Lisbon was an unexpected and beautiful surprise. It felt like summer in October, but it was the architecture, the friendliness of the people and the culture that really made Lisbon a special place.
Lisbon is a city built on hills, very steep ones too. We got a swift introduction the steep hills of Lisbon as soon as we arrived. Upon exiting the subway we realized that to get to our hostel we had to walk up hill – there was no none-hill option. The shorter route was also the steepest and so our introduction to Lisbon’s hilly terrain was swift and true.
We stayed at the B.A. Hostel, right in the middle of Bairro Alto. It was a lovely hostel, the staff was friendly and helpful. The hostel is small and seems to attract families, older adults rather than British weekend partiers. We arrived quite early in Lisbon and had to wait to check-in to our room, so we walked down to see Praça do Comércio.
Day 1: Bairro Alto
The advantage of arriving in Lisbon early is that you quickly discover the city is a joy for walkers. You can wander from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, stumbling upon the key sights without meaning to. On that first day we saw almost all of the things we had thought about seeing in the Bairro Alto > Baxia > Ave Ribeira Das Naus triangle.
Av. Ribeira das Naus
Praça do Comércio
Baixa is slightly more bougie than Bairro, with more restaurants and shops. It is home to the famed oldest bookstore in the world, Bertrand, as well as the Elevador de Santa Justa.
For Europe, Lisbon is quite affordable and by staying at a hostel we were able to splurge on our meals, which proved to be the right choice, as the food in Lisbon was outstanding! On our first day we went to Castro Restaurante, which we found it by wandering around Barrio Alto’s streets in search of a typical Lisbon outdoor sidewalk restaurant. We were early for dinner as many restaurants had not yet opened, but got lucky. We were so hungry that we devoured the appetizers of olives and cheese (yes, they are not free, but were delicious so who cares?) as we waited for our main course. It did not disappoint and Castro Restaurante turned out to be our second best meal in Lisbon.
Lisbon At Night
Lisbon’s night life was amazing. It seems as if everyone was out doing something and it was extremely easy to find something to do at night, from street side patios, plaza’s to tiny bars whose parties spilled out into the street.
Day Two: Alfama
Lisbon impressed on the first day. The weather was amazing, the architecture was stunning and turning a corner was like starting a new adventure. Well rested, on our second day we headed to the Castelo de S. Jorge.
Baixa to Alfama
To get to the Castelo we walked through Baixa and Alfama, taking our time to explore the small streets along the way. We had a general idea of where we needed to go but no map. We knew it was at top of the hill and even if we didn’t take the straight route to get there, we took one with a view.
Castelo de S. Jorge
The climb up through Baixa and Alfama rewarded us with the spectacular views of Lisbon from the Castelo de S. Jorge. We explored all of the castle grounds and took in every available view.
Alfama to Praça do Comércio
After hours of walking and exploring, we finished our visit at the Castelo by having a snack at the cafe. The cafe was a typical touristy spot, with Nespresso coffee (good) and Portuguese snacks (okay, but we were really hungry). We ate enough to tied us over for a late dinner and to keep our energy up for the journey back to Bairro Alto. With no urgency to get back ended up walking past the Catedral on our way to watch the sunset at the Praça do Comércio.
Best Meal in Lisbon: Lisboa Cheia de Graça
On our first day we had our second best meal and our second day we had our best meal. Lisboa Cheia de Graça is located in Bairro Alto. We saw it on our first day, but the place was still closed so we decided to try it another day. We didn’t however remember where the recent was located. Through stubbornness and luck we found the restaurant and we never regretted. I had the simple sounding Cod in Garlic in Olive Oil with potatoes and salad dish, which packed such a flavour that I can’t even describe. It was THE best meal we had in Lisbon
Day 3: Belem
On our last full day we headed to Belem. It was my least favourite day in Lisbon, but I put that mainly down to feeling the full effects of constant uphill walking – I woke on the third day with calves of stone. It was also quite hot and the walk along the water can be brutally hot and a hard one to enjoy when all you want to do is get a place and just sit down.
We had breakfast at A Padain Portuguesa, a cafe that everyone raved about, it was okay. Yes the place had a huge selection of food, but the breakfast was not as fresh and cheap as the one we found at the Pastelaria Brasil round the corner from our hostel. So while everyone may tell you to go there, know it is basically a Starbucks.
The town of Belem felt quite small after Lisbon. The main reason to go to Belem is to see the Tower of Belem, the Age of Discovery Monument and to eat a Portuguese egg tart at Pastéis de Belém. We did all three and yes the egg tart was outstanding.
The Age of Discovery Monument
Impressively large, located in a harbour where it is hot and there is nowhere to sit in the shade. I don’t have much to say about it, I didn’t feel it was worth the walking it took to get there. Other parts of Belem were much more satisfying – the butter tart, the town itself and the Observatory of Belem.
Our last meal in Lisbon was the least memorable. I didn’t bother to remember the name of the place or the dish I had. It was underwhelming after the previous two meals. I don’t know if it was bad or if it just didn’t stand up to intricate tastes of the previous meals. The food did not ruin our last night in Lisbon as we spent the evening chatting on the street-side patios of Bairro Alto.
Day 4: Goodbye Lisbon
We said goodbye to Lisbon by having breakfast at our favourite cafe and enjoyed the views of the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for the last time. We were driving south to the Algarve where we were going to spend 3 days exploring the beaches.
The Europe 2017 continues with cliffs, beaches, and wine on the terrace at Algarve, Portugal.