Lisbon is, arguably, the most major city in the country of Portugal. (It’s also the capital city.) You’ll hear a lot about Porto and Sintra, but Lisbon is the one city you don’t want to miss if you’re traveling to Portugal.
I didn’t know much about it before deciding to visit yet quickly learned how much culture and scenery this country, to the west of Spain, packs into its borders. Lisbon is one of the best cities I’ve visited in Europe and it’s incredibly easy to fall in love with.
You may arrive to Lisbon and think, “This city needs some repair.” The city isn’t necessarily a rich one and as a result a lot of the building facades, especially, seem like they’re in need of a facelift. However once you spend a full day there (or even two) its beautiful artistic facades quickly win you over. You’ll surely start to think any cracks and chipped paint on buildings adds character! Lisbon is best known for their painted tile facades. You’ll pass many as you walk through their city’s neighborhoods. This blue one was one of my favorites.
A beautiful beach is just a train ride away from the city center. We took a 30 minute train ride to this beauty, called Caiscas Beach. I’m not one who adores laying on the sand for hours so it was favorable to grab a seat at a beach bar and eatery, have some lunch and cocktails and enjoy the view. I read for a while then we explored the shore and adored walking along the coastline and sunbathing for a bit.
One of the most memorable places we visited was Carmo Convent ruins. A small fee allows you access to this beautiful site. It was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and ruined during a large earthquake in 1755. It’s been restored for structure a few times to keep its remaining beauty in tact. There’s a good amount of artifacts on display in addition to being able to admire its attractive arches and gothic buttresses. Just outside the ruins are swanky sidewalk restaurants and eateries.
We stayed in a fantastic Air BnB that had incredibly helpful hosts. They clued us into Park rooftop bar, which we never would have known about without their recommendation. It’s super trendy and literally the top deck of a parking garage. It has beautiful view of the city; you’ll feel ultra posh grabbing a cocktail here. Go about an hour or so before sunset for less crowds and a chance to see the colors of the sky illuminate the views. Overall, though we’re not much for nightlife, we were fully aware Lisbon has an exciting smorgasbord of clubs and bars.
Charming Everyday Life
Scenes like this are typical as you walk through neighborhoods in Lisbon. It feels so western European to me. I swoon every time I walk through an area and see something like this. Garments on a clothesline, stone steps that have been eroded over the years from neighborhood traffic, mismatched doors and apartment numbers, and cable lines atop roofs to conform with the times all add to the character of a village.
Affordable, Delicious Food
Because Portugal isn’t a wealthy country you get a lot of bang for your buck. This is particularly notable with their amazing food! I loved my bone-in whole fish dish one evening, washed down with a first-class glass of wine. A seated dinner like this is easily $20 USD per person or less.
What traveler doesn’t want to see some castles when they visit Europe? Sao Jorge Castle is a fantastic place to visit. Its property offers beautiful aerial views of the city, picturesque crenelations atop the castle walls and beautiful grounds. We even saw a few peacocks roaming the property. If you’re looking to deal with the least amount of tourists possible visit the castle first thing in the morning.
Incredible Day Trips
If you make Lisbon your home base for a few days it’s very easy to take a train to a nearby city for additional intrigue. Sintra, Belem, and Obidos are phenomenal options. We loved our day trip to the Knights Templar’s capital for hundreds of years, called Tomar.
Time Out Market
This market has got to be on your list if you’re even in the vicinity of Lisbon. A friend recommended it and I could kiss her for doing so! The environment was astoundingly wonderful and the delicious food options were plentiful. It just so happens to offer one of the Best Things I Ever Ate. It’s received critical acclaim since the day it opened its doors in 2014. You can eat culinary dishes from some of the best chefs in the area at a quick-service kind of counter for less prices than you would pay at their restaurants. Enjoy gourmet tartare fish dishes, pizza, oysters, paella, gourmet hot dogs, and tons more.
Wonderful Squares and Ocean Views
Lisbon is a coastal city. Therefore it has many spots you’ll be able to enjoy waterfront views. This view of Commerce Square was taken from Sao Jorge Castle, but we also walked through it one afternoon and stopped to enjoy a few beers. The historic square was the funnel point of wealth into and out of the city centuries ago. The royal family once lived here too, which is part of why it looks so regal. It’s an excellent place to take photos and people watch.
Hand Painted Souvenirs
My policy in regards to souvenirs is: buy none. I am not one for collecting useless magnets, postcards and the like. (I prefer to take photographs!) But I have to say the hand-painted ceramics in Lisbon won me over. I proudly display a small hand-painted codfish on my gallery wall at home (a symbol and staple of Portugal), which I purchased from a beautiful shop outside of the Sao Jorge Castle, pictured below. Its hard to resist their beautiful housewares. One of my favorite options was tile letters and numbers you could use to create a home address for your door or name for your wall. Shops like this aren’t too hard to find in Lisbon.
Craving a European escape? Check out:
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- Christmas on the Danube with Viking River Cruises
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