5 reasons you need to book a trip to Lisbon
The Weather: The annual average temperature is 16.8*C and it rarely rains – need I say anymore?
The Culture: There is endless culture to explore here, but without the hordes of tourists you see in other European capitals. Follow the guidebook mantra and call into Belem, explore the streets of Alfama and take a visit Sintra, but here’s an insider tip for you – stray off the tourist trail and visit the LX Factory in Alcântara. Here, you will find the “Ler Devagar” bookshop and cafe, the most beautiful spot to sip a coffee and a favourite with the locals. If you want a cultural party come in June for the festival of “Santo Antonio”, where Lisbon’s residents flock to the street to eat sardines, drink sangria and dance to “musica Pimba” – I can’t recommend it enough.
The Coastline: Go further afield than Lisbon’s immediate coastline and head up to Ericeira, a charming fishing village north of Lisbon. Sintra is surrounded by breathtaking beaches like Guincho, Parede and Praia de Maçãs, a Mecca for those who love to surf (or in my case watch surfers). South of Lisbon is the beautiful Portinho da Arrábida, a secluded beach that is home to a family of dolphins.
The Gastronomy: Nandos may have put piri piri chicken on the map, but Lisbon is where it is done best. Make sure you also eat a bitoque (steak with a fried egg on top) and prego (a steak sandwich) with the locals, and chow down on “bacalhau” – salted cod fish to you and me. Accompany your meals with some local wine, reds and whites are great, but the vinho verde (green wine) is something else! You are of course in the country that brought the world Porto so make sure you sip on a tipple (or two) after your meal. The Portuguese take their coffee seriously so learn the lingo in advance, no lattes here, you want a “Galão”.
The Nightlife: The Portuguese go out late, so if you want to live like a local, accompany their schedule. Dinner is at 9/9.30pm (if you’re lucky), bar hopping starts at 11ish and there’s no point in hitting the clubs any earlier than 2am. Sip on your evening drinks in the allies of Bairro Alto, before heading to LUX the city’s most famous club.
Where I stayed.
The 4* boutique hotel: Hotel Portugal is a newly opened boutique hotel conveniently located in downtown Lisbon. It’s a two minute walk from the city’s shopping streets and attractions, and around the corner from Rossio station where you can catch the train to Sintra. Its also only a 15minute stroll from Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s principal nightlife spot. The rooms are large and modern (best showers I’ve had at an hotel in a while!), the service nothing but charming, and breakfast was typically Portuguese – simple and delicious.
The budget beach hostel: I booked Aloha Beach Hostel via airbnb, as was looking for something cheap and cheerful for a day or two on the beach. Located in Parede, its a few stops from Estoril and Cascais on the train from central Lisbon, and only a 20minute walk from Carcavelos beach. Parede itself is a rather sleepy area, but if you’re coming in a group it’s a great little spot for seclusion. Bathrooms are communal and rooms are made up of doubles and bunk bed rooms, which were all clean and beautifully decorated – for £26 a night it’s a bargain. Surfing and yoga lessons can be arranged, and breakfast made on request. The hosts were nothing but charming and for simple, basic accommodation it was perfect.
The castle: Sometimes I can be a bit of a princess, so what better place to shove me then at the top of a hill in a castle. Pousada de Palmela is located just a few miles from Lisbon and the beautiful, secluded beach Portinho da Arrábida. The 17th century castle and convent cloisters make for the perfect boutique hotel, with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. This is a magical place to lay your head, with great food and service too.
How I got around
Getting around Lisbon couldn’t be easier; taxis are cheap, they have an efficient metro and train system, the buses work and tram number 28 and 15 will tick the sightseeing boxes for you with incredible ease. Lisbon is also incredibly accessible by foot, so make sure you take some time to wander the streets that lead you from Rossio to Praça do Comércio .
If you are looking for some beach, I recommend hopping on a train from Lisbon’s main station Cais do Sodre and getting off at Cascais or Estoril. The coastline to the north and south of Lisbon are dotted with hidden gems that you can only reach by road, so its worth renting a car for a few days.
I flew TAP to Lisbon. The Portuguese national airline operates daily direct flights from Stockholm and London.