7 Reasons to Visit Lisbon
One thing I love about my husband is that whenever I ask "Babe, are you interested in visiting __?" , 99% of the time his response is "Sure! Let's go!" Now once we start discussing prices and logistics his answer may change, but his enthusiasm to explore the world or even our own state is much appreciated and welcomed.
So when I found a good deal on tickets to Lisbon and asked him if we could visit, I was thrilled when he said "Sure! Let's go!"...and stuck with his answer! Lisbon isn't a place on a lot of people's "Must Visit" list. And I get it..it's not as popular as other European capitals and doesn't exactly exude the same bold, defining characteristics as those of Paris, Rome or Barcelona. But Lisbon's understated charm is one of things that attracted me to the city and the reason why I jumped on that cheap flight.
We did this trip a little differently from our honeymoon trip: no major plans, no city-hopping...just exploring and learning our way around Lisbon. If Lisbon, isn't on your "Must Visit" list, here's a few reasons that may make you reconsider:
1. Lisbon is Affordable!
Finding a cheap flight to Lisbon may take some work. But once you're there, you'll find that Portugal is one of the most affordable European countries making Lisbon one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe. The food, lodging and transportation were all relatively inexpensive compared to our time in Italy. We found a cute one-bed apartment on Airbnb in the popular Chiado for $58 /night, meals averaged around €20 (including wine), train rides were around €2, and Uber rides were never more than €7 around town.
2. Mild climate
Portugal has a warm temperate climate making almost any time of the year a pleasant time to visit. It's actually one of the mildest climates in Europe. We visited in November, which is typically cool and rainy. While it rained almost every day of our trip, the temperature was never unpleasant.
3. Great beach scene
Lisbon is surrounded by beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, since we visited in a cooler month, we decided not visit any of the beach towns. Still, you can easily hop on a train to nearby Cascais (40 minutes ride) and explore the coast.
4. Perfect for foodies (my personal favorite part)
If seafood is your thing, you'll love all of the fresh options that Lisbon has to offer. Because of the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, many menus in Lisbon included a wide variety of fish dishes. You'll find traditional Portuguese dishes like bacalhau, which is a dry salted cod, as well as yummy prawn options at many restaurants. I loved the cod cakes and seafood risotto at Restaurante Carmo, a cute little restaurant tucked away on a side street in the Chiado district.
Lisbon is also home to the very first Time Out Market, a bustling marketplace that houses over 20 fine dining, street food, casual eating and dessert and bar options in one large space. Here you can find traditional Portuguese cuisine as well as cuisines from other parts of the world. We came here 3 times on during our 5 day trip!
Finally, you can't leave Lisbon without trying their famous pasteis de nata (or pasteis belem, depending on who you ask). Pasteis de nata are Portuguese egg tarts that have a flaky outside crust and a creamy custard inside. They're not super sweet and pair perfectly with coffee or tea. I lost count of how many of these Marcus ate throughout our trip. He even bought a box of them at the airport on our way back home! Basically, Pasteis de nata are to Lisbon, what beignets are to New Orleans. And Pasteis de Belem is the Cafe Du Monde of these treats. Pasteis de Belem is the original maker of the yummy pasteis de nata and locals and tourists alike come from all over to sample them. *To avoid the longer lines, head inside and choose to grab a table. Surprisingly, this is quicker than the grab and go line!*
5. Robust night life
Lisbon is a great city to enjoy a night out. You'll have a fun night without breaking the bank. The Barrio Alto district is the hotspot for bars and lounges. If you're looking for an old-school Portuguese nightlife experience, head to the Alfama district to a bar or club that plays the traditional Portuguese folk music, Fado.
6. Full of history
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe. Needless to say, the city is full of history. When we arrived I noticed a large population of Afro-Portugeuse people and was interested in learning more about their history in Lisbon. I found details at the Jeronimos Monastery which hosted an exhibit detailing Lisbon's history. We also explored the Castelo Sao Jorge which dates back to the mid-11th century, and Torre de Belem, the latter of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
7. Nearby historic towns
While Lisbon is full of history, it is also a great base to explore other popular day trips from the region. On our trip we took a train to Sintra (about a 45 minute ride) and explored the beautiful castles and palaces. While you could technically spend two days in Sintra to really see all the sights, we found one day to be enough for us. Once in Sintra, I recommend taking the 434 bus route that stops by the city center, the Moors Castle and Pena Palace. If you opt out of the bus, be prepared to walk up many hills!
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