Before I embarked on this trip with my husband and his brother & sister-in-law, I had never set foot outside of North America. I had done plenty of travelling inside of the USA & Canada, but I was, for all intents and purposes, still considered a travel virgin, and I was ready to take my maiden voyage.
Lisbon was my first experience in Europe, and I have to say that I was a bit underwhelmed at first. To be honest and fair, my expectations were so high going into this trip, that I don’t think any country or city could have lived up to them. But, it wasn’t long before I found myself falling in love with the city, its people, and their culture. I was able to let go of that preconceived version of Europe I had held, and fully embrace the beautiful city that I was exploring. By the end of the trip I wasn't sure how I'd give up our morning walks to Manteigaria for a fresh out of the oven Pastéis de Nata, the afternoons watching the sunsets from a miradouro, Portuguese wines, and just wandering around the beautiful streets.
Day 1: On our first day we were so tired from our long flight that after we got checked into our lovely Airbnb we decided to stay close, so we just roamed around our area, taking photos and checking out the local scene. We made our way down Rue Augusta to Praça do Comércio, where we found one of our favourite spots; The Wines of Portugal. I’d absolutely recommend you go wine “tasting” there! From there we made our way up to an overlook to get a bird’s eye view of the lovely rooftops of Lisbon at sunset. On our way back down, we stumbled upon a beautiful restaurant tucked into the nook a lovely street and had a wonderful dinner while getting to know the owners of the establishment. After dinner, we explored the streets of our neighbourhood on our way back to the Airbnb, picking up some Portuguese wines along the way.
Day 2: The second day we explored further and found a lovely cafe (Bellalisa) for our morning coffee & tea that was located next to the Santa Justa Lift & Carmo Convent, and we were once again rewarded with a lovely view of the surrounding neighbourhood with its beautiful tile rooftops. So much architecture! As one must do while in Lisbon, we sought out the famed ginjinha (cherry liquor), which the guys seemed to really like. I find it to be a drink you likely have to acquire a taste for, but I’ll always get at least one when in Lisbon. Of course there was lots of window shopping and just enjoying the maze of streets on our way up to our lunch spot, Gosta do Castelo. The main road to this wonderful restaurant was closed to due a landslide so we had to reroute through some slightly shady areas, but it was worth it in the end! It’s now one of our favourite spots! Our last big attraction of the day was Castelo de S. George, where we were once again greeted by a lovely view of the city and beyond! After the exhausting hike up to and back down from Castelo de S. George, we enjoyed a lovely dinner and ended the day with a beer tour. It was an exhausting day in the heat of what had to be Portugal's worst ever heatwave, but worth it.
Day 3: Oh but on the third day we had our first taste of Pastéis de Belém, the original Pastéis de Nata, and we were hooked! Our travel companions were off on a day trip to Porto, so we made the most of the time we had to hit all the sites we wanted to see. We visited sites such as the MAAT, Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument), & the Champalimaud Foundation with its modern architecture. After all that exploring we were craving something familiar, so we opted for a burger & fries lunch at The TimeOut Market. That left us with the rest of the day to just explore at our leisure, have a few more Pastéis de Nata, and another visit to The Wines of Portugal. It was after all very hot outside, so we needed to stay hydrated, right?
Day 4: By the fourth day we were exploration pros! We found wonderful streets that seemed to curve with the rolling hills, went to the top of the Rua Augusta Arch for sweeping views of the city, tried Manteigaria (our favourite Pastéis de Nata!), discovered Fabrica Coffee Roasters, and of course the guys got their fill of Port! I did try a few sips of port, but it’s just not my thing. It was way too sweet for me, so I stuck with Portugal’s famous vinho verde (Green Wine), yum!
Day 5: At this point we needed a break from the city and the heat, so we found ourselves driving across the bridge and up the coast. I have to say this was one of my favourite days of the whole trip. We stopped by the Cristo Rei statue and enjoyed our view back across the river to Lisbon. From there we drove up the coast to Cascais for lunch and then on to Praia do Cresmina for a relaxing day on the beach. I have to say, the beaches in Portugal are phenomenal and I could spend all my days just lounging there, listening to the waves and soaking up the sun. Ending the day at Cabo da Roca (Westernmost point of europe), was the icing on the cake. Perfection!
Day 6: This was the day we took a train from Lisbon to Sintra to explore that fairytale world. Unfortunately, some of us were at the beginning stages of getting sick, and we hadn’t planned very well, so our trip was hectic and we missed a lot. I’d love the chance to go back and really explore and see all there is to see.
Day 7: Our final day in Lisbon was cooler and therefore much more crowded. It was also riddled with food related illness. So yeah, we did what we could do, but mainly we opted to rest in the Airbnb.
All in all I think it was a good first experience for me, and it certainly left a positive impression on my husband, as we are headed back there next month (February 2020)! If I could make a few observations and recommendations they’d be this…
#1 Wear a hat! This serves multiple purposes, the most obvious being protection from the sun. The lesser known advantage to having a hat on is that when the birds poop on your head, and they will poop on your head, it won’t end up in your hair! Sadly this advice comes from experience. But hey, they say getting pooped on by a bird is good luck, so I should be set for life now!
#2 Drink bottled water! Unfortunately 2 out of 4 of us got ill, one violently so with a bacteria that the doctors said comes from eating food that isn’t properly cooked and/or drinking infected water. We drank A LOT of tap water to stay hydrated, as it was so ridiculously hot when we were there in August of 2018. The next trip I’ll stick with bottled water for sure.
#3 Forget those cute sandals and go for pair of comfy, casual shoes or sneakers. The hills in Lisbon are no joke and the sidewalks of those hills are covered in slippery stones. The wrong shoes could equal a vacation injury you’d probably rather avoid, and in the least your back will thank you.
#4 Make the effort to get up early to enjoy the city before the crowds. This is especially helpful during the summer months when tourism is at its peak. We took a tram ride with the locals very early on day 3 just to capture the sunrise at the MAAT, and it was absolutely worth it! We managed to knock out a whole days worth of attractions just by get up before the sun. It also helped us get to Jeronimos Monastery before the crowds so that we were one of the first through the door. Basically if you’re like me and hate lines, go super early!
#5 The city is full of miradouros and rooftop cafes, restaurants, and bars. Take advantage of them!
So there you have it, the abridged version of our 7 Days in Lisbon. I hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane as much as i've enjoyed recounting it. You can find all the fabulous photos from our trip here. Until next time, make sure you are following me on Instagram and Twitter and remember to be kind, be loving, & be better!