If you haven’t been to Lisbon yet, then this is the time to pin it down as your next holiday destination. Whether it is a city break or somwehere to spend a week lazing about, the capital of Portugal is the perfect place for you.
Lisbon is small enough so you can see the main sights over a couple of days. At the same time, its tiny cobblestones alleys and roads which wind up and down the hilly city beg to be explored leisurely. If that is not enough, there are a number of options for a day trip – palaces(Sintra), beaches ( Cascais ), university towns (Coimbra) and pilgrimage sites ( Fatima). Have I convinced you yet? Read on to know why I loved Lisbon!
Lisbon’s yellow trams are the most distinctive aspect of the city that you will first notice. Winding up and down the tiny streets, they are an important mode of transport especially in the hilly old city.
Without doubt , this was the single most favourite thing on the entire trip, at least as far as my son was concerned. He could not get enough of them – which meant we did a couple of random trips just for the sake of sitting in a tram. Like the time we got into a tram without knowing its destination and ended up in Belem. We spent the rest of the day exploring the Belem tower, sitting by the Tejo river and enjoying the warm February sun.
Tram 28 is the most famous of Lisbon’s trams and the most crowded one. It runs between Martim Moniz and Campo do Orique – a route which takes you through the beautiful heart of Lisbon. Try early mornings or late evenings to avoid the long lines and try to get on at the first stop. It is also a favourite of pickpockets so be alert and keep an eye on belongings at all times.
2) Pasteis de nata
You cannot go to Lisbon and not try its famous custard tarts or ‘pasteis de nata’ ! While they are sold by every cafe and bakery worth its name, Pasteis de Belem is where they are made according to the original secret recipe. Due to a happy accident (see above) , we found ourselves in Belem and we joined the long line outside Pasteis de Belem to buy these yummy tarts.
With a crispy, flaky exterior and a warm smooth custard filling, the pasteis de nata are truly scrumptious! We got them packed and enjoyed them in the nearby Vasco de Gama park . You can also choose to enjoy them in the indoor seating area of the shop, if you so wish.
Tip: Take Tram 15 to Belem – this is a whole day trip as there is so much to see and do here, including gorging on the custard tarts!
Miradouros are outlook points, which can be found throughout the city. These provide a beautiful panoromic view over the city’s rooftops and each neighbourhood generally has at least one Miradouro.
We spent a whole afternoon in one such Miradouro in quaint Graca – again we found ourselves in Graca quite by accident after taking a tram (28A) just so my son could enjoy the experience. Luckily , a few steps away from the tram stop, we found a great vegetarian restaurant Graca 77 and after a hearty lunch, the miradouro just around the corner was perfect for lazing around in. A water feature in the middle kept my 4 year old entertained , I chose to sit and people watch – children kicking a ball around, teenagers awkwardly courting each other , elderly men and women just sitting and enjoying the company of strangers.
This is a neighbourhood in the old city and this is where our hotel was. Its streets are an intricate maze and you never know what you will find around the corner! We walked down the narrow lane leading from our hotel to suddenly find ourselves in front of the magnificient Se Cathedral!
A few steps ahead, we were at the Portas do sol – a miradouro with fabulous views over the city! Packed with interesting looking restaurants, Fado clubs, tiny shops with interesting window displays, it is an attraction in itself. I was glad to have booked accomodations in Alfama. It is central, on Tram 28’s route and is close to Rossio train station for daytrips. What more can you ask for?!
5) The weather
If you, like us, live in the United Kingdom, then you will probably be looking for some winter sun during the holidays. The gloomy grey skies and short days can get depressing and are definitely not my idea of holiday weather. Lisbon is the perfect city to holiday in during the February half term. The weather is warm enough to sit outdoors at a cafe and the days are sunny with clear,blue skies. Rain is not uncommon though, so you will probably want to take an umbrella with you, just in case. I cannot describe how good the warmth of the sunshine felt. My son excitedly even took to wearing a sun hat during the day! The 4 days we spent in Lisbon were glorious and we definitely didn’t want to come back home to the miserable weather.
Have you been to Lisbon? Tell me what you loved about the city!