Oh Lisbon how much we love you! Lisbon is such a great place to get away from it all for a weekend or a week. There truly is something for everyone from the sites and the food through to the beaches and wonderful architecture and buildings adorned with stunning tiles. Honestly, you could spend an entire weekend just walking the cobbled streets staring at beautiful buildings and eating Pasteis de Nata but there is so much more to do if you are feeling adventurous.
Here are a few recommendations for the perfect weekend in Lisbon.
It is almost impossible to pass up the famous Portuguese pastel de nata (egg tarts) and if you have time to fit it in then a visit to the home of the pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém is well and truly worth it. They claim their recipe has remained unchanged since 1837 when it first opened.
If there is a group of you or you just want to try it all then the Time Out Market Lisbon is the place for you. It offers a fabulous selection lovely fresh modern food. The only real problem with it is that there is so much on offer it can be hard to decide what to get! They also offer a cookery academy where you can learn how to make the famous pastel de nata. Check out their website for what classes are on offer during your visit.
Although Ceviche hails from South America it is available quite widely in Portugal. It’s never the most economical thing to eat but in my experience it was always fresh and delicious. A Cevicheria does it well! They get busy though so you often have to wait to get a seat but it is worth the wait.
There is a great little shop below the São Jorge Castle called Nobre Povo and although is in a very tourist area it offers up some of the best ceramics in town. It has a lovely selection of modern designs and products made by local artists. It is a little too easy to walk away with a (heavy) bag of goodies!
Another of our favorites is Burel which produces beautiful products made out of wool from the Serra da Estrela mountain range. Burel uses traditional Portuguese technics to produce felt which is made into modern house hold furnishings and fashion items.
Although Conserveira de Lisboa is recommend in almost every guide book on Lisbon it is hard to pass it by! It hails from the 1930s and it sells only one product – tinned fish. The store itself feels like it has not changed since it originally opened and it offers up huge selection of different kinds of tinned fish from anchovies and sardines through to tune and mackerel.
Conserveira de Lisboa
Aside from walking through the lovely cobblestones streets eating ice cream and pastries there is so much to see in Lisbon but we have picked out a few of the highlights. First up is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo which is Portuguese for National Museum of the Azulejo, and it also known in English as the National Tile Museum. If you love all tiles that adore the buildings in the city then you will love the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. It is pretty easy to get to using public transport and it really does deliver some beautiful tile work and a fascinating insight to the history of tiles in the region.
If you like the beach then a trip to Praia de Carcavelos or one of the other beaches close to the city is well worth it. They are easy to access via pubic transport and are hustling hives of activities – great for swimming (even if the water is a little cool) and people watching. It is even possible to get off at one train stop and walk up or down the beach to the next stop.
If forts and castles are your thing then both São Jorge Castle and the Belém Tower are worth a visit. The São Jorge Castle was the ancient seat of power for Portugal for over 400 years and can easily be included in part of a city walk. It is worth the trek up the hill just for the stunning views (there is also a tram that will take you). The Belém Tower is a stunning building. It was built in the 16th century and is a UNESCO world heritage site. A Tuk Tuk Tour is a good way to get around and see some these sight if you are short on time. You can make your own itinerary and they will take you as far out at the Belém Tower and Pastéis de Belém (see food recommendations above). We recommend a Tuk Tuk Tour over the 28 Tram for two reasons. Firstly the queue for the tram can be very long and secondly if it is full it is very hard to see much from inside. From a Tuk Tuk you can see everything, stop where you want and also get local knowledge on the history, sights and local way of life.
Lisbon streets, Belém Tower, Praia de Carcavelos, Lisbon Trams, Tiles
A weird thing to recommend I know. But Figaro’s is quite the experience. It is an old school men’s only zone barber shop that offers up beer and as my children would say ‘inappropriate reading material’ while you wait. They specialize in hairstyles from the 1920’s through to the 1950’s along with hot towel straight razor shaves. There are a couple of locations and both cater to walk-ins.
Lisbon is still one of those cities that still offers up a good range of accommodation from cheap and cheerful through to high-end luxury. It is also one of those places that it doesn’t really matter where you stay there will be something intriguing in your neighbourhood. If you only have a weekend I would recommend staying closer to action in the Alfama area.
Travel directly to Humberto Delgado Airport, also known as Lisbon Airport or Portela Airport, from any major city in Europe. If you are coming from outside of Europe you often have to pass through another big city, like London, to get there. It is easy to catch public transport from the airport into Lisbon but taxis are also cost effective if there are few of you.
Rachel Nelson is a New Zealand expat who has lived and worked in the US, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar and Germany.