Lisbon is a very hot and dry place so it makes no sense why anyone would want to walk up all the hills in the summer! My visit was in off season but I’d actually recco Feb-April or October as the perfect time to go, the locals were in coats and scarves but I was fine in a light jacket (being a brit), which you will need for when you’re in the shade.
It took me a while to get my head around how the city was laid out and where was best to stay so a quick recap; Alfama is lots of windy streets and felt mostly residential, Bairro Alto and Chiado are more commercial with good night life, Príncipe Real is the upscale area if you will. We actually stayed outisde the city centre as we strategically booked a spa hotel to relax amidst all the exploring but I think staying in Chiado or Principe Real would be ideal.
What to do
Book your tickets on your phone and jump the line to visit Castelo de S. Jorge. I had a really nice time soaking up the sun and enjoying the views whilst walking around the ruins and climbing up the different levels. It’s a bit of a hike to get to but well worth it, and it would be a gorgeous space to take in the sunset if you time it right.
For the first time I booked experiences on Air Bnb and now I think its something I’ll do anywhere I go! In Lisbon I would really recommend doing a Pastel de Nata Baking Workshop, as we really got to learn about the history behind the city’s famous tart as well as gaining an appreciation for what goes into making them. The class lasted 1.5 hours, was so much fun and we got to eat them at the end with a coffee!
Outside of the city centre (so yep another Uber) is LX Factory, which is a little hub of independent shops and restaurants, we visited around brunch time but it looked like the type of place that would have a great buzz around 4pm onwards. Here is where you will find the sprawling Ler Devagar bookshop with its high walls of books and a coffee shop. Time it with a snack and you could spend an hour or two mooching about.
We then tied this in with walking to Parque Florestal de Monsanto which to get to was not a scenic walk, but once there we really forgot that we were on a city break and was nice to get some fresh air.
Back to my new found love of Air Bnb experiences, if you have the time then PLEASE book an afternoon tour to Sintra! We booked this tour on Air Bnb which included a return minibus, where the whole journey we were taught about Lisbon’s history, paving the way to really appreciate UNESCO Cultural Landscape when we arrived. It included time to spend in the local town and sample some port and pastries and then a trip up to the colourful Palacio da Pena. Our tour guide knew so much and we definitely wouldn’t have appreciated the palace without a guide so if you’re going to visit then a tour is definitely the way to go.
What I wouldn't bother doing in Lisbon...
I put a question box on Insta asking for reccos and many people said to visit Belém Tower, so even though it was very far out of the city (definitely an Uber trip, not a walk!) we went there for the morning. It looks very pretty and was nice to be by the sea but it is only a few stories high so you get the same view you did on the floor, and the tower has a confusing one way system so actually you’re just queuing in empty rooms to go to a few different floors. I personally, wouldn’t waste time going so far out of the city to see it.
Saying that, it is near the Jerónimos Monastery, so if you really wanted to do that I guess you could say hey to the tower whilst you’re in the vicinity! We decided against doing the Monastery so can’t comment on whether it is worth it.
What to eat and drink in Lisbon
Let’s just address the best pastel de nata up top. Everywhere online said the best ones were at Pastéis de Belém, however I think this is for historical reasons as we were told egg whites were used as starch in the nearby monastery so to use the the yolks the pastel de nata was created in Belém (according to the baker who led our workshop).
After sampling many, these were our least favourite, they aren’t cooked for as long making the middle more runny. I prefer the inside to be stiffer and the whole tart to be sweeter so head to one of the Manteigaria locations instead (which many locals told us was their fave!)
If you’re after something cheap and cheerful then the Time Out Food Market has lots of options all inside in a large space with eateries of all different cuisines with long tables to dine on in the middle. But if you’d like a sit down meal then Bonjardim has a minimal menu and is famous for their spit-roast chicken with piri-piri sauce.
If you’re up for something a little more mid-range than I cannot recco Tapisco enough. Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa has a Two Michelin starred restaurant called Alma in Chiado, but in Princípe Real you can find this very chilled lunch spot where you can eat at the bar whilst watching the chefs cook right in front of you in the open kitchen. It serves both Portugese and Spanish dishes and they are all based on sharing.
I was there for my partner’s 30th birthday so I booked a special dinner to celebrate at Eleven, a Michelin starred restaurant on the outskirts of town, so if you’re after a fine dining experience this is worth a visit! It was very pricey but we were very well fed (honestly must have rolled home after itching so much!) and looked after, they present the courses in fun and imaginative ways and will honestly be one of the best meals out we’ve ever had.
If you’re after a drink in Lisbon then surely it needs to be on a rooftop! At the more affordable end we have Park (pictured above), a bar on top of a car park with well priced drinks, we were there around 4pm/5pm but they have events that go late into the night. On the slightly higher end we have Lumi Rooftop Bar on top of the Lumiares Hotel, which is probably best to book for, particularly in the summer.
In Summary, this was the perfect city break to actually relax, if I had written a blog post after visiting Rome for example it would be crammed full of touristy things to do but actually Lisbon is ideal for hanging out either on rooftops or in yummy restaurants, and wandering around beautiful tiled streets.