Gone are the days of just one holiday a year for millennials, most of us are heading on 3-4 city breaks a year thanks to accessible locations and cheap flights. We have become a society where an experience is more valuable to us than a product and we love to share those experiences through our social channels to tell the world how great a time we are having. Sound familiar? Well I am as guilty of this as you are!
If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that I was recently in Lisbon. I finally got to tick it off my bucket list after years of wanting to go there, I had never even been to Portugal before. And it did not disappoint, there was so much more culture and beautiful buildings than I thought and while it has become a tourist hotspot in recent years, we chose to take it at our own pace, it was a holiday after all.
Flights & Transfers: We flew with Ryanair from Dublin to Lisbon, flights were about €80 if you book a bit in advance. Flight time is about 2 hours 45 mins and once you arrive in Lisbon, best way to get to your accommodation is to get a taxi from the rank outside, the most organized taxi rank I’ve ever seen. The standard rate for a taxi from the airport into the city is €25 and takes about 25 minutes.
Accommodation: We stayed at the hotel, NH Collection Lisboa Liberdade, booked through Booking.com. It wasn’t cheap at €1,300 for 2 of us for 5 nights, but we wanted a nice hotel including breakfast and when we were booking, it seemed to be the average price for a central location. The rooftop bar sold it for us however when we got there, it was closed for the season! It would be amazing in summer with the rooftop pool also. The breakfast buffet was what you would expect from any European city, lots of meats and cheeses and loads of cakes and pastries! Eggs were made to order and you could pour yourself a mimosa for breakfast too if you liked. Really handy not having to think about where to go for breakfast every morning.
Location wise, this hotel was ideal. It’s located on Avenida da Liberdade amongst Gucci, Louis Vuitton & Miu Miu so the window shopping daily was dreamy. It’s only about a 7 minute walk from Rossio- this means meeting point and is also what the main square Praça dom Pedro IV is known as by locals. From the hotel to the train station Cais Sodré is a 20 minute walk.
Depending on how long you have there, the following can be condensed into fewer days. We enjoyed the city at our leisure and didn’t pressure ourselves into doing everything.
Day 1: With a super early flight at 6am, we just had a stroll around to find our bearings. While waiting for our room to be ready, we strolled down Avenida de Liberdade to find Fabrica da Nata, one of the main factory/cafes for the famous custard and egg tart Pasteis de Nata. These are everywhere in Lisbon but make sure you try one of the Fabricas for the best ones. They are only €1 each and have to be tried with a coffee or a port. Check out the baking trays on rotation on the ceiling also!
In the evening, it was still okay to sit outside for a drink but for food, it was more comfortable to eat inside. Walk along the main shopping street that connects Rossio to Praça de Comércio and there are plenty of restaurant options. A glass of Rosé and dinner at Bacalhau were the order of the evening. Bacalhau is only good if you like fish. Cod fish cakes are a local delicacy in Lisbon and Bacalhau does them so well. The plain cod cakes and the fried ones for starter were divine as well as the cod main courses. Be warned, if you don’t like cod, don’t go there. Their chocolate mousse however was to die for!
Day 2: Free walking tours are the best way to get to know any city on holidays and also find out some local knowledge and history. Free walking tours depart Praça de Pedro IV daily at 11am, look for them in the yellow hoodies. The Alfama tour includes the area where the castle is located and lasts 2.5 hours.
Along the tour, we stopped for a shot of the local Ginja liquor, the best way to describe it is it tastes like Christmas pudding! The tour ends near the church on the grounds where St Anthony was born so grab some food in one of the eateries around there, many offer a 3 course lunch option for €12. As always, don’t forget to tip the tour guide what you think the tour is worth. Then make your own way back finding new places and take a walk down towards Praça de Comércio to have a drink at one of the bars in the square and enjoy some people watching. Dinner was at La Vita è Bella, a great Italian! You may have to wait for a table but it will be worth it.
Day 3: If you have been to San Francisco you will have probably been on one of the trams there. These kind of trams operate as public transport in Lisbon, as well as the modern trams, but there is a historic tour tram that you can take if you don’t fancy the hop-on, hop-off bus. It’s €20 for 90 mins and departs from Praça de Comércio every 20 minutes. It’s called the Yellow Bus tour but it’s the red tram.
The only stop is at the castle so make sure you get off and go into the grounds for the best view of the city. It’s €10 to access the grounds. We found a lovely tapas place for lunch close by to the castle called Li28oa, the bruschetta was delicious! For dinner, Da Vinci was close by to the hotel and ideal for a pizza!
Day 4: Make sure and take a day trip to Cascais if you are visiting Lisbon. If we had planned correctly we could have done Belém, Sintra & Cascais in the one day. The train goes from Cais Sodré & is €5 for a return ticket, trains depart every 20 minutes and takes 45 minutes there. Cascais is beautiful and much more relaxed than the hustle and bustle of the centre of Lisbon. Take a walk through the streets to the harbour and enjoy lunch in the outside terrace of Villacascais looking out at the water. The best lunch all week! No more pricey than a nice lunch in Ireland. The hotel inside looks fab too if you were looking to stay for a night.
For dinner back in Lisbon, we tried Bonjardim after I spotted it in Nadia’s blog post about Lisbon. And honestly she was right, the best chicken! It has a real diner feel to it and the waiters know everyone is going just for the chicken. When you order you get the nicest bread rolls and a wheel of cheese! Divine! Order the half a chicken (Nadia said between 2, I ate the lot!), one chips & one spinach between two is enough for sides though. Plenty food and not expensive. Enjoy a beer with it and it’s a perfect no fuss good food meal.
Day 5: As we didn’t stop off in Belém on the way to Cascais, we decided to head there for a few hours. Again, get the same train as to Cascais, this time it was €3 each way. Walk from the train stop down to see the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, it really is spectacular.
Keep on walking then to visit the Tower of Belém. This was my favourite of the trip and just thought it was stunning watching the water around it and listening to a local musician playing the violin. It’s magical. You can queue to visit inside also.
On the way back to the train we took a detour past the palace to Pastéis de Belém, the home of the custard tart! We purchased some Pastéis de nata to eat at a nearby bench and they were just hot out of the oven! Amazing!
For lunch back in Lisbon, enjoy a tuna baguette at Porter Bistro. It’s along the walk from the train back to Praça de Comércio. Sit outside and people watch or sit inside, the bar and reataurant area are beautiful. Praça de Comércio is always a great spot if you are stuck for somewhere, there are loads of bars all around for drinks and some food.
If you are looking for somewhere special for a meal or just want a the best steak ever, you have to visit Sala de Corte. It was recommended to me and it did not disappoint. As it was a Friday night that we were looking to go, they wouldn’t take any more reservations but said to just try on the night. When we got there, they had 2 seats at the bar. Usually I wouldn’t be inclined to sit at the bar for a nice 3 course meal but after being there, I would recommend that you should! The bar you are sitting at is looking at the chefs cooking. The whole menu is different kinds of steaks and they will offer advice or show you the cuts of meat if you wish. It was fascinating watching them all do their own cooking in the ovens and serving up dish after dish. It was more of an experience than just dinner. The goats cheese to start followed by steak with rice & beans, mushrooms & asparagus & grilled tomatoes and then the berry pavlova to top it off was honestly incredible. The service of the staff was exceptional including their knowledge of wines and the food they were serving you. It’s definitely somewhere to go if you are celebrating or want a wow meal! For 3 courses with drinks, roughly €75pp.
Around the corner from Sala de Corte are lots of pubs so you can enjoy cocktails and dance the night away.
Hopefully that’s enough tips to get you booking that trip to Lisbon. Check out some more pics on my Instagram and if you do visit and of the above places, be sure to let me know.
Love from my world,