3 days in Lisbon
As a young traveler going on a long term trip, my first step was to research the best places to travel to. And some of the best advice I can give to young travelers who really want to make the most of their money is to look for a country that is safe but affordable. While most of western Europe is relatively expensive, Portugal is affordable and beautiful. Lisbon has become one of my favorite cities. The food was delicious, the people were friendly, and the city is easy to move around in. Lisbon was a perfect first stop in Portugal.
Where to Stay
One of the best ways to experience Lisbon is to stay in an AirBnB. If you look at the listings there are tons of apartments that are extremely affordable. I decided to stay in an apartment in the Alfama District. It is actually a great option. Because of the increase in tourism, many of the older buildings have been renovated to apartments that are perfect for someone visiting Lisbon. Alfama itself is a middle class neighborhood filled with locals and famous for the street art and winding streets that are easy to get lost in. Barrio Alto is also a place I would suggest if you want to be closer to the nightlife.
Where to Eat
I unfortunately did not take many photos of my food while in Lisbon. Probably was too hungry and the plate was cleared before I had the thought to snap a photo. I did manage to take a photo of these Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belem. These are the custard tart that you will find everywhere throughout the city and on every travel guide. My method for trying them was to try every one at the bakeries that looked interesting to me as I explored the city. They usually cost about a euro, so try as many as possible!
As for food & wine, some of the best deals are the lunch menus. Alfama is filled with many restaurants that have the traditional Fado music and dinner experience. Feel free to walk around and see where the locals go. Keep in mind that while most restaurants in many tourist areas accept credit card, cash is important to have in places that are more residential. If you are looking for a view with an afternoon cocktail or glass of wine, there are an array of rooftop bars. Just keep in mind that the rooftop bars are a little pricier than many other places would be.
What to See & Do
There were so many things to see in Lisbon and I was only there for three full days to explore as much as possible. Everyone likes to see different things sights when they travel, I usually like a mix of exploring city streets, visiting major points of interests and finding places to relax in between. These are my top suggestions, especially if you only have a few days:
- Alfama, Since I stayed in the neighborhood I was lucky enough to explore everyday. Winding city streets and street art make it easy to spend hours getting lost. The famous yellow tram goes through the hills, but it does get very busy, so it is worth it to take a ride early in the morning for the best view. Castelo de Sao Jorge is a famous place to visit with one of the most incredible views of Alfama and Lisbon. Google maps also shows the best view points throughout the city if the castle is not your thing. There are tons more to see in Alfama, so if you have the time and the energy for those hills, I highly recommend it.
- Praça do Comercio, One of the more iconic places of Lisbon, the plaza is a sight to see. Right by the river, the area is busy during the day. There is the Museu Da Cerveja, which is a great place to sit down and have a beer with one of their famous codfish cakes. If you take a walk you can go see the Santa Justa Lift, the lift will take you to different levels of the city. I didn't take a ride because the line was too long, but it was beautiful to see. With traditional architecture the area is gorgeous to see, shop and eat.
- Riverside, sometimes the things you stumble upon are your favorite moments. By the Plaza is Rio Tejo, and if you stroll down towards the Ponte 25 de Abril on a sunny day, the boardwalk is the place to be. With places to sit by the water, and a cocktail cart by great street performers, I could have spent all afternoon there. The further you walk, you will find more restaurants, gelato, grassy patches to relax. From there we made the trip to Torre de Belem, to see this beautiful site. The view from the top is beautiful and the architecture of the tower itself is breath taking. It is truly a castle by the sea, draw bridge and all included. My suggestion is to buy tickets online if you can. The line on a sunny day won't be great.
- Sintra, Was a quick day trip outside of the city. Famous for the colorful hillside castles that were the vacation homes of the royal family, my favorite part of the town was the Quinta da Regaleira. The mansion and grounds are like grown-up's playground with tunnels and wells that are incredible to explore. Architecture of the mansion is intricate from the external facade to the details of the doors covered in red velvet. If you love to explore and you have the time, do not miss it. The train ride is no more than 40 minutes and well worth it. Just as you get off the train don't miss Cafe Saudade for a bite before you leave.