It seemed to boast the perfect balance of a European city but with a balmy climate, so springtime felt like a very apt time to explore.
When I travel I love to find quirky little places in local laid-back neighbourhoods. We stayed in a small boutique hotel in the sleepy yet trendy Chiado district, which seemed pretty central to everything we wanted to see. To the east we could get lost in the lovely backstreets of Alfama neighbourhood, which was like stepping back into time, and to the west was the hilltop district of Bairro Alto, brimmed with trendy restaurants and bars spilling into the narrow streets. We were also just a 5 minute walk from the beautiful Tagus River that meets the Atlantic Ocean.
During my standard pre-holiday research I soon learnt that Lisbon is a city built upon 7 hills. Crazily, their century-old trams still run in the historic quarter of Alfama. We obviously thought it would be much more fun to walk the steep hills (in 25 degrees) and take photos of the trams instead of riding in them. The views, especially from the castle are just incredible.
Lisbon’s such a laid-back city so it was quite relaxing in comparison to the usual action-packed city haunts. It’s relatively easy to explore in a couple of days as it’s quite compact, in fact we only used transport once and that was to travel a few miles down the waterfront (past the San Francisco-like suspension bridge) to the district of Belem, home to the great monuments of Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower. If we’d have had a few more days we’d have travelled to one of the beaches north of the coast, or jumped on a train to the magical Sintra which is now a UNESCO heritage site.
One fine Portuguese discovery was a Pastel de nata… which is basically a custard tart. They sell them in all the bakeries and they are amazing! Another new found love was for Azulegos (ceramic tiles) that decorate everything from walls of churches and monasteries, to palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and railway stations. A traditional art form across most of Portugal, I couldn’t help take photos of all the beautiful patterns and colour ways — a true inspiration. Nice work Lisbon!