And it’s with Ryanair that I flew to Lisbon, where my Airbnb host, Pedro, was waiting for me in a small studio near Bairro Alto, the more party-loving and central neighbourhood. I planned the trip to go to a concert and I didn’t have expectations at all as I had never before considered visiting Portugal. And maybe that’s why I fell in love so deeply with it!
The Lisbon panorama is simply postcard perfect. The city is built on seven hills and, even if for a non-fit person like myself it was quite a challenge, it is definitely Lisbon’s most characteristic feature and trademark.
Praça do Comércio is found on every Lisbon what-to-see list. It’s the largest square in the city and an important transport hub (with trams heading to the Belém district and ferries). It’s located on the edge of the Tejo estuary and if there’s a word to describe it, that is magnificent! A statue of King Jose I is at the centre of the square and traditional, yellow-painted buildings line the three sides. Imagine this view, the breeze from the Tejo and music coming from the guitars of two street artists!
Another thing which you absolutely have to do in Lisbon is have a drink in one of the many terraces known as miradouros, which are scattered across the city. I went to Park in Bairro Alto, the rooftop of a car park on the 7th floor which has been transformed into a bar. The cheap prices and the stunning views make this terrace a perfect place to relax and to take a break from walking up and down Lisbon’s streets.
The wooden furniture and the small potted trees give the impression of a little urban garden over the city, the river and Ponte de 25 Abril. From closing time late at night till 1pm you can even take your own drinks and have the breath-taking view for free!
Not to miss is also Belém, the most western suburb of the city on the banks of the Tejo river. You can easily reach it by buses and trams leaving from Praça do Comércio. I opted for the tram as it takes only 10-15 minutes while the bus takes longer (with the rechargeable Viva Viagem card you can use all transportation in the Lisbon region).
Being finally in front of it, well, it’s simply stunning. Not suprisingly, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower juts out of the water on the Belém riverfront with its military yet so Renaissance architecture. The small beach just in front of the tower was the perfect spot to enjoy the view, to chat with the just-met American friend and to refresh my feet as temperatures were quite high.
Another great aspect about Lisbon I definitely have to point out is food. Breakfast meant to me pastel de nata and pão do deus with coffee and orange juice: a sugar-coated nirvana.
As for the typical Portuguese cuisine, I tried it out for dinner on the second day in a local taberna in Barrio Alto and I fell in love with chouriço and Bacalhau à Brás. The first dish is a very very very spicy sausage made with pork, fat, wine, garlic, salt and paprika. The second is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten – shredded cod with onions, eggs and potatoes, a must-eat!
The first night, together with my sister and a friend, I joined the tapas route. It’s a food and drinking route in Lisbon’s historic districts, such as Rossio, Cais do Sodré, Bairro Alto and Alfama. Bars chefs create tapas menus with styles and ingredients from all over the world. For 3€ you get a tapa, that is an appetizer or snack, together with an Estrella Damm beer and a stamp on the route map. Getting the same beer at every bar is not the best, but it’s something I’d recommend for a fun night in the city!
Lisbon has an incredible atmosphere and I cannot wait to come back to breathe it again. It’s authentic, young, colourful and dynamic. It’s like it’s looking behind and ahead at the same time. Or, at least, that’s my perception.
Lisbon, you won me over!