Back in October, you may remember I went to Portugal to do a social media takeover at The Oitavos in Cascais. It would’ve been rude to travel so close to Lisbon and not visit the city itself, so with very little time on my hands, I spent a flying 24 hours in the city admiring its tiles, its trams and most importantly, its pastéis de nata. I stayed at the impossibly beautiful Palácio Ramalhete, a gorgeous boutique hotel in the Janelas Verdes neighbourhood, which has scored the Mr and Mrs Smith seal of approval. I’m not going to tell you much more about it here as it needs a post in its own right (stay tuned!) but the picture below illustrates just how pretty I’m talking…
Lisbon is just a 30-minute drive from Cascais; I arrived and unpacked and as soon as I left the hotel to explore, the heavens opened. It pelted. Lisbon is a very hilly city so water was racing down the roads like streams and bouncing off the tiles. I sheltered under scaffolding for a good 35 minutes wondering if it was ever going to stop, cursing that I was wasting valuable exploring time of my already short trip. It did eventually stop and luckily the rest of my visit was warm and dry. I can’t say with my 24-hours I did the city justice. There’s not loads to see, but it’s a nice city to explore at leisure, stopping for snacks here and there; plus, some of the highlights are quite spread out, so I’d say 2-3 days was the perfect amount of time to spend there. What I did see, I loved. It’s a gorgeous historical city made up of little neighbourhoods that each feel quite different; lots of the buildings are pastel-coloured and everything is intricately tiled— floors, facades, pavements, you name it. As I say, my exploring time was very limited but nevertheless, here are my top 5 ports of call:
1. Pastéis de Belém
Dating back to 1837, Pastéis de Belem gets both good and bad reviews, mainly good, but some argue it’s overrated. In my opinion, it’s epic. I won’t lie, I managed to fit quite a few pastéis de nata (traditional Portuguese custard tarts) into my short trip, and the ones at Pastéis de Belém were definitely my favourite. It’s worth the tram ride to Belém and the wait in the queue that snakes out of the cafe just to enjoy a couple hot from the oven. Ahh, so good.
2. Torre de Belém
Belém itself is a lovely neighbourhood to explore, picturesque with its charming colourful buildings. It’s home to some of Lisbon’s most popular sites including the impressive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery) and Torre de Belém (Belém tower). I was particularly impressed by the latter; it’s a World Heritage-listed fortress (pictured below) which stands in the Rio Tejo and is accessed by a rickety bridge that makes it look like something out of a Disney film! A spiral staircase inside leads to impressive views over the city.
3. Alfama neighbourhood
Just a very beautiful, old worldy neighbourhood to wander around. Snake up and down its hills with your camera at the ready!
4. Time Out Mercado da Ribeira
I stumbled upon this market on my first evening and couldn’t be happier I did so as it was the perfect place to get dinner. It’s an undercover market full of traders selling all different types of cuisines. I can’t remember the name of the stall I went to but got an amazing salt fish gratin — the local speciality in Lisbon, pictured at the bottom — plus a glass of local vino for €2! That’s the other thing, Lisbon is cheeeeeeap!
5. Ride a tram!
Less of a destination, more of an experience, don’t pass up the opportunity to ride one of the traditional trams — bonus points if it’s one of the Coca-Cola trams that look more like toys.
Alas, I didn’t have time to go out to Castelo de São Jorge, Lisbon’s hilltop castle which offers 360-degree views of the city, but if you can find the time, it’s meant to be seriously impressive. Also, if you are able to spend even longer there, Sintra looks very beautiful for a day trip. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and any questions, fire away on Twitter!
I flew from Gatwick to Lisbon with TAP Airlines — the proud beholder of the most reclinable economy seats in the airways!