Lisbon, oh Lisbon. How I left my heart with thee. Ironic since this trip was totally spontaneous. To be honest, Portugal (let alone Lisbon) was not on my radar until I saw a cheap flight there. And of course, if you know me, I booked it immediately and Googled later. With that being said, let me tell you about one of the best traveling decisions I’ve ever made.
Santa Justa Lift and Bairro Alto
This was the first “attraction” that we did in Lisbon and it was perfect because you can literally see the entire city! There’s usually a line (it goes fast), but then you get to ride in this old, huge metal elevator, and walk up a spiral staircase to a 360 view of the city.
We timed it just right for sunset (which I would highly recommend), and then hit the Bairro Alto region next door to the lift for dinner and drinks.
Green Wine and Fresh Fish
Lisbon has green wine. Ok, now say it with me: “Lisbon has green wine!!!” Or, Vinho Verde. Produced only in Portugal, Vinho Verde actually means “young wine,” though its direct translation is “green wine.” Vinho Verde is slightly bubbly and poses a threat to the United States’ sparkling wine. It’s not the color of the Green Giant on the green beans can, but has a subtle, light-green tint. It is cheap and delightful, and you should order it immediately upon settling into the city.
In addition to your Vinho Verde, order any kind of seafood (I recommend the swordfish). Seafood is extremely fresh in Lisbon, and I had to force myself to try something other than fish while I was there. Not only is the seafood top quality, it is also extremely affordable. Also, as a side note, the Portuguese serve fries with omelets. Thank you, Lisbon. Just thank you.
Craft Fairs and Espresso
Lisbon is an extremely walkable city. It is condensed, fairly boxy, and also intuitive, and as long as you have Google maps open to tell you when to turn, you should be good to walk everywhere! On our second day, we walked from our Airbnb (which was just below the Jardim do Castelo de São Jorge–one of the famous castles in Lisbon that is also great for sunset views) to Praça do Comércio.
Within the covered arches lining the square, there were local craft vendors selling different forms of cork (a major product of Portugal), ceramic, marble, and more! We got a chance to look at the local art and hear some history on Lisbon. Grab an espresso and cream tart from the oldest cafe in Lisbon, Martinho da Arcada (dated back to the 1720’s) and walk along the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) to Time Out Market (see below). Also, don’t eat at the restaurant Martinho da Arcada, just the take away cafe attached to it (the restaurant will charge you an arm and a leg for a dish you can get more authentically from a side street restaurant in Bairro Alto).
Time Out Market and Cobblestone Patterns
Aka the Coolest place to spend a rainy afternoon in Lisbon. So Cool it gets a capital C. Time Out Market is an old warehouse, now-turned food vendor hangout spot where you can find local delights (sardines, pizza, sushi, etc.) and also see some more crafts from local artist! I take the market business very seriously, and Time Out Market is definitely in my top three!
If you walked to Time Out Market from the square, you’ll notice a different cobblestone pattern from the area of the square, or even the area near Santa Justa Lift. This is because the city of Lisbon left it up to its streets to tell the city’s stories. These cobblestone patterns represent ideas such as pain and heartbreak, adventure, and unity, and can be found all over the city. It’s a fascinating art form and you can read more about it here! To see more photos of Lisbon, check out my photo blog, “Lisbon in Photography.”
Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is a small town located about 40 minutes outside of Lisbon by train. Though small, it contains a number of historical monuments, antique churches and homes with architectural features you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and gardens that look like they are straight out of a fantasy book. We went to Quinta da Regaleira to see the inverted towers (or wells) and I instantly fell in love. There are hidden green ponds, huge trees with mushrooms growing on them, and hearts that have been drawn into the the moss on surrounding rocks and trees all around.
We also went to the Pena Palace, and though it’s was extremely foggy and cloudy, we were able to see the Atlantic Ocean and Castle of the Moors on a neighboring hill, not to mention the vibrant colors and stone structures of the palace itself. This day trip is one of the most memorable days on any trip I have ever taken and is a must do if you visit Lisbon. See my photo blog, “Sintra in Photography” to experience the wonder!
Visited or visiting Lisbon and Sintra? Leave a comment below with your experience and/or any questions!