I have to say I’ve never really given much thought to Lisbon as a holiday destination but when my parents, sister and family friends decided to take a short break there last month, James and I thought we’d tag along too. By golly I’m glad we did. It’s fair to say Lisboa massively exceeded my expectations and I’ve been singing its praises ever since.
It’s So Reasonable
For a capital city, Lisbon is so reasonably priced. Our apartments in the very avant garde district of Barrio Alto were less than £60 per couple each night. Yes it was a little bohemian with steep stairs and bijou living but it was a stones throw away from all the action. This is a sleepy area in the day but it comes alive at night.
As recommended by reader Rebecca, James and I spent the first night sipping drinks in the rooftop bar at Park as sunset fell over the city. We couldn’t believe a glass of wine was only €3.50 and it was an awesome place for people watching while taking in views of the Tagus River and Santa Catarina Cathedral bell tower as the swallows came in to nest. The access to this place is slightly odd as it’s actually on the top of a multi-storey car park but this means you get epic views.
The Food & Drink
We ate and drank like kings for the whole weekend. James and I flew out a little earlier than the rest of the party and had our first dinner at A Taberna, a Portuguese style tapas restaurant recommended by reader Jude. This place is unforgettable! Now you can’t book and it’s absolutely tiny there can be up to a two hour wait. However we opted to ditch the table and sit on the ’steps’ meaning we beat the queue. Our very helpful and friendly waitress asked if we were already married as for some reason she and all the other waiting staff thought James was going to propose (!) It must have been all the wine in Park….
Further out of town we had a few very relaxed hours at the achingly cool LX Factory; A disused fabric factory which has recently been converted to a creative mecca of cafes, bars, vintage shops and art spaces with an East London kind of vibe. Our lunch at A Praca was all sorts of tasty which unfortunately didn’t leave any room for the famous chocolate cake at Landeau. Catch the number 15 tram or 714 or 727 bus to get to the coolest quarter in town.
Shopping wasn’t high on our list of priorities and when there’s eight of you, navigating the plaza can be no mean feat. However I have to give a mention to A Vida Portuguesa. Specialising in traditional Portuguese products this is one of the most incredibly merchandised stores I’ve ever come across. You can buy the most beautifully packaged sardines here as well as stationery, homeware and toiletries. My sister bought some gorgeous swallow decals for her wall back home which I wish I’d got my hands on too for our dining room. I’ve seen some on Etsy but they’re not as delicate.
There’s also a smaller concession of A Vida Portuguesa within Mecardo da Riberia, an indoor market and food hall selling a huge variety of food and drink. The green wine was a definite favourite.
The Culture & Sights
Lisbon is awash with pastel buildings, cobbled streets and tiled facades. As the city is nestled amongst seven hills there are gorgeous tiered vistas around so many corners. The network of traditional trams and funiculars navigating around the streets won’t fail to make you smile.
However as Portugal emerges from the recession their capital is undergoing serious amounts of regeneration. There are signs of construction in every direction however there are so many gorgeous buildings to look at too. We didn’t get a chance to go on to the Belém Tower so it’s top of my list when we revisit. The Jerónimos Monastery was absolutely stunning and I was very taken by the Monument to the Discoveries which you can see in the header image.
My parents are now the picture of health but it’s been a rough road over the last few years. At one point anxiety meant it looked unlikely my Dad would ever get on a plane again so seeing him in a foreign country, wine in hand with a huge smile on his face was heart-warming stuff.
It’s a great city to spend time in with family and friends, and we still got time to spend independently too. My sister and her other half nipped up to São Jorge Castle in a tuk-tuk while we went off to explore the LX Factory.
Does anyone else share my love of Lisbon? What sights should I take in when we go back? I know I haven’t mentioned the incredible custard tarts!