When you think of Portugal, most people think of villa holidays on the Algarve. In the past few years, Lisbon and Porto have finally been recognised for being fantastic holiday spots in their own right. Incredibly affordable compared to their Spanish and Italian counterparts, they offer a great alternative for the thrifty traveler.
I have visited Lisbon twice, both times coordinating it with the Optimus (NOS) Alive music festival. Both times I fell in love with this city, and I am desperate to go back. I also spent a few days in Porto on a city break. While I enjoyed it, I would still recommend Lisbon out of the two.
Lisbon really is the city that has it all. Perched overlooking the city on the hill is the Barrio Alto, often referred to as the ‘Old Town’. This was the only part of Lisbon that survived the city’s numerous earthquakes and fires. Comprised of winding cobbled streets and hidden shops, it’s the place to eat local food and listen to some atmospheric Fado music.
The rest of the city was designed and built after the earthquake of 1755, giving the city a very ordered feeling. The roads often feel unnaturally straight, at least to a Brit! During the summer months, the boulevards often have pop-up cafes, which are a beautiful place to enjoy a coffee (or wine if you’re me!) under the leafy shaded trees while watching city life unfold around you.
Why Is Lisbon So Great?!
A short train ride away is the area of Cascais. This is Lisbon’s closest beach and is consequently often very overcrowded. The area is cute, with the undeniable air of a seaside resort. If you are there in summer it is definitely worth the short train ride and we stumbled upon some adorable roof-top cafes where we enjoyed iced teas in the sea breeze. There also seems to be a lot of international food on offer.
One of the most famous landmarks is the Castle. Observing Lisbon perched atop a hill, it is a great place to enjoy some superb views of Lisbon. While I paid to go in, I mostly enjoyed exploring the grounds than anything else.
If you fancy venturing further afield there the old Expo area, where the ‘fair’ was held in. Here you can find shopping malls, open spaces, and a superb aquarium (although some of the exhibits are little questionable.) It is a great way to explore the modern face of Lisbon.
During the day, Lisbon can often feel a bit sleepy during the day, but the city really comes alive at night. The city is packed full of traditional bars and glitzy clubs. We went to the K Urban Beach club, which has the atmosphere of an Ibiza club, with the sea coming into the club! We opted to join a bar crawl (not my idea!) but it actually turned out to be a great way to discover new places.
When people ask for European city recommendations, Lisbon is always the city I suggest first. It is a beautiful place, with something for everyone.