For the past couple of years, Portugal seems to have emerged as the hot new “off the beaten path” destination in Europe. I kept hearing about Lisbon, Comporta and of course the South of Portugal where the best beaches are supposed to be, so I knew I had to go!
I spent the first 2 days of my Portugal trip in Lisbon. I arrived when the weather was scorching hot and my hotel wasn’t ready yet. I had rented a place in an aparthotel in the Alfama neighborhood (which turned out to be the best area despite the presence of some shady drug alley looking streets) and the maid only spoke Portuguese. She broke out an app and said something but the translation probably wasn’t what she was trying to tell me. I finally figured out she was trying to tell me the room wasn’t ready and to come back in few hours. After traveling many hours to get there I was totally annoyed and tired thus less then tolerant. I huffed and puffed and complained to the manager but they did nothing and just said to be patient.
After grabbing grub at a nearby restaurant, I calmed down and started to notice and enjoy this beautiful city. I was probably just really HANGRY! By the way the restaurant was amazing. It was a mom and pop joint without no sign outside. The Portuguese specialty of sardines was served alongside a glass of sangria. With some food in my stomach I finally calmed down and was able to check in.
Portugal is absolutely stunning! Moorish architecture wrapped in hand painted wall tiles, red brick rooftops and majestic mosaic lined plazas – you betcha I was going crazy taking photos. And bougainvillea everywhere I went! Super romantic city!
I was told to go to Miradouro de Santa Catarina for sunset. I walked pass the more touristy areas, the Arch, and the Justa Elevator. When I finally arrived, I realized in Lisbon, it’s not really about the sunset, but the whole experience of watching the sunset. People were hanging out with beers in their hands waiting for the sun to set. I love cities, with all there is to see, but still for me, the best spectacle is a sunset. I stopped at the Pharmacy Museum’s cool restaurant (Museu da Farmácia) for a glass of rosé and soaked in the awesome Portuguese vibe.
I hit up all the big sights in Lisbon – climbed St. George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) passing many musicians and artists on the way. It’s a great spot, with its bird’s eye view of the city. Don’t forget to check out an artist who paints with coffee.
I also visited Igreja de São Domingos, which back in the day, was the largest church in Lisbon that hosted many royal weddings, but in 1959, a fire broke out and destroyed many paintings and structures. The city restored the church but left remnants of the fire. For me it was more interesting because of that. Not many churches are still beautiful with burn stains, but this one was!
There are many must-try dishes in Lisbon. First of all, eat sardines off the grill and chase then down with sangria. Then try the bifanas, which are juicy pork steak sandwiches. There is also bacalhau, which is dried and salted cod – my favorite version was prepared with potatoes mostly. Then Pasteis de Belem, a creamy egg tart originating in Belem, an area just outside of the city proper. I went to the original pastry shop and gulped down two of these sweet treats in two nanoseconds.
Lisbon is an incredibly artistic city – with fantastic tiles, fabric, ceramics, and paintings. And these pieces are available for affordable prices everywhere. It’s also vintage heaven, especially around the Alfama area. The creative juices seemed to be flowing from every nook of this city.
I was blown away by Lisbon and I was so glad to experience this city before it gets too popular. I will be back for sure.