First the bad news, Portugal, in this case its capital Lisbon, is not a secret anymore, “Lonely Planet Guides”, named Lisbon as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit. Surprisingly enough, even though it still is one of the least visited capital cities in Europe, I recently spent 6 weeks and I was surprised to see how many tourists were there, I mean, everywhere, in ALL the tourist spots, like Praça do Comércio, Rossio Square, Pink Street, etc.
Unfortunately, it seemed like most tourists were carrying the awful tacky selfie stick, really people? What happened to old good photography or asking a stranger to take your picture? In Lisbon, there are picture perfect opportunities at every turn, whether it’s a historic building, a fresco, a cobblestone pattern on the street, one of the many tile designs or monuments or enjoying from one of the many miradors the wonderful sunsets the city has to offer. So, tourists, please don’t ruin Lisbon with your selfie sticks and love locks.
If you want to stay close to all the action Lisbon has to offer, you probably want to stay in or close to the historic Centre of Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto (which is one of the main nightlife districts and where you must experience Fado at least once) or close to the Avenida da Liberdade. These areas are in the heart of Lisbon and all the main tourist attractions are within walking distance or a short bus or metro ride.
When visiting Lisbon, make sure you bring comfortable shoes, as Lisbon is also known as the city of the 7 hills, you will find your self’s walking uphill a lot, so pack up your comfortable shoes, patience and a camera to take many, many pictures along the way.
If you visit Lisbon during the summer, make sure you make some time to visit the stunning coast line with beautiful beaches, all are a short bus or train ride away.
Take the train from Cais de Sodre station and enjoy the beach in no time. One of the most enchanting coastal towns is Cascais, a Portuguese fishing town and one of Lisbon’s most popular holiday destinations, combining decorative 19th-century architecture with traditional Portuguese charm and fantastic tourist facilities, creating a wonderful destination for tourists and locals alike.
For a day trip in any season, make sure you venture out to Sintra, catch a train from Rossio Square and be there in 45 minutes, you can also get there by car or bus. From the train station, you can walk to down town Sintra and then decide which way you want to go and with castle or site you want to visit first. If you do not want to work, you can get on a hop on hope off bus that loops around the most important sites in town.
I recommend you visit Quinta da Regaleira and make sure you get to the well, and Pena Palace, these are iconic to Sintra and do merit a visit, but there are other places to see, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Lisbon also has a magnificent and buzz worthy food scene. I grew up in New Jersey and Newark was and still is, at least for me, Little Portugal and the place Jersey folks go to eat outstanding Portuguese seafood. I had big expectations for the food in Lisbon and it did not disappoint.
When it comes to food, there are several places you should consider when visiting Lisbon One of them is Time out Market; a fancy food court of sorts where under one roof you will find fine dining made casual and street food that have a Michelin star. At Time Out Market, you can not only have some of the best food in town, you can also enjoy desert, a cocktail or one of the many cooking classes offered in the open kitchen, after, walk to the other side of the market to find fresh produce, seafood and flowers.
For fresh seafood, you must visit Cervejaria Ramiro in the Intendente neighborhood, go hungry and ready to be on line, as it’s a very popular spot, and very worth the wait, as you will have fresh seafood prepared in a very simple way that showcases the seafood flavor, if you feel adventurous, try the barnacles, and or some fresh sardines, you won’t be disappointed.
Speaking of sardines, they are a staple of Portuguese food, and you should try some fresh ones while you visit, if you think of can sardines when I say sardines, think again, once you try a fresh one, you will never look at sardines the same way. There are of course can sardines readily available in Lisbon, in fact, there stores solely dedicated to selling can sardines, almost like a candy store, so go ahead and try some different varieties.
A short bus ride away is the Belem district, where you must visit the Belem Tower, the Monasterio Dos Jeronimos, Monument to the Discoveries, and try some Pasteis de nata at Pasteis de Belém, but be ready to wait, there is ALWAYS a line.
If you prefer someone to take you around, I recommend my friends at Portugal 360 tours, they will take you where you want to go on one or there many customized tours or customize your own. My friend Valeria who is also a fashion designer from Venezuela and currently lives in Miami, needed to go to Alcobaca, near Lisbon, to buy some handmade handbags for her business. We had the amazing opportunity to witness how “Junco” or rush hand bags are made. After that, Jasper from Portugal 360 tours, took us to Fatima, which is a pilgrimage place for Catholics, as a catholic myself, being there was an experience I will never forget and having Jasper take us that day was not only easy, he was courteous and knowledgeable about the area, which made our day much more enjoyable.
As you can see, Lisbon is full of things to do, places to visit and magnificent food awaits. I Hope I have peaked your curiosity about Lisbon, it is a fascinating city full of history and I hope you consider it for a visit, just be ready for the crowds, however, once you brave them, you will be glad you made it.