Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and one of the oldest European cities dating back to 1200 BC. A cultural hub featuring plenty of history and a city center boasting incredible food and hospitality, it is the absolute perfect city to explore! Below is a short list of Europe Expert, Haile‘s must do items while you’re visiting Europe’s sunniest city.
Ride the tram
Lisbon is fondly known as the city of seven hills, referring to the steep hills leading from the river to the different neighborhoods of the city. Since 1873 the beloved trams have been an integral part in transportation offering passage to areas of the city that lack metro accessibility. Lisbon is the only city in Europe to still employ these antiques because they can navigate the undulating tracks and tight corners in the historic sections of the city. In fact, the tracks leading up to the Alfama neighborhood, one of the oldest and most well-known locations in the city, are the steepest in the world. The turns made by the tram just avoid scraping the ancient overhanging buildings. Hands down the most popular tram line is E28, which passes monuments such as the ancient Se Cathedral and heads into the bustling neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Alfama. Make sure throughout your journey you get off the tram to explore as well!
Visit the Bairro Alto and Chiado Neighborhoods
According to locals, Bairro Alto is the nightlife neighborhood hub that you can’t pass up for a night on the town. Packed with small bars, trendy restaurants and Fado houses, this is the place to be once the sun goes down. Aside from the nightlife, Bairro Alto features historic locations such as Carmo Convent, and Loja das Conservas that are worth a visit. Often compared to Paris’ Montmarte district is the chic and classic shopping neighborhood, Chiado. Showcasing cafes that housed renowned writers such as Fernando Pessoa and Eca de Queiroz, there is a truly cosmopolitan feel to this area of the city. The streets are lined with charming book shops and lively theaters. Chiado even contains the site of the Ancient Art Museum and the city’s oldest restaurant, Tavares.
Pair your Dinner with a Fado Show
Rife with hauntingly beautiful notes of melancholy and longing is the traditional Portuguese art of singing Fado. The music genre can be traced back to 1820 but is thought to have roots much earlier than that. Fado generally consists of a singer, one or two 12 string guitars, one or two violas and sometimes a small 8 string bass. Performed solely in Portuguese, the singer will convey a story of monumental and permanent loss or the difficult realities and hardships of life. In Portuguese the word for this feeling of longing for something different is “suadade”, regardless of any language barrier, this feeling is directly transferred from the singer to the audience through the intense emotion she displays which washes over those listening. Often you can find Fado performances paired with dinner at restaurants in Lisbon, be sure to attend!
Take a day trip to discover Sintra
Step into a world of whimsy and magic as you go back in time and visit multiple castles from times past. Romanticism style and colorful architecture showcases the elaborate design inspired by a love for art, and the mystery surrounding ancient cultures in the 19th century. More than ten national monuments can be toured in this small town, anything from fantastic palaces to ruins of ancient castles are available to visit. The Pena Palace boasts flamboyant, vivid colors of yellow, red, and blue and a mix of decorative battlements and statues depicting mythology. The Pena Palace is the most recognized castle in this town. Other sights in Sintra that are not to be missed include: Gothic styled National Palace, the top choice for residency for Portuguese nobility in the 15th – 19th centuries, the ancient walls remaining from Moors castle, picturesque with dense forests overgrown around the walls and the Quinta Regaleira with elaborate gardens filled with mystic symbols and concealed features such as hidden tunnels.
Taste Pastel de Nata
Known originally as “Pasteis de Belem”, these sweet treats were sold by Monks out of the general store connected to a sugar refinery located next to the famed Jeronimos Monastery. When all convents and monasteries were shut down in 1834, Monks sold the pastries to make ends meet, never predicting that they would sky rocket to popularity. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, this pastry consists simply of egg yolks, sugar, flour and lemon zest. Lines form outside of the original shop to sell these tasty delights; however, they are available all over the city and even in the countryside. Pasteis de Belem are served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. A tip from someone who took every opportunity she got to eat this treat, try it warm with a little cinnamon on top!