When I first went to the capital city of Lisbon, I had no idea what to expect. I admittedly didn’t even know where Portugal was located! So I really had no expectations, or I clearly didn’t pay attention in geography class. But after my first trip to Lisbon, I fell in love with the city and its people. Some of my most memorable times have been in Lisbon just strolling around through the city. As such, I wanted to share with you my 8 favorite things to do in Lisbon, so maybe you can start your own love affair too.
1. Getting Lost in Cute Alleyways
There are no shortages of cute alleyways in Lisbon. In fact, almost every area outside of the main avenue Liberdade has them. Once you get in to the Barrio Alto and Alfama districts, you’ll be greeted with charming little flats and even cuter alleyways. I got lost several times walking through the narrow streets, but to my discovery there was always some cute alleyway to appreciate and photograph. One of my favorite things to do in Lisbon is get lost and have a look around.
2. Speaking European Portuguese
I know, this sounds odd. One of my favorite things to do in Lisbon is speak the language? Yes. Portuguese is a damn beautiful language, and I had no idea until I visited Lisbon. My favorite phrases to use are ‘bom dia’ (roughy means good day) and ‘obrigada’ (thank you). They also have the most beautiful word that cannot be translated in any other language, which is ‘Saudade’. It’s an emotional state of longing or feeling nostalgic towards something. Kind of like the way I feel when I miss Lisbon. Lastly, when ordering an espresso you refer to it as a ‘bica’. Which is one of my most often used words, naturally.
3. Eat and Eat and Eat
Okay, this is probably my favorite thing to do anywhere I travel to! However, Lisbon is different. Their food is so fresh and simple, and they have some of the best seafood. I love the simplicity of ordering potatoes and veggies with my salmon, and a good glass of Portuguese wine on the side. Then, let’s not even talk about the pastries. You can never have too many Portuguese tarts. Last time I was in a cafe at 9:oopm, I ordered one of everything, literally.
4. Sunbathe at the Riberia Das Naus
The Riberia Das Naus is located just after the Praça do Comércio. There they serve wine, beer, cocktails, and coffee. It’s best described as a little kiosk for cocktails that directly overlooks the ocean. There are comfortable pool-like chairs that you can recline in and put your feet up for a breathtaking view. There is nothing better than stopping here for a midday drink and basking in the sun and ocean breeze. Catching a sunset here with a glass of wine is also amazing. It does get very crowded, but if you can grab a seat it’s one of my favorite things to do in Lisbon!
5. Looking at the Azulejos
The Azulejos are the colorfully and carefully painted ceramic tiles in Portugal and Spain. I could walk around Lisbon all day long marveling at the tile work and intricacy behind the designs. One of things I really wanted on my last visit, were some authentic Portuguese tiles. I had stopped in a small shop selling re-created tiles based on originals, and bought a few from the shop owner to place hot plates on. I asked him about the originals, to which he ever so gently pulled a few out from the back, and proceeded to tell me they were from the 17th century. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked the price. You don’t wanna know…
6. Road Tripping Along the Coast
While I adore Lisbon, I also love a good day trip along the coast. You can see some pretty incredible sites along the way. It’s not too difficult to rent a car in Lisbon, or you can also hire a driver. You will get to see some of the most amazing beaches you’ve ever seen in your life in Lagos. For a more simple day, you can drive up to Cascais and enjoy their little beach town.
7. Visiting Castles
Lisbon is blessed with a million castles, and they are all equally as beautiful as the next. My favorites around Lisbon are Belem Tower and Sao Jorge Castle. Climbing to the top of Sao Jorge gives you the most breathtaking view of all of Lisbon. Very rarely to do you get a castle smack dab in the middle of a city. For more, you can travel outside Lisbon to the magical city of Sintra, which is home to Castle of the Moors (8th century) and Pena Palace. One of my favorite things about visiting castles in Lisbon is that they are very relaxed with where you can go. There doesn’t seem to be any restricted parts in any of the castles.
8. Sipping on Bicas
The coffee culture is Lisbon is as ancient as time. The cafes are typically old and run down, and are tiny little sardine boxes. The espresso is delicious and cheap, and you need to drink it with sugar (trust me). There is just something about standing at the bar with a group of people and sipping on your ‘bica’, that makes it on to this list. The morning crowd is a lively bunch, and often times the cafes are full of people getting ready to go to work. There are lots of laughs and barely the space to stand and sip. But you just throw back your espresso, and then you are on your way.
Dear Lisbon, why are you so perfect for me? A question I’ve been wondering so much lately, as I feel more saudade as the time passes. If you ever get to visit Lisbon, definitely take your time and appreciate the little things of the Portuguese culture. There is so much to love!
Have you been to Lisbon? Which of these things do you wish you could experience?