At the end of February, I made plans with my good friend Steph to have a weekend away in Lisbon, Portugal. Steph is a fellow American expat (even from the same state!) that I met shortly after our move to London. Unfortunately, she'll be moving back home in April so it was really wonderful to get a weekend together—just the two of us—traveling and wandering around Lisbon. Having been here before (here) I enjoyed being able to show Steph around the city for her first visit and even do some new things!
I headed off to the airport on a Friday morning to meet Steph for our flight. After some delay we were finally off from London to the warmer weather in Lisbon. Both of us were looking forward to feeling the sun on our skin! It felt like it had been forever. Upon landing, we grabbed an Uber into the city to meet our Airbnb host in Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighborhood and a great place to base yourself to take in all that the city has to offer. We quickly settled in, made our way down to the nearby square for lunch, and began discussing what we should do for the day. One of the last things I had done on my previous trip to Lisbon was a tuk-tuk tour. It is an easy way to see a good portion of the city and learn more about the history of the landmarks. The perk of jumping into a tour first thing is getting an initial feeling and understanding of where I am. It also gives me plenty of ideas of places to return to. So after lunch, we made our way up to the viewing platform Miradouro das Portas do Sol and then grabbed a tuk-tuk to begin our weekend.
The tuk-tuk tour we chose to do took us all through Alfama. We hopped around to all the sites including the Lisbon Cathedral, Church of Santa Engrácia, Santo Anonio de Lisboa, and view points like Miradouro da Graca learning all about Lisbon's history and interesting facts. One thing you can't help but notice touring around Lisbon is the beautiful tile work that covers—what feels like—every inch of the city. Our guide told us that it isn't just decoration but it also helps protect the homes from fires that can so easily spread from home to home in cities with each building sitting so closely on top of one another. At the end we had our driver drop us off nearby Arco da Rua Augusta to see the sunsetting by the water. Eventually we made our way back to our neck of the woods to grab dinner and unwind for the day.
The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Giallo, a place that quickly became our go-to spot for the weekend as we bonded with one of the workers who I have to say makes amazing brookies. What is a brookie you ask? Well, it's a cookie brownie combo of course. We definitely had our fair share of these during the weekend. After breakfast, we walked up to Castelo de São Jorge to begin the explorations from the day (make sure you follow the signs to the castle as you get closer, google does not mark the entrance correctly). One major perk of visiting the castle is the breathtaking view of the city below.Taking our time walking around the walls we were in awe of the old the structure with portions built almost 2,000 years ago. It's amazing the time and effort that had to go into building the castle.
After finishing up at the castle we started to wind our way back down to the bottom of Alfama. As we went along we wandered through some of the side streets to take more of the old architecture in and eventually found our way to Feira da Ladra, one of Lisbon's largest and oldest flea markets. You can find anything from handmade art to old antique tiles. The market begins in a square but then seems to spiderweb it's way out in every direction. You could spend hours here looking through all the beautiful goods and vintage gems. Last time I was here, I purchased an old tile but this time I went for some handmade jewelry that was inspired by the beautiful tile work around the city.
For the second half of our day, we made our way west to begin at the Time Out Market and Mercado da Ribeira Nova where we grabbed lunch and some ice cream. Our plan from there was to head up to Bairro Alto, another one of Lisbon's historic neighborhoods. To save us some energy we took the Elevador da Bica up. Weaving our way through the more grid-like streets we stopped at places like Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata (one of the best places to grab pastel de nata) and Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, a lookout over the city offering a view of the east part of the city. After a busy day of walking, we made our way down to Baixa, the lower central part of the old city and then back to Alfama for dinner at Farol de Santa Luzia.
For our final day, we decided to book a Lisbon by Beetle tour to see as much as possible in our remaining hours. With the most of the day blocked off for driving around in the vintage convertible, we had a few hours to spare in the morning. Our Airbnb flat was right by the Museu do Fado (free on Sunday mornings) so we decided to head over there to check it out. The museum is on the smaller side but offers a great walk through of the impact of Fado on Lisbon and Portugal. Starting with a documentary with different Fado singers and musicians talking about their connection to the music really gave a sense of the heart and energy it takes to be in the world of Fado. Other parts of the museum show the instruments, political impact, and even a listening station to browse around at all the famous Fado artist.
Next up, we finally jumping in the car with our tour guide to show us more of what Lisbon has to offer and get a deeper understanding of the city's history. We started in Alfama once again, hitting some of the same points but then from there we dove into more parts of the city. We even made a stop at the new Pavilhão Carlos Lopes that honors the Portuguese gold medal runner from the Los Angeles marathon with beautiful tile work in the modern yet vintage inspired building. As we drove on we road through more of Lisbon's parks, under the Águas Livres Aqueduct, around Lapa, out to popular Belém (to see Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, and to try the famous Pastéis de Belem), and everything in-between. As the day came to an end, we parted ways with our guide, headed back to our flat to pack up for our early rise the next day as we made our journey back to London.
Overall the weekend was low key but packed full of all that Lisbon has to offer. We enjoyed a mix of sightseeing and relaxing while wandering the sunny city. A perfect March break from London's gloomy winter. Lisbon was somewhere I really fell in love with on my first trip so I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity to go again. It constantly surprises me and I can see myself going back for even more. While the city is comparatively small for a capital (especially to London), it has so much packed into it and I look forward to continuing to discover new streets and corners!