At approximately this time of year, every year, I feel the desperate urge to go on holiday. Nobody appreciates warm weather like us Brits. The tiniest bit of sunshine peeps through the windows at work and I’m done. In March 2014, Joe and I got a great last-minute deal and skipped off to Egypt for a week of guaranteed sun. It was just what we needed, but I’m not sure I’m an all-inclusive kind-of girl. I like to stumble across unexpected new places to eat, drink and explore. This year, we decided to cast our urges for 30-degree heat to one side and opt for something a bit closer to home. We chose Lisbon, and here’s why you should go too.
If you are looking for a semi-cheap getaway with the promise of sunshine, shopping, good food, great wine, history and character, Lisbon is the way to go. It’s all very compact, so in four days we managed to squeeze in four amazing dinners, a zoo, a castle, numerous churches, an art gallery, picnics by the sea, a couple of late-night bars and a few rounds of Zara and H&M (which are cheaper out there, FYI). We walked about 12 miles a day – which is a lot anyway, let alone when you’re tackling cobbles and hills. So, if you do go, be sure to take decent shoes. Also, we got an amazing deal with BA – £230 each for flights and 4 nights with breakfast in a 5* hotel – so be sure to shop around, or Airbnb it. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, then you are seriously missing a trick. It’s so cheap, and often it’s so much nicer to stay in an apartment than a hotel, especially if you’re going in a group. On this occasion, however, we stayed at the Corinthia Hotel and it was lovely.
I am one of those annoying people who takes 100s of holiday photos and posts them ALL on Facebook. So, pretty much the whole world knows the ins and outs of my trip. A couple of people have asked me for recommendations (much more useful), so I thought I’d share them with you on here.
1. PLACES TO EAT
After landing in Lisbon quite late on a Sunday night in March, we weren’t really expecting big things. We did the customary stroll around our new surroundings and quickly discovered two things: 1) Lisbon is never really quiet, and 2) if you pay just a little bit extra, your evening goes from average touristy restaurant with a mediocre menu to bohemian haven with incredible food and wine. After wandering up to Bairro Alto, we came across a place called Grapes & Bites. The restaurant had a single guitarist playing in the corner – which was somehow un-cheesy – and was completely packed out. The manager promised we would have a table within 30 minutes and gave us a complementary glass of local wine while we waited on the cobbles out the front. After too many olives, the world’s biggest bread basket, pig cheeks and salt cod, we were too full for desert, but the couple next to us ordered the lemon meringue pie and quickly ordered another when they discovered it was too good to share.
Other great restaurants with a similar vibe:
Chapitô – Stunning views and steak with a lively jazz bar below
Louro & Sal – Small, romantic and contemporary with great food and wine
Alfândega – Simply chic decor, friendly staff and amazing Portuguese tapas
2. BARS TO EXPLORE
We went to Lisbon to relax so I didn’t venture into any big clubs for once in my life. Judging by the number of characters advertising certain substances on street corners I can imagine there is a pretty lively party scene. The bars we tried were small but pretty cool. Think cabbages for lampshades, wall-to-wall balloons, and Bali-themed beach bars (nowhere near the beach) with hammocks and surfboards. If you wander down the narrow streets of Bairro Alto you’ll be sure to find the kind of bar you’re after. Ranging from loud and cheesy Cuban dance fests to low-key live music.
3. SITES TO SEE
Lisbon is really pretty, so try and get up to the Castelo de São Jorge for the best views of the city. It’s also just a really nice place to walk around and a great chance to learn a bit more about Lisbon’s origins.
I’m not ashamed to say how much we enjoyed the zoo. Baby rhinos, dolphins, lions, tigers, elephants, gorillas, giraffes, you name it. Just as good as London Zoo and just as clean and modern.
The sheer size of the Jerónimos Monastery is good enough reason to go visit it. Breaking up the day with interjections of majestic architecture can only be a good thing.
I hope this post inspires you to treat yourself to a long weekend in Lisbon. Please feel free to comment below if you’d like more info on any of the places I’ve touched on.