I almost couldn’t contain my excitement as I got my first glimpse of Lisbon through the plane windows- I was soantsy to get out and explore the eclectic, vibrant, beachy, and urban capital of Portugal. I spent the next 5 days looking over red terracotta roofs from gorgeous viewpoints, indulging on the freshest meals and the sweetest pastries, photographing intricately designed, colorful buildings, checking out unique castles, and enjoying the sunshine while sauntering along sandy beaches. Lisbon is a bustling, eclectic mix of buildings and architectural styles, with many activities to do, sights to see, and history to learn about.
In order to fall in love with Lisbon…
Amble around Alfama:
When the majority Lisbon was destroyed by a large earthquake a few hundred years ago, Alfama was left standing, preserving Lisbon’s old-style town for you to explore. Today it is a maze of uphill quaint, cobblestone streets, filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, churches, and castles (including St. Jorge Castle).
Experience Barrio Alto:
This is the vibrant, fun, central area of Lisbon that you can’t miss. Take a walk during the day time, making sure you get your classic postcard photo of the yellow trams, and consider taking tram line 28 to be taken on an interesting loop past the most touristic places in Lisbon. After dark, definitely think about joining the Pub Crawl by LisbonDestinationTours, and if the bars in Barrio Alto close too early for you, next go to the lively Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho) at the base of the neighborhood.
Head to Belém:
Go just outside the center of Lisbon to check out the sights in the area of Belém. Absolutely stop by the (touristic but) amazing Pastéis de Belém to try the traditional and famous custard tarts.
Next, saunter over to the Torre de Belém. Although I think the tower is more interesting to look at from the outside, it was enjoyable to explore the inside (for just a few euros.) If you enter, get excited for the pretty view of Lisbon’s version of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top level!
Look at Lisbon from Above:
Speaking of pretty views, hilly Lisbon has many spots to climb up and look out upon the terracotta-colored view below. My favorite spots were Nossa Sra Do Monte and St Catarina Adamstori.
Take a Day Trip to Sintra:
The train ride takes about an hour, and once you get to the town you can easily take a bus in an uphill loop to check out any combination of the 4 major touristic sites. Although Lisbon in general is a very inexpensive city, these sites weren’t that cheap. I decided to spend my money on the vibrant, unique Pena National Palace.
Eat a Meal (or More!) at the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira:
After finding this market, I returned for almost all of my meals for my remaining time in Portugal. There were so many delectable (and affordable) things to try! If you’re looking for a snack or lunch, I highly recommend going to Caco and getting the Caco-Original, a sandwich with a super tasty type of Portuguese bread. For dinner, there are almost too many awesome options to choose from, including a variety of types of food- Portuguese, sushi, Italian, or burgers. Save room for dessert- Santini’s ice cream is to die for (try the egg cream flavor!) Also make sure to try Ginjinha with chocolate during your time in Portugal, a cherry flavored alcoholic drink often served in a chocolate shot glass.
Stay in Quality Accomodations:
There are many highly rated hostels to choose from for the budget-minded backpackers in Lisbon. I chose the Sunset Destination Hostel, which turned out to be one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in! The rooftop pool and terrace provided a perfect setting to sip wine and watch the sunset from, and there was a great atmosphere throughout the hostel with many opportunities to meet others (like cheap family dinners, a free walking tour, or a fun pub crawl).
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