Do holidays feel a long time ago? I know, I know but with Black Friday coming up fast maybe you can find a cheap flight and jet off. I think Lisbon is a hidden gem that once visited you think why have I never been here before? It is just over two hours away from London and once you are there, it is easy to navigate, cheap in comparison to my home town and still has a real identity and feel.
It is small enough to do a day trip but you just won’t see everything OR plan a long weekend. I spent four days there solo and loved it. I went out late at night and felt very safe. Also, I also ate my body weight in ice cream, bacalhau (salted cod) and nata. A nata day is fine but two are divine, just make sure you have an exercise plan in place when you come back home!!
The metro getting from the airport to the city centre is easy to navigate.
Have cash on you, lots of places take cards but like Spain people still like to have cash.
Steer clear of the main park – everywhere is safe but that is the one bit that’s a bit dicey.
TOP TIP: Try and catch the famous tram 28 at its first or second stop (Martim Moniz) so you’ve got a chance of getting on it. Be super careful of your wallets – it is a magnet for pickpockets.
It costs €3 (have cash). I sat on the tram and rode it the entire way past the castle etc, so that I could see the areas where locals live.
Take the historic looking tram – NUMBER 28. It looks rickety but at least it takes the strain of climbing that hill. The city is built on seven hills.
You don’t need to go into the castle but the view from up there is magnificent.
Monastery = Unesco world heritage site
The monastery opens at 10am but I got there for 9.30 and then got into the queue. I think there were thirty people in front of me which was fine as it meant I could enjoy areas of the monastery without it being overrun with people. Tickets can be booked in advance but if you’re like me who doesn’t like to plan too much on holidays then don’t fear you will get in if you rock up.
Pasteis de Belem
These obscenely, delicious, sweet two mouthfuls of custard delight: the custard tart (nata).
As the story goes these were created in Belem – you’ll see the queue coming out of the original cafe. I wouldn’t bother sitting down, just do what the locals do and eat them standing up at the counter. The traditional way is to add sugar and cinnamon to them when they are still warm.
It’s next door to the monastery in Belem so you won’t miss it.
Pasteis de Nata
In the centre of Lisbon – the other great place to eat nata is Manteigaria. They have a few outlets, one of which is in the Mercado de Ribeira.
The Portuguese love their ice cream and one of the best places to eat a double scoop is at Santini. Yes, I did say double – yum!
Restaurant for Lunch
El Rei d. Franco
Everything is good here. It is owned by two sisters who started out by just grilling and frying fish – I’ve had the salt cod, sardines and even some of the fried chicken: so delicious and cheap. It is popular so you do need to queue – if there is already a line of people when you arrive make sure you go into the restaurant and tell them that you want a table for two before you join the queue. It moves fast.
Clube de Journalista
I love this place and the aubergine dish is to die for. It is so reasonable and a great entry into modern Portuguese food.
Ginjinha – is a cherry liqueur. You’ll see huts dotted around on the main squares – it cost €1 and you get a thimble full. I loved it. There are two ways of serving it either in a plastic thimble or a chocolate cup. Even though I love chocolate I found it a bit much.
Green wine – Vinho Verde – delicious white wine that is crisp and super refreshing – have lots. It comes from an area of Portugal that is wet and very green thus resulting in the unique taste. The area is protected in the same as champagne is so only wine made there can be called green wine.
White Port – there are lots of places you can try this at bars etc. A sneaky tip is to go Napoleon (wine and spirits merchant) where they have an extensive range and they are lovely in there and they will give you free samples! 70 Rue dos Fanqueiros.
Sardines / Tinned Fish
They sell these tins wrapped in paper. Pop into the Conserveria de Lisboa just to see all the various tins. It is located on 34,Rua dos Bacalhoeiros loosely translated as salt cod street. However, there are lots of stores in Lisbon selling these and it is a good way of supporting the industry.
I didn’t even know that cork trees existed until I went to Portugal. They make anything and everything you can imagine out of cork: jewellery, coasters, bags. I bought a bag and it’s very durable. I bought my bag at Cork and Co: https://corkandcompany.pt/pages/lisbon
The shop is located in the Barrio Alto area of Lisbon traditionally full of artists and has some great bars etc.
Tea towels etc
Cotton tea towels are still big business out there and these make good presents. I think a tea towel (embroidered) costs €3.