Sometimes a place becomes special to you, not because of the city itself and the things you see, but because of the people you meet and the experiences you have with them. That’s Lisbon for me; it is a very special city. Here are 13 reasons why…
I suppose I should thank my hostel for the wonderful people I met during my stay in Lisbon. I made some extremely good friends who I know I’ll see again, and I also encountered people from countries across the world who I had great times with. I felt I was constantly busy spending time with people, chatting, relaxing, doing trips and seeing the wonderful city. How great is it to travel solo?!
2 Belting out songs in numerous languages in a Portuguese restaurant
I felt truly happy when sitting in a small restaurant on a sofa alongside an Aussie, German, Swiss and Canadian singing with a Portuguese woman who had tailored her songs after asking us our nationalities. We discovered this lovely little place, called Patio do Bairro, in the heights of Bairro Alto and hearing the live music we headed in for a drink. Turned out to be the best night of all of our trips so far. We tried and failed to sing Portuguese, even with lyrics, and then she began to sing English songs for us. She even threw in some French and Italian for us to have a go at. She was a wonderful singer and the whole atmosphere was made even better by the large local family celebrating a birthday. I felt so at home in this foreign but familiar country.
3 Graffiti gallery disguised as a car park
Within Lisboa Parking, a 6 storey car park hidden in the tangled city streets, are walls of colourful artwork from various artists. Not only this but on the top of the car park is a stunning viewpoint across the Lisbon, perfect for catching a sunset, as we did.
4 Local flea market
I love markets and go searching for them everywhere. We were told about this one by the guide and were not disappointed when we got there! It stretched for ages and people were buying all sorts. I managed to find some postcards written on decades ago – my favourite kind – and added to my foreign comics collection. It happens on Tuesday and Thursday and is located right next to the Panteao National. The market gave me a chance to work on my Portuguese skills, and realise that I have none.
5 Pastries all day
Portugal and pastries go hand in hand and made my stay in Lisbon even better. Pasteis de Nata is a custard tart, common in Portugal and essential in Lisbon. There are entire pastry shops dedicated to this tiny treat and I visited 3 of them. My favourite was Manteigaria located in Bairro Alto. I can’t even explain the taste explosion, but I quickly became addicted.
6 Terrifying tram ride
Trams are a symbol of Lisbon, the colourful carriages transporting people up and around the hills that the city is built on. Of course I had to use one before I left. Tram 28 runs between Praça do Martim Moniz and Bairro Alto and passes through many beautiful districts in Lisbon, lasting around 40 minutes. The reality of the ‘enjoyable’ tram ride is that aside from the 20 people seated, everyone else stands tenuously hanging on to anything in reach whilst the tram jolts it’s way around Lisbon, sending many flying forward. As one of the lucky seated people, it was hilarious. I swear the driver does it for a laugh. Maybe there’s just too many people on it, because on one particularly steep incline, the tram struggled and I was convinced we would slide straight back down. We also came across some Portuguese road rage. Quite right as the driver was on the wrong side of the road. It’s an experience to say the least, and I kind of loved it.
7 Watching a wedding photo shoot
I love weddings and especially being able to silently gatecrash someones photo shoot and watch them. We came across this couple in a park near the hostel called Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII, which was a stunning area with a pop up book fair too. The location was perfect for the photos and they looked stunning.
8 BOWL of sangria
My friend and I were recommended a bar to go to for sangria. We were told that for €4 you get a very large amount of sangria, and we were not let down. After getting lost trying to get there, being offered drugs in the street and stumbling into the dark bar, clearly being the only tourists, we were pleasantly surprised. THE largest glasses I’ve ever seen and the sangria was very yummy. Very alcoholic. It took us a couple of hours of sipping and chatting and ended in us slightly foggy-eyed heading back to our hostel. We laughed so much and it was a great evening.
9 Horse parade in Belem
On disembarking my bus in Belem, after a bad nights sleep and stressful morning, I was greeted by a huge expanse of park leading to the water, a grand pearly monastery and a parade of horses and guards spanning between them. The whole scene instantly relaxed me and made me happy, partly because it reminded me of home. One of my favourite things to do in London is watch the changing of the guards, and this was just as exciting, and shared with far less people.
10 The whole city is an art gallery
You don’t have to walk far to find graffiti, and here it is celebrated. There are so many beautiful pieces around the city and getting lost and finding them is so much fun and the best way to see the true Lisboa.
11 The viewpoints are insane
There are so many places around the city to observe the buildings, plazas and parks spanning out below you. A little exercise will get you to some pretty impressive places not to be missed. You sometimes have to pinch yourself.
12 Dazzling colours and patterns
Most of the buildings are either coloured or tiled, the pavements are Portugal’s version of mosaics and the terracotta rooftops, blue sky and green parks combine to create a city full of colour and character. Each corner is unique and a walk is always eventful.
13 I met someone from my college
I never meet English people whilst travelling – don’t know why. So I was unbelievably surprised when the guide for my walking tour was indeed from home and we attended the same college, at the same time! It was so great meeting her and even better finding out about her job as a tour guide for the summer. What a coincidence. The walking tour was also one of the best I’ve ever done and we got so much advice about what to do in Lisbon. Many of the things on this list came from her. (The company offer many tours, free and paid, and is called Discover Lisbon.)
Lisbon for me was a whirlwind and I enjoyed every second. I loved the people I met and the amazing experiences we had together. Lisbon blew me away and I can’t wait for my day there next week. What a city.