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Gavin Explores - Lisbon

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Lisbon is stunning, it really is. I know a lot of European cities are good, but Lisbon really has something else. Not only is it hipser heaven (honestly the people are so fashionable and there are plenty of very trendy places to go), but the architecture of the town is stunning.  There was an earthquake in 17something or other that levelled half of Lisbon, during the rebuild they opted for a grid system in the new-town, as opposed to the old fashioned ‘spaghetti streets’ that feature in the old part of town, Alfama.

Getting There

We got some pretty darn cheap flights, think they were about £60 return from Stanstead to Lisbon. Getting from the airport to the city centre is pretty easy, there’s a nifty bus from right outside Terminal 1 that gets you into central Lisbon for about €3, which is pretty useful.

Accommodation

We stayed in an airbnb in Alfama, the place wasn’t overly glam, but it did the job. It was about 15 minutes walk to the centre of Lisbon and we really felt like we were in the best part to be in for young(ish) people. If you are going with kids and want comfort/accessibility, then you should look towards the areas near Rossio/Praco de Comercio, which are the two big squares in Central Lisbon. This will of course come with a higher price, but they are far more family friendly places so you aren’t dragging your kids up cobbled hills.

Lisbon2

The windy back streets of Alfama

Eating & Drinking

There is plenty of choice in Lisbon, it all depends on what you want.

Time Out Food Market -  just off the riverfront. It is an old warehouse or hanger that, as with all places nowadays, has been turned into a mega trendy eatery/drinkery. Plenty of different cuisines to try and plenty of delicious beers and wines to see off.

Viagem De Sabores - a quaint yet trendy restaurant in Alfama, and as we ate outside we were sat next to an old church with castle like walls. For more of a traditional Lisbon feel, you can try any of the old restaurants in the back streets of Alfama, of which there are plenty. Many restaurants in Alfama have Fado music in the evening, the traditional Portuguese guitar music. Very entertaining, and a lovely way to spend an evening.

Local Blend - not particularly Portuguese, was bloody delicious.

Drinking

I was quite surprised at how boozy a city Lisbon actually was. I guess it comes with the territory, if you’re cheap and hot then you will in fact end up being a weekend destination for wreckheads. Of which there were plenty.  

Barrio Alto - If you are up for a good night out, definitely check out Barrio Alto, the area just west of central Lisbon. Plenty of CHEAP bars and heaving music. On the Friday night when we were out there were more stag dos and hen dos than you would see on Broadstreet on the Saturday night. It was all mainly kept to this area though (bar one Scottish stag do we encountered). It is definitely worth going to if you fancy a drink and a dance. 

Park Bar - not far from Barrio Alto (or Bazza, as my friend referred to it), is a very hip bar at the top of a multi storey car park. You would not expect it to be there, but when you find it, it is amazing. You get a grimey lift to the top floor and just follow the music. All of Lisbon is littered with wine bars and trendy little cocktails bars, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Trobadores - We also stumbled across this old germanic bar that serves you your drinks in terracotta globlets and steins, well worth checking that out (near the central square).

Lisbon 3No prizes for guessing where this is

Things To Do 

Sintra – One of the huge draws to Lisbon is the nearby town of Sintra. Sintra is where the royals and elite of days gone by used to spend their summers, so is filled with beautiful houses and several castles and palaces to explore. Getting there is easy enough by train, but getting around can be a bit of a nightmare. There is a bus service that runs the loop of Sintra, but the bus stops are incredibly busy at peak times. For example we had to wait for 4 buses to get from the main palace back to the station. I would advise getting there early to try to beat the absolute hordes of elderly tourists shuffling around with their bags. A colleague of mine went to Lisbon in March and told me Sintra was incredibly quiet, so if you’re going out of season it shouldn’t be too bad, but in May, my god it was like a theme park. Absolutely stunning though, and if you like a hike it’s a great walk up to the palace.

Castles/Churches of Lisbon – Lisbon is filled with old castles and churches that are crying out to be explored. The Castello de Saint Jorge at the peak of the Alfama area gives you the most stunning view (€7 entry) over all the thousands of terracotta tiles. The area it’s in is also lovely for exploring, full of local artists and cafes to sit out of the sun. As Portugal is quite a Christian country there is also the most stunning churches littering the back streets of Lisbon, which may not be your thing, but it definitely is mine.

Museums – All around the Place du Commerce (the main riverside square) there are plenty of museums about local and national history. We were under a bit of time (and weather) restrains, but I did get into one exhibition about the pavings of Lisbon, which isn’t as sad as it sounds because the paths in Lisbon are a work of art on their own.

Waterfront – One of my favourite things to do in Lisbon was to walk along the river and take in the vibes. As it was hot when we were there, there were plenty of stalls open selling cocktails and sangria and DJs and musicians about every 50 feet giving you plenty of choices to sit down and soak it all up. The road running along the river is littered with lovely places to sit and ponder.

Beaches – Although we didn’t have time you are able to get to beaches pretty easily from Lisbon, a short train journey out to Cascais will apparently provide you with a lovely seaside town and delightful beaches. Although our Lisbon pal did warn us the town is now predominantly English people living there.

Alfama – I know I am banging on about it, but it really felt like an authentic area of Lisbon. If you aren’t staying here (which I do think you should if you can), then you should definitely spend a day walking around checking out the area. You easily feel like you’re in the 1500s when you’re there.

Lisbon 4Sintra – Borderline fairytale (the castle at the top of the hill is where we hiked up to)

Getting Around

Metro – Lisbon does have Metro, we didn’t use it as we found we could walk to most places from our hotel in 15/20 minutes.

Tram – A very nifty service in Lisbon is their infamous tram. The little yellow trams scuttle up the steep hills like nobodies business. You can buy a pass which you top up and pay per use, or get a day pass. This also works for the Metro. Learn the tram routes, especially if you plan to go up the steep hills, they’re a lifesaver in those areas. They DO get busy around peak times though, so be warned.

Bus – There is also a bus service, although as with the Metro, we didn’t use it, but I believe it is handy, although it doesn’t go into Alfama (the old area), as the streets are too narrow and bendy

Uber – OBVIOUSLY Uber is a winner in Lisbon, and was told by a local chap that it is much more preferable to bookable taxis, as they tend to be quite unreliable. We got our uber to the airport at 2X the rate and it came to about £15, so naaaaht bad at all.

Walking – As I mentioned, Lisbon is not that big, you can walk most places and I would thoroughly suggest you do as the place is just so bloody lovely. Just be careful of your stuff when you are. Also, in Alfama, use the stairs instead of following windy roads up hills. It’s like snakes and ladders, a long journey can be cut in half by going up the stairs in the side streets.

Trains – Lisbon also has a number of  train stations servicing outer Lisbon areas, you can easily find information on these stations there, but I know Rossio runs trains to Sintra, so that’s very handy to know.

Lisbon 5Trusty old tram

Things To Know

Pick-pocketing - It does happen in Lisbon. My mate had her purse with €40 in taken while she was taking a photo. Apparently on a busy tram the pickpockets are rife, so JUST be careful. I mean, this is standard, but having it happen to someone you are with is pretty shocking.

Tipping – It is illegal for restaurants to put service charge onto bills, if they do, ask them to take it off.

Mini Marts - The large metro stations all have shops in called , where you can stock up on your essentials, besides corner shops, I didn’t see many places to buy food or beer to eat at home.

A tip for eating – the restaurants where they try to lure you in off the streets probably aren’t going to be the best ones to go to, this is apparently very un-Portuguese. Portuguese people are apparently very laid back and if you walk in they will likely roll their eyes at you. Eat at places where they do that.

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