Lisbon, the charming and sunny capital of Portugal was one of our first summer long weekend city breaks in Europe and remains one of our favourites to this day. There's plenty of sun, culture, food & sightseeing to keep any groups of people busy in this vibrant city.
We actually chose to step away from the city centre's sights at the start of our weekend & instead retreat into a different world within the Lisbon Oceanarium (the aquarium). I was initially quite dubious about visiting an aquarium - I mean, isn't it just a retreat for families with young kids and can't you just go to any aquarium and you'll still see essentially the same things?), but after spending a good half day within, I can say I was thoroughly impressed and loved our time there!
Not only did we find Nemo amongst other fish, we gazed and looked among other ecosystems & giggled at my favourites - the otters! I think Matt was more impressed by the shark, or it could have been the huge tank the shark was in!
After we finished admiring what the aquarium had to offer we headed back to Barrio Alta via the metro. Here, we actually nearly got pickpocketed by a bunch of gypsies, but luckily Matt kept his wits about him & shouted for his phone before they actually got away with anything! So keep an eye out as you would with any city, but particularly if you feel like you're suddenly getting pushed onto the metro by a big group of people (chances are the "big group of people" only consists of 3 persons).
Lisbon is a hilly city to walk around and although this means it might tire you out just strolling, it also means you can get amazing vantage points of steep roads, trams & the sea in the background while wandering around. The colourful tiles of the city can be truly mesmerising and also a dream to photograph! Be warned though, the tiles can also get super slippery on the hills - so be careful with your footing in this city!
Join a walking tour that meets up at the statue in Barrio Alto and includes a walk past the Praça do Comércio, learn about the history of this city and walk through the Alfama district - the oldest district in the city.
As we walked past various buildings our guide also pointed out the divets / patterns / tiles on the walls of certain buildings, as there is a plentiful amount of Moorish influences on how to keep the buildings cool during the oppressive summer heat. A pretty cool way (no pun intended) to weather proof your home!
The old town / main districts of Lisbon looked quite old & run down, but I must say I really loved the real-ness of the city and the character that has remained. International flags, or otherwise known as laundry can be seen hanging off balconies at every corner you turn which always brings a more local and home-like feel to these cities.
Castle of St George viewpoint for these views of Lisbon. There's a cost to enter the castle which I have heard great things about, but if you feel like saving 8.50 Euros (think of all the egg tarts - or more well known as pasteis de nata you could eat instead), the viewpoint is just around the corner and offers these fantastic views of the city.
From the top, catch the iconic tram route number 28)and make your way to Cantinho Lusitano for one of the best bites (in our opinion) you'll get in this city. It's completely unassuming, tiny and cosy but the food served was absolutely amazing! Definitely try and reserve a table here if you ever get a chance to visit this amazing city.
I don't think it applied to this particular restaurant, but when you eat out in Lisbon (& other parts of Portugal) a basket of bread will generally be placed on your table. One would generally think this means it's free - but it's actually not! So, definitely feel free to say no to the bread & get them to take it away so you don't get charged!
As we were staying within Barrio Alto we wandered through the neighbourhood and enjoyed the nightlife. Especially during the summertime, you'll find scores of people spilling out onto the sidewalks and enjoying the warm summer night - it's such a lovely atmosphere!
The next day, the first thing on our agenda was to take a short a tram ride over to Belem to get our little hands on one of Lisbon's most well known items - their pasteis de nata from the original and famous bakery Pasteis de Belem. These tarts were absolutely Amazing with a capital A. Not only are they served piping hot fresh out of the oven, you also get a little sachet of cinnamon & sugar which you can choose to liberally pour over - pure bliss per mouthful!
Not only is Belem the home of the best pastries available in Lisbon, there are also plenty of attractions to visit, namely the Discoveries Monument, Torre de Belem and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos which is one of the oldest in Europe and oh so beautiful.
Definitely make your way up to the top of the Discoveries Monument (you can get a combined ticket for the Torre de Belem & the monument) and admire the amazing views from the tops of these attractions back towards the city or out towards the Atlantic.
In our opinion there's plenty to do around in and around Lisbon so we spent longer than just a weekend, so stay tuned for Part II of our guide for what to do!