Lisbon, tipped as one of the coolest cities in Europe right now, is a mosaic of red roofs, majestic facades, grand avenues and cobbled streets. From its impressive architecture, to delicious local tasty snacks, guest blogger, Georgie, guides us through Portugal’s capital.
The buildings and roads of this coastal and hilly capital resemble that of an old European city, but the atmosphere and sentiment of the ‘Lisbonites’ is anything but old. Walking around this city you can feel the energy and pride of its residents; proud to finally be recognised by its European neighbors as a city bursting with beauty, and oozing with culture.
As you wander the streets of the colorful city you can see nothing but blue above you and an entire palette of colors in front of you. The famous azulejos (tile-works) seen all over Lisbon are so striking close up, and only in person can you inspect the intricacy and thoughtfulness behind every design. Brightly colored grand buildings stand tall yet hide under dirty, delicate roof tiles that appear like a sea of red from the miradouras (viewing points) above.
But in Lisbon, there is more to do than just look. One can appreciate the rich history of Portugal during a visit to the Castle of Sao Jorge. This castle was the ancient seat of power for over four hundred years, and although much of it was restored in the 1920s, the work hasn’t taken anything away from the original charm and charisma of the castle walls and watchtowers. It is also perfectly situated in Alfama, one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, a maze of narrow, cobbled and steep streets which wind their way past many historically important buildings, including the church of Santo António and the National Pantheon of Lisbon.
Visitors to Lisbon also have the choice to turn a city-break into a beach-break, by taking a 40 minute train ride from Cais do Sodre station in central Lisbon to Cascais; a beautifully picturesque and classic seaside town. The train ride itself follows the stream of the River Tagus as it spills into the Atlantic Ocean, allowing passengers to daydream, watching the haze of the Portuguese countryside pass outside of the window for the entire journey.
At night, the city’s bars and restaurants come alive. From the traditional haunts of Portuguese locals to the chic establishments of professionals meeting for after-work drinks and the authentic spots buzzing with the life and soul of Portuguese tipples and treats. The city’s cobbled streets cater for everyone, on every budget. But it’s not only the streets that provide the best watering holes and restaurants; due to Lisbon’s many hills, a number of stunning views are on offer and need to be taken advantage of. The many rooftop bars in the city offer mouth-watering cocktails, a friendly atmosphere and endless views across the carpet of red roofs. One of my favorite bars was modestly called Park Bar, and surprisingly enough was located at the top of a car park in Baixa Chiado, one of the central districts of Lisbon.
Lisbon is also famous for its ‘Pasteis de Nata’, or more simply put: a much improved and luxurious version of a custard tart. Most tourists will head to the beautiful district of Belem to visit the grand and extravagant Jeronimo Monastery, renowned for its pristine gardens and stunning views across the Tagus River, but a visit to the famous Pasteis de Belem patisserie is not to be missed. They are said to be the masters of the delicacy, using a secret recipe that only three chefs know at any given time. However, my tip would be to avoid the queues at this patisserie and enjoy a far superior pasteis, in my opinion, at least, and visit the Manteigaria, a small and modern factory located in Baixa, and definitely don’t scrimp on optional the icing sugar and cinnamon dusting. A lip-smackingly good treat!
Lisbon really has it all, from culture to cuisine, there is simply something for everyone. I would recommend visiting in May or early June as July sees the small cobbled streets become very crowded.