In a week I am flying to Lisbon for a few days of sun, sand and Vinho Verde. We’ve rented a minuscule (cosy!) AirBnB apartment in Estrela and I am already dreaming of taking the train to Estoril to read on the beach, of photographing all the psychedelic tiles (me) and eating all the seafood (him). Also on my list: the cavern-like setting of this glorious bookshop which I didn’t make it to last time, and a ferry ride across the Tagus river! In honour and anticipation of my upcoming trip, I thought I’d post a little guide to the Portuguese capital, tips gleaned from my inaugural visit back in 2014. Have you been to Lisboa? What would you recommend seeing, eating, doing, experiencing?
The buildings are covered in tiles. Tiles are an important part of Lisbon’s cultural history (there’s even a national museum dedicated to the beauties) and it’s impossible to walk a few steps in Lisbon without being bombarded by this visual feast. My favourites are the classic blue and whites, evoking dainty porcelain plates, and the deep forest green patterns. The colourful azulejos are such a big part of what makes Lisbon such a vibrant, striking and beautiful city. (Don’t you just love the matching pipework, above?)
The city is awash with blooms. When I last visited the city, in February 2014, I flew from a London plucked straight from Bleak House, all austere skies and nagging rain. Lisbon, in contrast, was a breezy seventeen degrees, warm enough for open-toed shoes, orange trees ripe for harvesting on every street corner. The sky was blue, the bougainvillea scenting the air and al fresco dining was expected, if not necessitated. Lisbon’s Jardim Botanico is well worth a visit in any season, even while winter whips more northern European climes, and I can’t wait to see the city and all of its blooms in true spring.
It has a romantic, old world feel. In 2014, wandering the city centre streets with a broken heart, I was touched by the city’s romantic aura. In Baixa I noticed a bunch of brilliant pink roses strapped carefully to a bicycle’s handlebars – and my heart just about melted. Hilly Lisbon is full of stairs and mostly devoid of cars, which makes it even quieter and more beautiful. It’s a city where you can hear you own thoughts and quiet nooks to sneak away for a private kiss are everywhere. The crumbling facades and white sheets hung out to dry just added to the soft, whimsical atmosphere. It’s a city to fall in love with, and in.
The views are out-of-this-world. See below (!)
It’s affordable. Among Europe’s capital cities, Lisbon (even with the presently unfavourable exchange rate) is staggeringly good value for money. Inns or rental apartments for two can cost as little as 20 euros per night. The plentiful seafood, pastries and Vinho Verde is cheap but no less delicious for it and the city is small enough to stroll around (bring sensible shoes, there are some serious hills!)
Have I convinced you, yet…?