Lisbon is like a breath of fresh air that fills you with that profound and pure happiness surrounded by love. Lisbon wakes up the child in you who wants to dance in the streets, laugh with all his heart and embrace the good in people one more time. The colors add to this insanely beautiful spectacle of light. The bohemian vibe floats in the air and you start dancing…
I have wanted to see Lisbon for a long time and I have found the celebration of my 30th birthday the perfect opportunity to do this. The minute I arrived, I smiled at the colorful walls of the airport, the artsy subway covered in drawings and stunning art, the colorful houses and the warmth of the people.
My stay at Unique Lisbon Rooms made this trip even better. Located in the historic old town, I was very close to most of the attractions and the famous yellow tram number 28 was passing right in front of my window. The room was so spacious, with tall ceiling and an incredibly cute small balcony that made me feel like I was living in an authentic Lisbon home, making my whole experience even better.
The place is about a 15 minutes walk to the famous Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon.
Lisbon wasn’t always as we know it today and before, Alfama was in fact the entire city. What is even more fascinating is that it is one of the few parts of Lisbon that wasn’t destroyed by the earthquake in 1755 that shattered the city. You can imagine how rich in culture and architecture is this neighborhood today.
The name “Alfama” comes from “al-hamma,” which is an Arabic word that means fountains or baths. There is a strong Moorish influence here, like you will find in the south of Spain, in cities like Seville, where the Moors ruled for centuries.
Here is where you will probably see more tilled buildings and all those narrow streets that go up and down. The district starts from the Tagus River and goes all the way to São Jorge Castle, which I recommend to visit in the afternoon in order to catch the gorgeous sunset from up there.
São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle is an impressive Moorish castle that overlooks the Alfama district and actually, the entire Lisbon. No matter if you are into medieval castles or not, you have to visit it just for the views.
Actually, there isn’t much of it to visit inside, so basically the visit goes around the walls of the fortress and you can climb all the towers and have a 360 degrees view of Lisbon. Nonetheless, it worths every cent as the views are spectacular! You will also have plenty of material for your Instagram feed 🙂
Don’t miss the lovely red truck where you can taste the best Portuguese wine, called Wine With a View.
I am sure you know it, if you have been to Lisbon, as they can be found at Belém as well and now in the brand new restaurant & bar Wine With a View Avenida. I loved so much their concept and the wine that I had to get to know them better and share their story.
Belém is a beautiful district, famous for all the museums and monuments that you can find in the area from the Belém Tower to the palace and the Jerónimos Monastery. The tower is a must-see, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. It is an impressive fortification from the 16th century that served as the main embarking point for all the explorers. It was also where celebrations were made when explorers or sailors were coming back after their long journeys.
You can explore it down to the last detail and climb its floors up to the roof terrace where you can enjoy more stunning views of Lisbon and closely see Ponte 25 de Abril, the famous bridge that resembles incredibly well the renown Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Explore the Miradouros
A “miradouro” is a viewpoint and Lisbon has plenty of those. São Jorge Castle and the Belém Tower offer stunning views, but there are more viewpoints to explore across the city.
From Miradouro das Portas do Sol to Miradouro de Santa Catarina and Miradouro da Graça, there are more than 10 viewpoints in Lisbon where you can take in all its beauty and color, while sipping a glass of wine or sangria. Elevador de Santa Justa is also one of the best viewpoints of Lisbon.
This is probably the most famous symbol of the city. When you think about Lisbon, the first image that pops in mind is the vintage yellow tram number 28 with wooden-framed open windows, that rides up and down the hills of vibrant Lisbon.
Similar to San Francisco, the image of the yellow tram that makes its way up the narrow pebble roads of the Alfama neighborhood is legendary and you will find it in every souvenir shop.
Since the tram is still part of the public transportation in Lisbon, the ticket is less than 2 euros and locals use it every day to go from one place to another. This may be more difficult now for them, as the tram is filled with tourists and sometimes the line is huge. But it’s totally worth it and try to catch a seat at the window 😉
Mercado da Ribeira
Mercado da Ribeira, also known now as the Time Out Market is a unique concept that gathers the best chefs, bartenders, restaurants, events – basically the best food & drinks in Lisbon – under the same roof.
The market has a huge history, being mentioned for the first time in 1100. In 1600, it was already known as one of the best markets, even abroad. But the devastating earthquake in 1755 destroyed this landmark too. Years later, a new market is build near the old spot and it quickly turns into a network of markets and by 1930 becomes again a symbol of the city.
The Time Out publication wins a competition in 2010 and it takes over the market, turning it into a modern hub of restaurants and pubs, very vibrant and dynamic, where you can eat amazing food at decent prices. Lots of events happen very often and almost every day you can see interviews going on, photo shootings and more.
While you are there, don’t forget to check out the Pink Street that is just around the corner, 3 minutes away from the market.
Edward VII Park
The largest park in the center of Lisbon, Edward VII Park offers more stunning views. Being built on 7 hills, just like Rome, Lisbon never disappoints when it comes to the views that it unveils.
The park is free to the public and you can just take a stroll and enjoy the fresh air and the neatly cut box gardens that seem like a mosaic when you look at them from the viewpoint.
If you walk down to the river, you will also discover a more luxurious part of Lisbon with fancy restaurants, 5 star hotels and lots of high-end shops of European designers and famous fashion brands.
Discover Street Art
Lisbon is such an artistic adventure and it is not only about the colorful buildings, but also about the amazing street art that greets you at every step. From cool doodles to large art murals, you will get your dose of daily inspiration just by walking around the city.
One mural that I particularly liked was the “Lisbon Story” made by the illustrator Nuno Saraiva. You can find it close to Miradouro das Portas do Sol, on the Arch of Rua Norberto de Araujo and it describes in a very humorous manner the story of Lisbon from its beginnings until recent times.
Praça do Comércio
The open large square is an amazing place to just relax, enjoy the sun – because probably there will be sun while you are in Lisbon – watch the diversity of people passing by in their colorful clothes and boho accessories. Pause for one second to take in the greatness of the place. The best part is that you can go very close to the river and there are also stairs that go down the water, so you can really feel this Bohemian mood that Lisbon definitely offers.
Trip to Sintra & Pena Palace
You have seen this colorful castle many times, I am sure. It is one of the most photographed landmarks nowadays, due to its stunning colors that make it such a perfect shot for Instagram. However, it is incredibly crowded so you have to be there very early to catch those perfect shots.
If you are in Lisbon, you definitely need to take a 1-day trip to Sintra and see both Pena Palace and the gardens around. Mornings are probably always foggy, but I was lucky enough to catch a superb weather afterwards. In summer, the weather is better. I have visited it in October and while Lisbon is still hot then, for Sintra do pack a light jacket and definitely longer pants and not shorts like I chose to wear. Yes, I was quite stylish and the photos came up great, but I was freezing my ass, have to admit 🙂
Cabo da Roca
While you are in Sintra, catch the bus and go to Cabo da Roca too. It is the westernmost point of Europe and even of the Eurasian land mass. The views are absolutely breathtaking!
There isn’t much to do there, so you can visit it in 1-2 hours. You will walk on the margins of the cliffs and be amazed by the delightful views. Prepare for windy weather as the currents are insane! Don’t go without a jacket, even in those pleasant summer days!
Swim in the ocean at Cascais!
Depending on the time you have in Lisbon, you can plan your trip and either see Sintra, Cabo da Raco and Cascais in the same day, because they are very close or dedicate a full day to Cascais. This is what I did!
It was 16th of October and the weather was perfect for swimming and laying in the sun! The beach is incredible and even if you haven’t prepared for this and don’t have with you beach towels or hats, there are plenty of shops there and you can get anything at incredibly low prices.
It was my first swim in the ocean and it was absolutely amazing! The water is definitely colder than the sea and much more agitated, but you truly feel the power of the Atlantic Ocean. It is perfect for surfing as well and the beach was full of surfers!
Things You Should Know about Lisbon
- It is the oldest city of Western Europe and one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 1200 BC
- Lisbon is build on seven hills, just like the famous European cities Rome, Istanbul and Moscow
- Fado originated in Lisbon and it is still one of the musical genres that you will hear the most here
- There are 214 football clubs registered in Lisbon and here you will find the renown Stadium of Light, one of the largest football stadiums in Europe
- The oceanarium holds over 16,000 animals and 450 species, making it one of the largest in Europe
- The raven is the official symbol of the city and it comes from an old legend that says two ravens traveled with the body of São Vicente, who is the patron of Lisbon
- The Vasco da Gama Bridge, the second most important bridge in Lisbon after Ponte 25 de Abril, is actually the longest bridge in Europe, with about 10 miles / 16 km. The Guinness Book Of Records mentions here about an enormous dinner of 15,000 people that took place – yes, that’s right! – on the bridge in 1998, when it was inaugurated.
- Lisbon is also in the Guinness Book of Records with the longest construction site. Santa Engrácia Church was started in 1681 and was finished in 1966
- The largest casino in Europe is also in Lisbon. Well, I didn’t know about this one and I really have to add it to my bucket list next time I am in Lisbon. Save some cash and visit the Estoril Casino in Lisbon!
- The yellow trams that look so alike with the trams from San Francisco, are actually inspired by those. The first trams that started to work in 1873 were actually called Americanos.
- John Malkovich owns one restaurant in Lisbon: Bica do Sapato and is part-owner of the club Lux-Frágil.