Going to Lisbon was one of the random ideas I get sometimes. As I have almost a year of living in Spain ahead of me, I thought I can’t miss the chance to visit Portugal. So when the opportunity came and me and my Favourite Travel Companion were looking for an idea of a short trip at the beginning of December, Lisbon came to my mind. And I soon discovered it is quite a good option for budget travel!
I had someone tell me that it must be difficult if I want to travel to another country from Spain as it is so far away from everything. I think they couldn’t be more wrong. That is why I took this opportunity to visit Portugal. I look for this kind of things all the time. As my university degree has already taken me to two countries, I do my best to take advantage of this and hop around a little. One of the best advantages of studying abroad! Plus, Spain itself is quite enough for 9 months of exploring.
I have to say, Lisbon will be hard to beat that trip for a long time.
We arrived in Lisboa on early morning and we had four days in this beautiful city ahead of us. Looking for cheap options, I ended up renting a little flat in the old town area. Once we got there it was the most charming little place I have ever seen. And that description could actually go for the whole city.
We lived in the middle Alfama. Its tiny little streets were decorated by strings of laundry. Almost every one of the small houses was hiding a charming restaurant or a tiny shop. As you can tell, our first impression of Lisboa, based solely on Alfama, was that everything there is mini. The streets are really narrow, going up and down, some of them with 1930s trams squeezing somehow in between the walls of the colourful buildings. Even the restaurants are tiny and the tables squeezed together. Alfama is just a place built and functioning for another time. For when the world was still calm and didn’t have that many people. And as we were there at the beginning of December, there actually weren’t that many people. Just the right amount of tourists to still be able to enjoy the unique, quiet atmosphere of this city.
Alfama is also listed as one of the best places to live in when on Erasmus in Lisbon!
I would absolutely love to study there! Lisbon lives and breathes history, it has a kind of bohemian air to it. I have to admit I fell in love with walking around the old town and sitting in all the little cafes (I study literature, sitting in cafes is the best thing ever).
Here, I have to admit I didn’t plan every detail of that trip. I like to have the freedom to explore a place by myself and let myself stumble upon a curious little shop or a cafeteria without the help of any guides. Obviously, as soon as I got my hands on the guide which we found in the flat, I didn’t let go.
So we kept exploring. Lisbon has surprised me more than any other city I have visited in the past couple of years. First of all, it is small for a capital, so it is fairly easy to see many touristic places on foot. Although there is quite a lot of walking uphill involved. For those who don’t want to or can’t walk too much there’s plenty of other options, from a ride by a historical tram to the little tuk-tuks offered on every corner.
We decided to walk and even passed on the charming tram as the couple of times we wanted to hop on it was absolutely full. We were also on a budget, as I always am, so we spent zero money on the tourist attractions. Lisboa offers many beautiful and interesting places absolutely for free. Spending two days just walking around the city and learning its history is fascinating and requires no money.
My favourite spots and things to do in Lisbon
As it is based on seven hills, Lisboa is filled with viewing points, so called miradouros. They are worth the short climb, as the view on the city and the river is astonishing.
This one is from miradouro de Santa Luzia. I couldn’t believe it was the beginning of December and the place was drowning in flowers. With the perfect, sunny weather even the pictures taken with my phone (really unprofessional, I know) are decent. You can grab a coffee or a nice glass of port on the terrace.
Jardim Augusto Rosa
A little square just next to Sé de Lisboa, a 12th century cathedral. The square is located on the route of the number 28 tram, the best one for tourists as it passes through the whole centre of Lisbon. (As I told we didn’t do that, but I can still recommend that, right?) The square has a charming little quiosque with coffee and traditional pastries and it’s a perfect place to sit and do some people watching. Both tourists and locals pass through there, it is a meeting point for the tuk-tuks so you can learn a little bit of history from the drivers when they invite the tourists for a ride.
Nothing reflects the atmosphere of the city like the Fado concerts. Alfama is full of little places inviting tourists for fadó evening every single night. They are free of charge, while you sit and relax with a glass of port. The songs are an expression of what the Portuguese call saudade, a feeling of nostalgia or longing for something that one loves. Simple, beautiful music, perfomed live is a wonderful idea for a quiet, romantic evening if you’re into that kind of thing.
Ribera das Naus
A promenade going west from the main square of the city, Plaza de Comercio. Beautiful views of the river Tagus, although the locals call it “the sea” as it alredy gets so big just before falling into the Atlantic. There are some interesting artistic creations to see by the river as well. Going west by the promenade we come to the water terminal for ships. It looks no different from a normal metro station, you just take a quick ride to the other side of the bay.
Mercado da Ribeira
An interesting, modern space where you can try any kind of Portuguese specialties. It was built at the end of the 19th century and served as a market hall. Today, it has 30 different restaurants, many specializing in typical Portuguese cuisine with such things as pica pau, pregos- Portuguese burgers and of course pasteis de belem, but you can also try some international food. We went for an Asian-Portuguese mix and fell in love with the pregos. It’s a great place for foodies, you can try many in one place. At the time we were there the hall was filled with posters hanging from the ceiling, which added to the alternative feel of the place.
More food: O Prego da Peixaria
If you are looking to have a burger, but fancy something different, have a prego. And Prego da Peixaria is absolutely the best place for pregos in the city. It has an interesting interior design and a nice, laid-back atmosphere. They serve all kinds of pregos and actually withing reasonable price range.
Things we missed, because we didn’t feel like planning much:
Famous neighbourhood of Belem, where you have to go and have the famous pasteis de belem. We left it for the last day and ended up not having enough time, but we still stuffed our faces with pasteis de belem anywhere we went, so that’s checked off.
I have fallen in love with Lisbon completely and I will have to go back there. Once I do, I will go directly to Belem, I promise. Any other recommendations?