Back in June, my husband and I went to Lisbon for a long weekend. I had booked it for Mark for his birthday present but what I didn’t know at the time of booking was that Lisbon would be celebrating their biggest festival of the year over the exact dates that we were visiting!
We flew with EasyJet at 5 in the afternoon. After a 15 minute taxi journey to Lisbon centre we met with our friendly Air BnB host who took us to the apartment I had booked in the centre of Alfama. Alfama is a district in Lisbon with small alley type streets with no car access so we had to walk to reach the apartment. Arriving at 9pm, the festivities were already in full swing. We decided to dump our bags and immediately go out to explore and find some food for dinner. The small streets were jam packed with people, all with smiles on faces having a good time. The small streets were lined with food and drink stalls and decorated with beautiful streamers in an array of bright colours.
Portuguese culture deems it acceptable to walk around with a mini beer in hand at all times.
This can be bought from many small shops/ awnings around the town for about €2. I don’t drink beer so opted for the Sangria option. Not before trying a shot of the famous Portugese Cherry Liquer ‘Ginja’. Served in a chocolate shot glass that is quickly gobbled up post shot – it was a great start to our holiday!
We had no idea where to go to eat and whilst still trying to gain our bearings we opted for a typical Portuguese restaurant – deemed suitable by judging the queue of locals. We were seated inside and given menus. Mark opted for the Lisbon traditional sardines and I had salmon. Both came with potatoes and vegetables. Simple & delicious meals which left us feeling full up and satisfied.
Waking up after a night of celebrating, Alfama was pretty deserted save for a handful of curious tourists. The street cleaners were out cleaning up the litter the party revelers had left. The smell of sardines was still in the air. One thing I’d heard about Lisbon before we went is that street art is one of it’s most famous and dominant attributes. On our first few steps out of our apartment we stumbled across a whole area of impressive wall art and installations which was really cool.
On the morning of our first full day we decided to visit the Castelo de S.Jorge. We spent an hour exploring the grounds. The Castle is on the top of a big hill and is one of the best viewpoints to look down on Lisbon and it’s orange coloured rooftops. There is a café situated in the grounds which is handy for a water break. We also managed to find the resident peacock who was showing off his feathers when we were there.
Lisbon Cathedral is on the outskirts of Alfama so we passed it many times. I must have about 10 of the same photo as it is a stunning building. Unfortunately, there was a film crew there the whole weekend. This meant we couldn’t go in to take a peek but definitely will put it on the list for next time we visit.
We spent a bit of time people watching in Praca do Comercio Square. This square is probably one of the most famous parts of Lisbon. With it’s statue of King Jose I directly in front of the arch at the beginning of the famous R. Augusta. It’s the perfect place to people watch and take photos.
Being a vegetarian can be troublesome when travelling abroad.
I had heard of a highly recommended veggie restaurant situated in Principe Real. Restaurante Terra is situated about a 20 minute walk away from the main part of Lisbon we were in at midday so we decided to go explore. We’d heard good things about the restaurant and it’s outside garden. After the long walk in the heat we were looking forward to eating Al Fresco. Unfortunately, when we arrived there were no outside tables available and the waiters weren’t keen on us waiting for one. We decided to stay and eat in the air conditioned building.
The food is buffet style charged at €13.99 per head for a bottomless plate. With all different salads/ breads/ crudites etc. on offer it was hard to choose what to have and I have to admit I did return about three times just so I could try everything. Mark (a non vegetarian) said he really enjoyed the meal too. If you are planning on going, I would advise you to make a reservation to ensure a good seat outside!
Cocktails on the roof
Memmo Alfama is one of the best known hotels in Lisbon. A cocktail on the roof of this 5 star hotel looking out to the ocean was the perfect way to start our evening. It was still very hot, however the roof doesn’t get the sun in the evenings so we were sat in the shade, not that that spoilt it at all. We opted for a Cosmoplitan and a Whisky Sour which were delicious.
Their tag line is “We don’t play Fado, we play jazz”. This was the highlight of the weekend for me. We’d found this wine bar through Google – with both of us loving cheese and wine this was a must visit for us. Even though it’s not a traditional Portuguese place, it offered delicious cheese and meat boards served with bread and crackers. The sommelier recommended a wine for us and it was one of the best reds we’d ever tasted. We stayed in the place all night coiffing wine and listening to jazz – it didn’t feel like we were in Portugal but it was brilliant.
Our last day was extremely hot – at 35 degrees Celsius it was too hot to be walking around the city. After waking early and queued 15 minutes to board the most famous tram – Tram 28. We nabbed a standing space at the back of the tram so we could see out of the back window which was pretty cool. We rode it the whole way which took approximately 40 minutes. It does get crowded so if you are claustrophobic then you may not last the entire way but I do recommend it.
Delicious Custard Tarts
After this, we took a taxi to Bellum to sample the famous custard tarts at Pasteis de Belem. The place is crazy and not to mention huge. We opted to eat our custard tarts in the opposite park on a bench nabbing some shade and they did not disappoint. Mouth wateringly delicious – I wish we’d bought some home with us!
Another Amazing View
We had been recommended the Santa Justa Lift, however we arrived to a huge queue. What with that and the heat we instead opted to walk up to the view point which was definitely worth it. This isn’t for people who don’t like heights as walking up the spiral staircase is on the edge of the building leaving you to see everything below. Mark had a bit of a funny turn when walking up! It isn’t as high as the Castelo de S.Jorge but it’s still just as nice. Plus there is a brilliant bar up the top that serves delicious G&T’s which was definitely needed after the climb!
I have a confession. I am a sucker for pretty tiles. Lisbon buildings are covered in them. I felt sorry for Mark as I we couldn’t walk further than a couple of yards before I was snapping another gorgeous building. I must have at least 30 photos of different designs. Here are a few of my favourites:
For our last night we wanted to experience a good Portuguese Fado. However, because of the festival we couldn’t find one that was open! In fact, we couldn’t find many places that were open/ could fit us in. Bad planning! Luckily a restaurant managed to squeeze us in which had an array of food on the menu. We both opted for burgers. Mark had beef, I had a chickpea veggie burger which I have to say was delicious. Drinking Sangria on the street whilst eating and watching the festivities were the perfect ending to our weekend.
Have you ever been to Lisbon? What did you love about it?