The girls and I decided we were long overdue a girly European mini break and after a bit of research and hearing rave reviews from friends etc, we settled on the stunning Lisbon. Lisbon is having a bit of a moment this year, and for all the right reasons. After spending 5 days and 4 nights in the gorgeous city with some of my favourite ladies, I just had to sit down and write up some must see/drink/eat/do things in Lisbon. There is so much to do in Lisbon, and of course we tried to fit in everything that we wanted to see and do. However due to timings of things we didn’t manage to do everything, which only means that I have an excuse to go back, phew.
After we had decided on Lisbon and booked our flights we started looking for accommodation. We decided to stay in the Bairro Alto area after reading lots of rave reviews and of course due to the fact the area is a hot spot for fun bars, pubs and restaurants. We booked through booking.com and found an amazing 5 bed apartment on Rua Diario de Noticias with Linc Apartments for just £80 each for 5 nights. Such a good deal! Our apartment was on a really buzzing street and also included a super cute terrace, which would’ve been lovely if it hasn’t been so rainy. There are lots of gorgeous hotels to choose from, as well as a lot of Air BnB flats and apartments etc throughout the city, so it really depends on exactly what sort of accommodation you’re after and which area you want to stay in. It doesn’t add up to much, but make sure to remember that there is a city tax of €1 a day to pay, per night you stay. Also our check in wasn’t until 3pm but the LINC people were really accommodating and let us leave our cases etc at their office during the day and then called us when the apartment was ready, and we did the same, leaving our cases there – for our return flight home.
Lisbon has such a massive appeal due to its nice 2-2.5hour flight from London, and easy availability of flights. I drove to the airport in the end as our 6am flight wasn’t exactly at the most sociable of hours, and I used Purple Parking for the first time. For £45ish between 2 of us, it worked out waaay cheaper than cabs, and was such a breeze – I recommend. We flew with TAP Portugal from London Heathrow (my nearest airport, just 35 mins away) to Lisbon, and I believe our flights costs around £134 each. We did purchase these a few months back via Last Minute but I think these seems to be an average sort of flight price. TAP was a really lovely airline to fly with, and I would certainly fly with them again (especially as the flight included a snack of a roll and actimel for breakfast, and soft drinks, with some wine on the evening flight back!) Once we arrived in Lisbon at around 10am we were all a little loopy from being up since 3am, and decided to get a cab. We used Uber and I think it cost around €13 in total for 4 of us, for a 25 minute journey from the airport to Bairro Alto. On our return flight we used the Metro as by then we had purchased the reusable travel card ( €0.50) + a single ticket which is €1.40. It was really easy, and the aeroporto metro line came up just outside the terminal. I would probably just stick to the metro if I visited again, although the Uber was really cheap (and much cheaper than the cabs outside the airport which charged €30 ish for the same journey).
Lisbon is a city that can definitely be explored on foot, but be prepared for the cobbles and hills. Other popular modes of transport around Lisbon are Tuk-Tuks, Trams, the Metro, and trains. There are a few different metro stations dotted around the city, and you’re probably never further than 5-10 minutes from one. The main station Rossio is also pretty easy to locate, and we got the train from Rossio to Sintra. If you plan on using the metro I definitely recommended purchasing the green reusable travelcard for 50cents, as then your fares for the tram, funicular, train etc are at a more reduced rate.
Food and Drink
Lisbon is an amazinggg city for gorgeous food and drink, however one thing to note is that being a vegetarian was pretty hard, as most of the authentic traditional Portugese restaurants had pretty heavy meat/fish menus. We had a lot of delicious meals including a lovely lunch that our walking tour guide reccommended and took us to, MAIO (Rua da Atalaia 8, Bairro Alto, Lisbon 1200-041), Tascantiga (Escadinhas da Fonte da Pipa ,2e4, Sintra 2710-557), La Bottega Piadina (Calcada do Combro 8, Lisbon 1200-114), and of course food from Marlene Vieriera and Cozinha da Felicidade at the Time Out Market. And the great food didn’t stop there, I averaged about 3-5 Pasteis De Natas a day (delicious vanilla egg custard tarts), and my favourites came from the Manteigaria bakery (which was just a few minutes from our flat) and of course the Pasteis De Nata Home, Pasteis de Belem.
And of course we consumed a lot of Sagres (local lager), lovely cheap Portugese wine, Sangria and Ginjinha, a Portugese sour cherry liqeur. I like gin, and luckily gin seems to be having a moment in Lisbon and you could get a lot of different gins at most places – one place that was great for gin was on our street and was called Nova Tertulia (Rua do Diario de Noticias 60, Lisbon 1200-145).
Things to See and Do
There is so much to see and do in Lisbon from galleries, to museums, to tours, to a gazillion churches, cathedrals, historical buildings, statues and pretty parks. We had 5 days in Lisbon so we managed to see and do quite a bit. We started our first full day off with a 2-3 hour walking tour, which was run by Sandemans New Europe Tours. Our guide Jorge was really informative and interesting and was great at keeping the whole group engaged. The tour was super easy to book online, and the tour started at Camoes Monument in Largo de Camoes, just a few minutes from our flat. We did the 11am start and we were finished by about 2:15ish. We saw loads of amazing things on the tour, and really helped us figure out the layout of the city and where exactly things were. Afterwards we asked Jorge for lunch recommendations and he invited us along to where he was having a quick lunch, and it was a truly authentic locals cafe, it was great.
Of course Belem was on my list of things to do and one afternoon we visited Belem. We got the tram which was fun, however due to timings we didn’t manage to visit Belem Tower because ticket sales for the tower stopped after 3pm, however we still visited the Jeronimos Monastery for €10/ or €5 if you have a student card and usually they sell a combined ticket that covers entry to both. We also spent one rainy afternoon at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian which was free after 2pm, and an hour at the Hospital de Bonecas, a really creepy/interesting doll hospital museum, which was only €2.
One of the highlights of our trip for me was our day trip to Sintra. Sintra is a gorgeous town just a 40 minute train journey out of Lisbon and is known for its 19th Century monuments and palaces, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main sites to see include the Castelo dos Mouros, Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace. Our return train tickets from Rossio Station to Sintra cost us just under €5 (what theee) and was a super easy journey. Once we hopped off the train (at the end of the line), we kinda followed the trail of people leaving the station and winding down the hill. Outside the station are lots of people offering tours, but we decided to make our own adventure up. We thought we would attempt to walk to Pena Palace (looking back, LOL), and took a lovely detour through some botanical gardens before going back on ourselves and following the crowds into the downtown area. We had a mosey around the outside of the national palace but didn’t go inside, instead we found ourselves some tuk-tuks for €5 each which we used to get up to Pena Palace. If you visit Sintra, make sure you go here as it is a spectacular place with gorgeous views and a lot of really interesting history. We purchased the €11.50 tickets which allowed us entry into the palace and the gardens. We spent a lot of time looking around the palace, and walking through the state rooms, and the place was really just amazing.
I had such a lovely time in Lisbon and if you’re thinking of European cities for a mini break, then Lisbon could be the one for you! If I went back to Lisbon I would definitely visit Belem Tower, Sao Jorge Castle, Igreja Sao Roque and the Palace of Ajuda, as well as explore Sintra even more.
What European cities do you recommend for my next adventure?