The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon
I can’t believe that it’s taken until now to visit Lisbon. Because oh my, it is beyond beautiful.
At the start of the year, when you’re itching to book your travel plans, Kim and I were discussing how the other halves were away a lot on stags/work trips, so we decided to browse for flights, and came across some fairly cheap ones to Lisbon at the end of April. And within minutes had booked them.
And I’m so glad we did. I simply cannot talk highly enough about Lisbon, I really can’t.
Except my only advice - wear sensible shoes. Sandals are all cute for holiday vibes and all that, but cobbled hilly streets don’t mess around. Like really don’t!
Sensible shoes packed, here’s my Ultimate Guide to everything we did in Lisbon.
Stay at The Indy House
We’d browsed around a few places, and couldn’t decide between here or Santa Clara (which is beautiful!), and ended up settling on The Indy House mainly because of the fun wallpaper, and simple vibes. The room was perfect for us to have as a base, and we were lucky enough to be given the room with the private balcony overlooking the terrace which is perfect to catch some evening sun.
Whilst the bathrooms are fairly small, in reality you’re really not spending much time in there, and the friendly staff make up for this, aswell as being only a 15 minute walk to the centre of the city. I’d definitely recommend this place (and of course the flamingo room!)
Have a tasty lunch at Basilio
Within hours of only landing in the city, as soon as we’d checked in, we headed to Basilio for a spot of lunch. It was a cool atmosphere, with a slight feeling of LA vibes reflecting in the interior. The food choice was definitely plentiful, and after debating for a while, we both opted for their salad bowls, although the breakfast dishes looked very delicious! It’s just a little out of the centre, but only by a 5 minute walk, but is well worth a visit whether it’s breakfast or lunch!
Hunt out the tram spots
Of course this really isn’t a difficult one, when Lisbon is oozing with trams, but finding those particular spots is worth the sight. We actually stumbled upon one of them by pure coincidence after hiking down a pretty steep hill - and spotted a huge crowd, so wondered what the fuss was, until we saw the tram parked up! Not only filled with tourists capturing images, the locals love to sit on the steps enjoying drinks from the bars down the street.
Visit Time Out Market
We didn’t actually stay here that long, or really try anything as we’d only just eaten lunch, but everyone and their nana recommended Time Out Market. It’s full of many places to choose from, with bars dotted around also. It’s certainly somewhere you could lose a fair few hours in…
Enjoy a drink up in Insolito Bar
The Insolito Bar is actually part of The Independente Collective where we stayed, so we were interested to try this out. Once you’ve gotten over the fear of the very old lift to take you up a few floors, Insolito overlooks the Rossio area, with great views of the city (and the coast too), and do a wide range of cocktails. The decor inside is great too, and whilst we didn’t eat, the menu is extensive with plenty of fish options. And in true style, I couldn’t resist an Aperol Spritz because of that warm sun making me feel well and truly in holiday mode!
Take a day trip to Sintra
Well this was one that we’d heard and seen about, however did not research properly. We managed to get the train from Lisbon to Sintra fairly easily (there’s a huge queue at the station so be prepared for that!), and as we arrived in Sintra we saw endless queues to get on the bus up towards Pena Palace. Being us, we decided that we could just walk it, but after half an hour and everyone we pass putting us off the walk, we turned back and went in search of a taxi. A taxi cost us more than the bus, but regardless of what you arrive in, you’ll be queueing to get up the road as it’s a one way. Once there, we were greeted with another huge queue for tickets, so my advice is to order these online to save forty minutes! BUT also, the next part is where we were the most disappointed as once through with tickets, we were greeted by another queue which apparently was to get into the actual palace - and would be nearly a 2 hour wait! Deflated, hungry and feeling we’d not gotten much further, we headed towards the cafe to refuel and think what we wanted to do. Here we got a tip off - if you’re in the cafe, you can access the palace terrace and skip the queues. Music to our ears!!
You know what though, Pena Palace is beautiful it is, and the colours and tiles are so incredible to admire, and the views are breathtaking, they really are. But the thing we loved the most, was the gardens which were beyond amazing - we could have easily lost an afternoon here! We actually then decided to hike down through the gardens, because downhill is always easier than up!
My advice is just to book as much online as you can, and be prepared to queue!
Our taxi driver had told us about Quinta da Regaleira, which we knew nothing of so as we hiked down from Pena Palace, we came towards Quinta and without a queue, headed inside. The gardens were mysterious, magical and had a very gothic feel. There are caves, waterfalls and grand statues which will play with your imagination, and this is somewhere I would definitely recommend visiting!
Sintra itself as a town is also quaint, cute and very delightful. Once you’ve wandered around the national parks, stay around here for some lunch, drinks and also make sure to try a Travesseiros from Piriquita - it’s a famous landmark in Sintra, and is well known for this dessert which is made of puff pastry with an almond cream filling!
Dine alfresco at Boa Bao
Whilst we probably didn’t take the traditional food approach (I don’t eat meat or fish, so we were pretty restricted), you can never go wrong with Asian cuisine, and let me tell you that Boa Bao did not disappoint at all. We’d even go as far to say that this was our favourite meal of our trip. We sat outside in the square, drank cocktails and wine, and enjoyed dim sum (my first time), pad thai and spring rolls!
Order as many flavours as you can from Santini
You can’t go to Lisbon, or on holiday for that matter, and not order ice cream! Kim had been recommended Santini, so after dinner we headed here to sample some of their flavours. We went for caramel and vanilla, and apple and mango and both were delicious and the perfect after dinner treat.
Brunch at Cafe Janis
Cafe Janis is not just aesthetically pleasing, but the staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is just what you need to kickstart your morning. We had a slow morning here, and drank smoothies and tea, and tucked into a cheese, pancetta and mushroom toastie and avocado on toast whilst chatting with the staff and admiring the interior. If I lived in Lisbon, I 100% know I’d be here a lot…
MUST visit Pastéis de Belém
Home to the original pastel de nata, Pastéis de Belém began in 1837. 1837!! Following an ancient recipe from the Jeronimos Monastery, the secret recipe is recreated everyday still in their bakery by hand, using only traditional methods. We queued to order 4 boxes to bring home (we couldn’t get enough) before heading inside, to find a table to enjoy a fresh warm one. Honestly, if you don’t visit here, then did you even visit Lisbon? HA.
Wander around Feira de Ladra
Located in the Alfama district (which is gorgeous by the way), is the famous Feira da Ladra market, which is a major flea market selling a mixture of homeware, clothing, antiques, books and media. It’s only open on a Tuesday and Saturday, but if you’re around then it’s certainly worth a wander through purely for the bustling atmosphere and array of stalls.
Get lost in the beautiful streets of Alfama
My favourite area of the whole city, Alfama is just full of endless discovery. As we wandered into the area, we were greeted with pedestrian streets, small corners and restaurants dotted throughout. You really can wander around here for ages, and just admire all of the beautiful facades, soaking up the true Lisbon culture, and getting plenty of opportunity for that tram on the track photo shot!
Soak up the sun and cocktails at Park Bar
Once you’ve finally realised that you actually just go up in the car park lift to the top floor, you’ll come across Park Bar which has amazing views over Lisbon. It’s a sun trap, with amazing cocktails and a really cool vibe. You know that as soon as you’ve ordered your first drink, you’ll soon lose track of time up here, but in all of the good ways!
Order too many dishes at Tapas n Friends
No really do! Kim and I are such over orderers, and as we settled on our choices, the waitress at Tapas n Friends told us than unless we were mega hungry, we’d ordered too much. Was he right? Most probably, but we definitely could have added on the bruschetta that we sacked off - although bruschetta aside, the rest of the dishes were perfect for our last night in the city. Again we sat outside in the square, with blankets and patio heaters to keep us warm, reflecting on our trip. There’s a few Tapas n Friends located around the city, which always shows that’s a good sign!
Breakfast date at Dear Breakfast
We couldn’t leave Lisbon without one last breakfast, so we headed to Dear Breakfast (which also has Cherie Paloma, that we looked at too). We had to wait for a table, which is never a bad thing, and as soon as our rancheros and smoothies arrived, we completely understood why everyone came here! Breakfast dates are some of my favourite.
So if you’re heading to Lisbon anytime soon, take me with you next time yeah?