Five years ago, I took a month-long class in Europe over the reformation of the Lutheran church. We visited Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Out of those countries, my favorite was Switzerland, mainly because I could stare at those majestic alps forever. Well, after this trip, Switzerland now has company in my “must see again sights in Europe”.
Oh my, I can’t even begin to tell you. We were literally in Lisbon (the capital) for an hour when I looked at Joy and was like “I can already tell this is going to be my favorite place I’ve ever been”. And I was right. Let’s recap our time in Lisbon, shall we?
Getting there: We flew from Madrid –> Lisbon via Easyjet. Easyjet is a “budget airline”, so basically your ticket is SUPER cheap (i think one way ours was 35 euro each), but you have to bring SMALL bags and print your boarding passes ahead of time because they nickel and dime you for EVERYTHING.
In the end though, this luggage restrictions weren’t a big deal for us because we had backpacks. The flight was a couple hours, which beat our other option of taking an even more expensive overnight train –> Yes to pretending to be on the hogwarts express, but hell no to sleeping in a train car with strangers. Once we got there, it was about a 30 euro taxi ride from the airport to our hostel which was down by the river in the heart of the city.
Getting around the city: We actually took a taxi to the monastery, because it was cheaper than the metro! We did metro to the bus station when we were leaving– it was very easy to use and also clean. No House of Cards situations in these subway stations!
Where we stayed: THE BEST HOSTEL EVER. Travellers House in Lisbon just does everything right. Amazing location, amazing staff, and even a hot cooked breakfast in the morning. Our room even had a balcony overlooking the street and plaza. They also led tours daily to different parts of the city and nearby towns.
What We Did:
Praca do Comercio- This plaza was right near our hostel and one of the first sights we had of Lisbon, right on the river. We all pretty much fell in love.
Jeronimos Monastery- Located in Belem, a little farther out from the main plaza. You can get a cheap taxi or take the metro there. This is a beautiful old monastery. Architects and artists say this landmark is one of the best examples of Portuguese architecture. I don’t know a lot about architecture, but I can tell you that this monastery was so incredibly beautiful. Once inside, I felt so peaceful. Do not make the mistake we did and go during Sunday mass, or you will wait for over an hour to get in.
(photo credit: Amy!)
Tower De Belem- At the monastery, you can by a joint ticket with the tower for a discounted price. We YOLO’d it and bought both (i think it was 10 euro for both, so not expensive). What we didn’t know, is that the tower was a good 20 minute walk from the monastery. The tower is located right on the river, so the views are very pretty and worth the walk! The stairs to the top are very tight (think one way traffic) and if you are claustrophobic, you will not like the stairs up to the top of the tower.
Sao Jorge Castle- This is in the alfama neighborhood of lisbon, but don’t let that fool you– it’s pretty close to the heart of the city! It’s probably a 15-20 minute walk from the main plaza. However, it is VERY hilly around the castle which sits on a large hill/cliff, which is why it has the best views. I would recommend taking a tram up to the castle to save your feet and then walking down after. The castle has amazing views of the city and some cool history.
Fado- Nope, this isn’t some traditional food, as I thought it was! Fado is a traditional Portuguese type of music/song. It is especially big in the Alfama district.
Nightlife- We had heard the nightlife and clubs in Lisbon were some of the best in the world. What we didn’t know, was best in the world meant “more expensive than you could ever imagine”. It was disappointing.
What we ate:
Food in general was cheaper in Portugal compared to Spain. A rule of thumb we followed throughout the whole trip was to find restaurants with crowds, as that means it must have something going for it!
Pastel De Nata- this is a very common Portuguese pastry, with a flaky crust and creamy egg center. They are sold at many bakeries around the city and you must try one! I can’t say they were my favorite pastry of all time, as they did not contain chocolate. However, they were still delicious and you definitely need to try one.
Bakery by our hostel- I know, worst title ever. BUT, there was this bakery that was kitty corner from our hostel (Travellers House on Rua Augusta) that had the BEST CHOCOLATE CROISSANT I had in Europe. And let’s face it, I ate a lot of chocolate croissants in Europe Seriously, if you are on Rua Augusta, this will be the best 1 euro you’ve spent.
Miraduro Santa Luzia- Because we were in Lisbon such a short time and were running around seeing many sights, we kept it pretty simple with our meals. However, we had the best meal at this restaurant on the river by the castle, Miraduro Santa Luzia. The server was so animated, they had TV’s for world cup soccer, and a river view. Can’t ask for much more!
Seafood- Fresh fish is very popular, due to Lisbon being on the water. My roommates ordered seafood/fish a few times and had good things to say!
Ham flavored chips- Yes, these exist in Europe. After trying them, I think it’s perfectly fine we don’t sell them in the states. So gross.
Sangria – yep, they have it in Portugal too! Yep, we still drank it by the liter!
Bottom Line and Tips: I LOVED Lisbon. I love the vibe, the people, and that it’s on the water. I could have easily spent a couple more days exploring Lisbon, but if you are on a schedule, I feel that 2 days is enough to get a feel for the city! Also, don’t be worried if you don’t speak Portuguese, many places have English translations!