1. Food Glorious Food!
Every place I ate left me feeling extremely content, and without any significant damage to my bank balance. In Lisbon it’s very easy to find somewhere that feels like ‘Mamma’s little kitchen’.
Tip: Don’t go home without ordering seafood risotto and grilled seabass. Lisbon truly benefits from being by the sea. For something typically Portugese, try Caldo Verde, commonly made with potatoes, cabbage and onions, it’s simple yet extremely moreish.
2. Take Off Your Clothes
Lisbon has one of the mildest climates in Europe and one of the sunniest too. I went at the end of February and it was a warm respite from the formidable weather in England. If you suffer from the winter blues then Lisbon is only a 2-hour flight away from the UK, and with most budget airlines offering daily flights to Lisbon, you are sure to find yourself a good deal.
Tip: Although a lot sunnier, it can still be chilly during the winter so make sure you’ve packed enough warm clothing just in case.
3. Lisboa Loves Dogs, and So Do I
I saw quite a lot of macho-looking young men striding along with the tiniest little dogs, the kind of teeny-weeny fur balls you would expect to live inside Paris Hilton’s oversized handbag. Is it just me who finds this an amusing combination?
Tip: Head to Campo de Santa Clara on Saturday when it becomes a giant flea market, it’s great a place for dog-watching!
4. Street Art That Looks Like This
Tip: Get the Metro to Picoas Station where you’ll find wall murals created by the world’s most prominent street artists.
5. Tiles and Colour Everywhere
Leading on from the street art, and you can find one of the first and arguably most distinct uses of colour in the tiles which decorate even small back-alleys. Conversely, you’ll also see buildings with a bare and run down exterior, a contrast which makes the streets appear even more interesting. A lot can be said about these walls!
Tip: For a true ’tile experience’ head to the Tile Museum, trust me, it’s quirkier than it sounds and also has a cool café.
6. The people
People can make or break your feelings towards a place, so I was extremely surprised and happy to learn that the folks here are super friendly and helpful. Every time my friend and I stopped to look at a map it felt like someone sprung from nowhere to offer a helping hand without even asking. There was even an occasion when we asked a train inspector for directions, and after we got off at our stop and left the platform he came running after us to say we were going in the wrong direction! (We actually knew where we were supposed to be going but just got side-tracked by one of the many beautiful buildings. However, we couldn’t believe how considerate his gesture was!).
Tip: Find any excuse to talk to people; you never know what might come of it…
7. The Transport Is So Efficient
Lisbon is quite a sprawling city so hop on the buses, trams and metro. I absolutely love the undergrounds, many of them are filled with tiles (Gare do Oriente is one of them) and some of them look like you’ve walked into an exhibition at a modern art museum (Olaias metro station)
Tip: In spite of my love for Lisbon’s transportation, there is still nothing better than using your feet. Walk. Just walk everywhere.
8. Epic Panoramic Views
Lisbon is set on seven hills so you’re spoilt for choice, you’ll always have a postcard-worthy view.
Tip: Exercise your thighs by heading to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte in Alfama, Lisbon’s highest point.
The crème de la crème of any visit to Lisbon is a trip to Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lord Byron once said that “the village of Sintra in Estramadura is the most beautiful, perhaps in the world”, that’s high praise for a leading figure of the Romantic Movement. Sintra is much bigger than I anticipated it to be, so if you’re pressed for time I really suggest you do some research and highlight the places you definitely don’t want to miss.
Two of these must-see places are National Palace of Pena and Quinta Da Regaleira, the latter has the most incredible gothic inspired garden, filled with grottos, tunnels and caves. However, the mansion itself does not evoke the same sense of mystery and magic from inside as it does from the outside so I wouldn’t bother going into it, you’ll only find an uninspiring museum. But oh, the garden is something to behold – dark, beautiful, mysterious and unusually creepy. Lastly, if you want to see rooms lavishly decorated head to toe in tiles then I suggest a visit to Palacio Nacional de Sintra.
*Image of Lisbon street via Shutterstock