Saturday, 26 November 2016

My Lisbon city guide

Earlier this week, I got back from a long weekend break in Lisbon, so if you're planning on jetting off  there then have a read of this, because I'm letting you in on where to go, what to do - and most importantly - what to eat!

I don't know what I was expecting when I booked a weekend away to Lisbon. In fact, I was debating about going to Italy instead. But over the summer I'd seen so many beautiful photographs from friends and followers who had visited the capital - and it gave me such envy that I felt I had to go too.

So I booked it, and it was the BEST decision ever. With gorgeous pastel-washed buildings, mosaic pavements and plenty of autumn sunshine, it was the most Instagrammable city I've visited. So if you're planning on going at some point, then have a read of this...


When I started looking, I was overwhelmed by how much choice there was. I booked my hotel through and it was honestly the best place to do it. They make it so easy to compare prices, locations and features so my first tip is to head there if you're not sure where to start.

I settled almost immediately on Hotel Palacio Ramalhete. With vintage tiled walls, clean and minimalist rooms, a heated pool, breakfast included and a real traditional Portuguese feel - it blew all the other big chain hotels out of the water. The staff were lovely, the room was airy and beautiful and the breakfast was amazing! It's in the area of Estrela, in the old town on the stooping slopes of the city.

For character and atmosphere, it really was the best, and we got a room for around £120 per night.

The hotel lobby
 A beautiful break


The options are endless. But the first place I'd say you HAVE to visit is the Time Out Market right on the waterfront. It has stall after stall of some of the best pop-up restaurants in Portugal, and the seafood is out of this world. I went back to the same place twice - it was called Mariscada Azul - and if you go, then make sure you order the freshly toasted butter bread to start, a big glass of their house red and the grilled octopus salad.

Second, I'd say you really should take the 40 minute train ride out of the city to a beautiful little mountain village called Sintra. The train runs from Rossio station every hour - and it's well worth the trip. Go see the old manor and its gardens - called Quinta da Regaleira. With its towers and tunnels it feels like it's fallen right out of the Romeo & Juliet movie. Or climb to the top and see the amazing pastel kingdom called the Pena Castle. I didn't make it up that far, but a friend told me not to try and walk it, but to get one of the local tuk-tuk drivers to take you to the top. It'll cost you around a fiver and save your legs from a lot of pain!

If you want to do a bit of shopping and see some cultural sights, then have a look around Rossio square as well. There's plenty to do and see.

Sintra houses
Just playing Juliet!


Everything. But actually. The food is so good, and I'd really recommend trying out the local specialities - like seafood. I've mentioned the Time Out Market and that is a great place to go have a freshly cooked lunch, but there's no shortage of small restaurants and cafés that serve lovely food. One called Lumar, right near my hotel, did the most reasonably prices fresh meat and fish cooked in butter and garlic. 

There's also plenty of shops selling cod cakes. I know, sounds a little... fishy? But they love them over there and they do taste good. I think they were called pasteis de bacalhau, and you can get them filled with melted cheese. Pick one up if you see a shop - it's well worth a taste

Lastly, if there's one place you should visit, it's the home and creators of the original custard tarts (or pastel de nata, as called over there). The bakery is called Pastéis de Belém, and it's in the Belem region of Lisbon. How do you know where to find it? By the big queue of people outside! Believe me, it's worth the wait. They sell a packet of six freshly made and warm custard-filled pastries, and all you have to do is coat them in some vanilla and cinnamon and literally feel your soul lift. They are AMAZING.

So warm and gooey! Worth the wait.
The food at Lumar (serious portions here!)


Taxis aren't massively expensive, and definitely not black cab expensive. But in my opinion, they're just a waste of money. I think I got in one once when I was going from the airport to the hotel (which cost around €24), but the rest of the time I just used the local buses and trams. There is a metro, which I know is easy to use, but I prefer seeing sights so I did as much on foot as possible.
Grab a map from your hotel and get someone to mark out the tram stops of the places you want to go, and just jump on! You can pay cash when you get on the bus (around €2.20 for a ticket), but on the tram there are little machines that you put money into and they'll print you out a ticket - like you would with car parking over here. Simples. 

If you're like me and want to walk as much as you can, my tip is to just follow the tram routes and you won't get lost! That's how I managed to find the town of Rossio without getting stranded.


Thinking of bringing back something for friends or family? Lisbon is famous for having brightly coloured tins of mackerel and sardine paté and paste, which you can pick up from just about any local shop (and a good place is inside the Time Out Market). Also, I'd recommend grabbing a bottle of their white port. Over here you can buy red port easily but not so much white. In Lisbon, locally produced white port is pretty cheap and really tasty, so I stocked up on a few bottles when I saw a port shop in Sintra.

If you are off then I hope you have the best time. If there's anything more you'd like to know then drop me a message below. I'm happy to give as many more tips as you'd like!



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