Where: Lisbon, Portugal
When: January 2018
Hotel: My Story Hotel Rossio
Why the Lisbon: I had been trying to figure out where to go for our first long weekend of 2018, and cheap flights to Lisbon kept popping up. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Portugal, or Lisbon, and it hadn’t really made my list of “Must-Gos” in Europe. However, the pull of inexpensive flights and the promise of sunshine in January convinced me we should maybe check it out.
The Trip: I had started a new job just 10 days before this trip, so I didn’t get a ton of time to plan. A quick read-throughs of some travel blogs, a few notes, and we were off. Because of the new job, I didn’t have any leave so the late night flight worked out well – but didn’t allow us to really walk around the first night. Uber is still spotty in Europe, but it was a pleasant surprise to find it available in Portugal. It was an easy ride from the airport to our hotel and we settled in for the night.
We woke up up the next day with a quick stop at Starbucks (I clearly needed my mugs!), and then Uber’d our way up to Castelo Sao George. Lisbon is crazy hilly and while we could have started out day out getting sweaty we opted to ride up and walk down. The castle has one of the city’s top Miradouro’s (viewpoints), and once at the top, we could see why. It was a gorgeous lookout point!
We opted to wander downhill back to the heart of Lisbon. The walk takes you through the Alfama neighborhood, with steep streets, gorgeous tiled buildings and local artist shops. It is one of the oldest areas of Lisbon, and we definitely got distracted by the stores selling all the tiles! We also managed to find one of the many Port-tasting stores (side note – I am not a port fan! :-() And we found a crazy sardine shop. Lisbon is fun for popping in and out of stores!
The walk down poured us right onto Rua Augusta, the main pedestrian shopping street that ends at the Praca do Comercio (Commercial square), right on the bank of the Tejo River. A palace use to stand in the location of the square but was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755 (which also leveled a lot of Lisbon).
Uber was our favorite mode of transportation, and we hopped in one to take us down to the Belem district. This was actually one of my favorite areas and memories from the trip. The Uber dropped us off at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument of the Discoveries, which is a nod to Portugal’s Age of Exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Before moving on down the river, we ate lunch at Flor dos Jeronimos, near the monument, then headed down the block to the famed Pastéis de Belém, which began making the custard tarts in 1837, and the recipe remains a secret to this day. My favorite part of this bakery is an old Portuguese proverb says that “A bride who eats a pastry will never take off her ring.” So I happily partook…even though I hadn’t been a bride in over seven years. I feel it still counts! 😉
Across the street from the bakery is the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, which we admired from the outside before making our way back to the waterfront for the walk down to the Belem Tower. It was sunny, but windy, and is a really nice, gorgeous walk of about 10 minutes.
The Belem Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built in the 16th Century, and served as a point of of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.
That night we met up with our friends Allie and Brian, who were also Lisbon, for a yummy dinner recommended by our hotel and beer at a Belgium Beer bar…which has kind of become our thing. We try to find one in every city we travel to together!
It was an overall awesome day in Lisbon, which we followed the next with a day trip to Sintra. (To be covered in another post!)
Final impressions: The biggest impression made on me from our time in Lisbon is how NICE the people are there – seriously, we didn’t have one bad encounter our entire stay. From restaurants, to Uber drivers, to random people on the street – everyone is so nice. I would go as far to say they are the nicest people in all of Europe. Additionally, it is a very inexpensive country, which I was not expecting at all. While Portugal is still somewhat off the beaten path, it is also a western European country, so I expected the prices to reflect as much. There is so much to see, and yet it is laid-back. I’m so looking forward to going back – to Porto this time – to explore more of the country.