This Valentine’s Day I spent 4 nights in the rustic, rolling city that is Lisbon. I have to say that it’s probably my favourite country I’ve visited in Europe so far. Its culture, people and atmosphere all made my stay incredibly enjoyable. Going at this time of year meant cheap flights, mildly warm weather and more locals instead of tourists. So I would definitely recommend booking tickets during less busy seasons.
Here are all the details of my trip.
We flew with Wizz Air for £39 return. £39! Wizz Air are a budget airline, with great service, smooth flights and no delays. I really enjoy my flights with them and I think that you actually get a little more than what you pay for. Compared to other cheap airlines like RyanAir (who offer cheap prices and poor service), Wizz Air is a really great option for those of you who don’t want to spend a lot of money but still want a decent level of service.
One tip that I would give you is to make sure that you pay for Wizz Priority. Wizz Priority gives you priority boarding, which actually comes in handy for fully booked flights. Who has time to be right at the back of the line? Not me.
But most importantly, Wizz Priority allows you to take a “trolley bag” (or in other words, cabin sized suitcase) on board with you. If you don’t want to get hit with a £28 fee, then just select Wizz Priority when you book. I believe it’s an extra £13 but is so worth it in the end.
On our first night, we landed fairly late. So we dropped our stuff at the Air BnB and headed out to Lisbon’s pink street. This is a lively area full of bars and clubs. With people drinking and eating outside, it’s a great social area with plenty of options for places to go.
The Time Out Market is a great place to go if you want to try a variety of different foods. There are plenty of options – from burgers and pizza, to spring rolls, to pork cheeks and codfish sandwiches. With lots of seating and an impressive interior, it’s definitely somewhere I would recommend visiting.
Castelo de Sao Jorge is a beautiful castle in Lisbon with amazing sprawling views of the city and Tagus river. Inside, there’s a cafe, archaeological ruins and the opportunity to wander the castle grounds. Entry costs 5 euros if you are under 25 and about 10 euros if you are over, I think. The best part of the attraction is the beautiful views from the top. We spent at least a couple of hours sitting on the top of the wall, staring out at the beautiful colourful city. You can even get a table at the top and enjoy the views over lunch, a glass of wine or even a cup of coffee.
There are plenty of restaurants to eat at in town. Many of the waiters will stand outside, offering you menus and trying to entice you inside. Often, I didn’t even look at the names of the places that we ate at. So just take your time, look at the menus and decide where you want to eat. There’s a good mixture of traditional Portuguese restaurants and restaurants offering more mainstream food.
Praça do Comércio is a yellow square next to the Tagus River. Aside from the fact that there’s a fountain and a beautiful arch with a carved statue depicting Zeus, it’s lined with restaurants that have plenty of outdoor seating. Here you get beautiful water and landscape views. You can also see the Castelo de Sao Jorge from here, so it’s a great photo opportunity.
If you venture down to the coast, there’s a small sandy beach where you can sit and look over at the bridge or some of the boats on the water. Very calming and very well-connected, so great for a quick pit stop between tourist activities.
The coastal town of Cascais was my favourite part of the trip. It’s a very calm and quaint fishing town with a beautiful beach and the most addictive views. We visited on a day that had clean blue skies and with all the boats out on the water, I absolutely fell in love. With its winding, cobbled streets and scatter of little independent shops, you can’t go wrong.
Restaurants here offer more traditional dishes. Porto di Mare Cascais was great. The garlic butter shrimp was fresh, juicy and so moreish. They have a range of different seafood options on the menu. We also ordered a seafood spaghetti and a pizza. Everything tasted great and I loved the rustic, exposed brick interior.
Uber is popular in Lisbon. So that evening, exhausted from walking all day, we decided to order an Indian takeaway. So if you’re ever lost for options or too tired to leave your hotel room, then this is an option.
We took a train to Sintra on this day, which cost us a mere 5 euros. Sintra is one of those places that everybody will tell you you have to visit in Portugal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best experience here. Walking the grounds of Sintra castle took almost the whole day and there really isn’t that much to see apart from the castle itself.
I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the castle. I thought the exterior was beautiful – very colourful, with lots of interesting shapes and textures. However, the medieval interior was of little interest to me and once I had finished looking inside, there was the dread of getting back down.
You can either take a tuk tuk or the bus. Ubers generally won’t come up to the castle and if they do, it would take them far too long.
That evening, we came home, rested and then headed out to experience some more of Lisbon’s nightlife. We visited a club called Lust in Rio – which I highly recommend! The music at the club was mainly Reggaton – so great for dancing. But they also played a lot of current pop songs. The club has two levels, with the tables section on the top level balcony looking down into the main dancing area.
Despite the low reviews on Google, I had a really good time here. You’re given a drinks card upon entry and every time you order a drink at the bar, they stamp it for you. There’s a minimum spend of 20 euros. It’s kind of like a physical tab which you take to the tills at the end of your night and pay. This can get dangerous, as you keep ordering drinks without spending any physical money. But I had about 6 drinks and only paid 35 euros at the end of the night, which is so cheap!
On our final day, we had our suitcases with us so there wasn’t much we could do. We did a bit of shopping in town and picked up ice cream from Amorino (which they also have in the UK). After spending a couple of hours on the beach watching the sunset, we finally headed to the airport and back to the UK.
Overall, Lisbon is definitely one of my top European destinations to visit. I also want to highly recommend the Air BnB we stayed at. Although it was a little far out from the centre, Ubers are incredibly cheap (3 euros roughly to get in and out of the centre) and it took about 10 minutes.
Below is a link to their profile on Air BnB, with plenty of apartment options to choose from. They are a sort of holiday rental apartment service. So we had an arranged check-in time with a member of staff there to meet us and hand over the keys. We had a 24 hour number to call with any issues. We had a professional check-out clean included in the price of our stay. And best of all, the host sent through a long list of Lisbon recommendations for us. I will leave these in a list below for you.
BnBird Homes – Air BnB
Beaches: Portinho Árrabida, Tróia, Cascais, Costa Caparica, Ericeira , Carcavelos (surf)
Green spaces: Jardim Estrela, Gulbenkian gardens, Parque Eduardo VII, Parque das Nações, Jardim do príncipe real
Viewpoint: Santa Catarina, São Pedro Alcântara, Portas do Sol, Santa Luzia Graça, Santa justa Elevator (Build by Eiffel’s apprentice)
Old Barrios: Alfama, Graça, Príncipe Real
Sightseeing: Castelo S.Jorge, Rossio, Praça Comércio, Sé de Lisboa, Panteão, Belém (Descobrimentos monument, Mosteiro Jerónimos, Torre Belém)
Museums: MAAT, Museu Eletricidade, CCB , Gulbenkian, Museu Coleção Berardo
Nightout & food: Cais Sodré, Bairro Alto, Lx Factory
Out of city: Sintra, Cascais
Cascais amazing restaurant: Baía do peixe, Tasca da Linha, Pátio dos petiscos
More far: Tomar, Évora, Óbidos Setúbal.
Some of the best bookstores:
Ler devagar – In an old printing press factory building, it’s inside of Lx factory that is really worth seeing
Livraria Sá da Costa – Old world charm, there are books that are 200, 300 and 500 years
Bertrand – “ The oldies bookstore in the world” according do Guiness book
My suggestions for restaurants are:
Casa do Alentejo (in Rossio): Traditional Portuguese food, from an area called “Alentejo”. The restaurant is present in a historic and very elegant building.
Mercado da Ribeira (in Cais do Sodré) : The food court, with canteen-style communal tables, it mixes stalls from top chefs with different brands of local products
Solar dos Presuntos (in Avenida da Liberdade): Portuguese tradicional, cuisine with fish, seafood and meat options in a family atmosphere.
Cabaças (in Bairro alto): Restaurant known for its hot steaks, in a very cultural and busy neighborhood. If you’re a meat lover, it’s the right place to go.
Ramiro (in Anjos) : This restaurant is probably one of the best known in Lisbon. It has been open since the 1950s and serves traditional Portuguese food, but its excellence comes from seafood. I advice to go early, because there’s usually a big line.
Santa Clara dos cogumelos(Graça): Every dish has mushrooms in it it’s absolutely amazing
Zé dos cornos(in Mouraria): This downtown venue is perfect for locals, it’s not very comfortable since it’s a small place but the food is delicious and cheap
Cantinho do Avillez and Belcanto(in Chiado): a really none chef who already win 2 Michelin stars, it ain’t cheap but it’s worth it
Ponto final(in Almada): This restaurant is located on the tip of a dock at the other side of the river, you would have to catch a boat in cais Sodré, that takes 6/7 min that has fresh fish and views you will never forget
Best non Portuguese restaurants:
Restaurant Indian Gate(in Sé): Best Indian restaurant in Lisbon!
El Clandestino(in Príncipe Real): One of the best Mexican restaurant in town, amazing tacos, amazing cocktails
O Asiático(in Príncipe Real): I have no words, amazing asiatic food. Right by El Clandestino.
Tantura(in Bairro Alto): Israeli restaurant and cocktail bar. The nicest staff
Chapito(in Costa do castelo): it’s actually Portuguese food, but it’s one of the restaurants with the best view ever.
Cantina Peruana(in Bairro Alto): Food from Peru, best ceviche that I had.
Amélia(In Campo de Ourique): normally it’s really crowded but it’s a wonderful space, with a lot of healthy food.
Bar 35(in Mouraria): It’s located and really old neighborhood, really good food
Nicolau(in Baixa): really really popular but worth it, it really central.
DeliDelux(in Alfama): Right on the water in alfama, watch the boats go by it’s also a place where you can buy gourmet cheese
Normally to go out here in Portugal we always go to 2 neighborhoods, bairro alto and cais do Sodré (PINK STREET).
Cinco Lounge *really good cocktails
TOPO( Martim Moniz or Chiado)
Lux – electronic music
Lust in rio- Hip hop, reggaeton