I visited Lisbon back in October 2016 but it seemed only right to follow on from my Take A Break on a Budget blog post with this one. Besides the odd school trip abroad, Lisbon was my first proper city break and alongside my family it was up to us to explore this city for ourselves and discover what it had to offer. Perfect for those that like to mix historical culture with modern vibes, we concluded Lisbon has it all. Not only that, but it’s the perfect place to take a trip to without breaking your bank. So, taken from my own experience, here are seven top tips to ensure you make the most of a visit to The City of Seven Hills… Take a ride on Tram 28
Watching the pretty 1930s yellow Remodelado trams was like stepping into the scene from a postcard from Lisbon. With a window seat, be prepared to relish the views that Lisbon boasts. As the longest route in Lisbon, taking a ride on the Tram 28 is an ideal way to take in all Lisbon has to offer from the backstreets of Alfama to the Santa Luzia viewpoint and Se Cathedral for just €2.85 (or this experience is inclusive in the €6.00 travel pass offering unlimited travel on all buses and metro journeys in Lisbon for 24-hours). The number 28 tram departs from the north of Baixa at Praça do Martim Moniz.
Eat at Time-Out Market
Situated a short walk away from the Cais do Sodré metro station is Time-Out Market. It aims to combine the art of fine dining with on-the-go street classics, letting the diner indulge in as many dishes as they can manage. From Portuguese classics to burgers, seafood and chicken in the home country of peri-peri, Time-Out Market has it all under one roof with 30 different places to dine. It’s perfect for trying new Portuguese dishes; we sampled the food at Cozinha da Felicidade (that’s Kitchen of Happiness to us) and it lived up to its name entirely. It’s ideal for families with a variety of preferences and favourites. www.timeoutmarket.com/en
Visit the Oceanarium
If you have time during your stay in Lisbon, a trip to the Oceanário de Lisboa will not leave you disappointed. As the home to 16,000 animals and 450 species, the Oceanarium is the largest of its kind in Europe. It offers a unique experience in and amongst penguins, otters, rays and sharks just to name a few, away from the sightseeing element of your stay. Not only did I find its tropical species absolutely fascinating, but the take-home message from the oceanarium has stuck with me. Its wall-art perfectly states: “Stop and listen. Nature is a great teacher. Live simply.” A trip to the oceanarium is a perfect way to appreciate the great teacher. https://www.oceanario.pt/en
Use the Elevador de Santa Justa
I highly recommend using the Elevador de Santa Justa to take in the views Lisbon has to offer from the São Jorge Castle to the Tagus River. Located within the buildings of the Baixa Pombalina in Sacramento, the lift is a 19th Century architectural beauty. The elevator offers the opportunity to enjoy views from two viewpoints. After taking the lift to the first stop, visitors can stand and admire the views from a high height safely guarded by lattice beams. Then, those feeling a little more adventurous can take the spiral staircase to the terrace for even higher views (this is not for those weak at the knees when faced with heights!) From the terrace, a bridge connects the viewpoint to a walk-way back down to the lower streets of Baixa. The labrinyth of windy roads and sidestreets back down to the ground give a real sense of adventure.
Take a trip to Belém
If time is on your side and there’s a day spare for a trip further afield, Belém is a must-see. It’s a half an hour ride away on the 15E bus from Cais do Sodré and is home to Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery and Padrão dos Descobrimentos (a landmark for Henry the Navigator that offers yet another great viewpoint of the capital for just €4) so it’s perfect for those that want to gain some cultural and historical background knowledge. And to truly get a feel for Lisboeta tradition, it’s only right, of course, that you indulge in the famous pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart. For the perfect pastel de nata, visit Pastéis de Belém. Open since 1837, this pastelaría made the first original pastels de nata using a secret recipe. The simplicity of the pastel makes it a delicious treat. Then, finish the day with a stroll along the shore. www.pasteisdebelem.pt/en
Drink in a Fado House
One of Lisbon’s best known traditions is its style of music: Fado. Fado is a style of song that can be about any topic but in popular belief, fado is based on melancholy music and lyrics about loss and mourning. Whilst not necessarily the cheeriest of experiences, fado must be heard and appreciated when relishing the Lisboeta culture. Find a fado house, grab a shot of ginjinha – Lisbon’s extremely strong cherry liqueur – and take in the notes of fado to truly get to grips with Lisbon’s culture and history.
Ride a Tuk-Tuk
It’s not a traditional feature of Lisbon’s culture but around the area of Baixa, streets are lined with tuk-tuks. I recommend a tuk-tuk ride on your last day in Lisbon as the drivers offer you a variety of routes to take, so you can personalise the route for you based on the places you still haven’t visited, as we did. We were taken on a route to the cathedral, through the streets of Alfama and then up to the highest viewpoint in the whole of the city to take in some last minute views. Drivers usually charge about €50 for an hour’s journey but in my opinion it’s well worth it.
One of the many views on our journey
Lisbon’s a place absolutely scattered in style and sophistication in its more modern areas like Praça do Comércio but its historical landmarks are a kind reminder of its story as a city rebuilt following the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake. So, grab a travel pass and explore this city and all it has to offer. You will not be disappointed.