A weekend in Lisboa
Hotspots and food
One of the best experiences of my student life were the city trips I made, especially the weekend trip to Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. I like to share the most beautiful sights and the tastiest secrets of this city. Even though Lisbon is large city, still you can see many things in a short time and experience a real holiday in one weekend. This is my story…
Lisbon is the city of museums, beautiful buildings, the historic districts such as Alfama, Mouraria and Bairro Alto the entertainment area. A city with good food, delicious drinks and beautiful monasteries. A pleasant city to walk around as a student and to soak up culture.
Early in the morning the flight I took the flight of TAP Air Portugal from Eindhoven Airport. In less than 2 and a half hour I land at the Lisbon Airport and the first thing I felt was the warm Lisbon weather. It was almost 27 degree and the sun put a big smile on my face. This is how a holiday needs to start. After the taxi ride I was able to check in into a hostel in the middle of the city, on Rossio Square. This is a central square in the city were my days started and ended.
Before I started to discover this city with I searched for a nice place to have lunch and coffee. A girl from the hostel, who was in Lisbon for her internship, gave me the tip to try the traditional sweet ‘Pastel de Nata’. About 200 meters from the hotel there is an unique tent called Fabrique de Nata. Of course I took a menu with a sandwich, coffee and Pastel de Nata. Before I saw people ordering two or three nata’s and thought that’s a little exaggerated. But I’ll be honest with you, later I ordered two more, because this is one of the tastiest sweets I have ever had.
Every city has something unique that you only discover when you are there. For Lisbon, that was the hills throughout the city. After my introduction to the custard cake, I went for a walk. A walk through Lisbon is therefore much more intense because of the high hills. The city has several large squares with new views and cosy terraces.
Another iconic image in the city are the trams, a fun experience, slightly expensive, but these give an authentic feeling to the city. I took a ride on the famous tram 28, which goes through the narrow streets the historic neighbourhoods Mouraria, Alfama, Baixa en Estrela.
For dinner I went back to the hostel and brought a map with information about restaurants, Portuguese food and other must-have experiences. Then I saw a guide walk in and promote the real Fado dinner. It sounded very attractive and this was typically Portuguese. At 8 in the evening I left with a group of tourists for a Fado dinner. No idea what to expect.
Fado music is inextricably linked to Portugal. Traditional singers are accompanied by guitars and sing sad songs. It is often about longing, homesickness and sadness. Once at the table, a black-dressed lady with long black hair appeared. A man with a guitar began to play and the woman sang the first song in a beautiful, sad voice. We all got goose bumps.
In the meantime, some bread and small snacks, such as sausage and cheese, were on the table. Before the Portuguese wine was served, I was introduced to ginjinha, a homemade cherry liqueur. The combination of the sad Fado atmosphere and the pleasant talk of people from all parts of the world impressed me. Nothing was missing from the conviviality. In the meantime I was ready for the main course and the bacalhau was introduced. Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous dishes in Portugal and is the ultimate comfort meal for the Portuguese. Bacalhau or codfish occurs in many dishes and everything is made with it. This dish contains bacalhau, eggs, and potatoes. After this special experience I was ready to go to bed and I was wondering what the next day would be like.
In the morning I started to plan the day, Sintra it will be. Sintra is a magical city with mysterious castles and fairytale forests. The city is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. After a hearty breakfast in the hostel I take the train to Sintra. By the way, the Central Station, like several buildings, is a beautiful structure with Arabic influences in the architectural style.
Once in Sintra I visited the castles with a tuk tuk. The driver will show you the hidden spots along the way, so you certainly do not miss the beautiful views. Here I also saw the cork trees of Portugal, as cork is an important source of income for the country. I recommend visiting Palacio de Vila, Palacio da Pena en my favourite Palacio en de Quinta da Regaleira.
This palace is from the 19th century, although it looks much older. It is decorated with beautiful stonework and symbols related to Freemasonry. It is an ideal film set that you walk through. Near Regaleira is Seteais, an 18th century palace that is now a hotel. It is very worthwhile to visit the gardens. You can free up a whole day for Sintra, which is more than worth it.
Back in Lisbon I went for dinner near Rossio Square at a cosy and small restaurant. There are a lot of them, but it’s good to ask locals where they serve good food.
The Portuguese proverb Sardinha e galinha só com a mãozinha (sardine and chicken you only eat with your hands) says it all. Delicious sardines and other fish dishes are among the real delicacies of Portugal. Now the penny fell why all souvenir shops sold magnets, shirts and other stuff with sardines.
My last day I first rented a bike and I started cycling along the water towards Belem. Belem is an important draw for tourists. This is the point from which the famous explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Magellan have left. Belem has traditionally been a small fishing village and was not damaged during the great earthquake. Given the long line for the museum inside the tower, I sat on the lawn and looked forward to the beautiful and free environment.
The next interesting stop was the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. This large limestone structure is adorned with Eastern and Moorish decorations. Vasco da Gama is buried in this monastery.
As I understood, Lisbon is a rich city with the fish dishes, so it wasn’t a hard choice what to eat during the last diner. I visited a quite expensive fish restaurant in Cascais. The stylish coastal town lies both on the Atlantic Ocean and at the mouth of the Tejo River. Cascais is known for its relaxed atmosphere and the delicious seafood.
It was an upscale restaurant and certainly not intended for a budget trip. You enter and are guided to a fish stand where you can choose your own fish. If we act crazy, we will of course go to extremes. The choice fell on a fresh lobster and as an appetizer the oysters, which were widely recommended. Never before have I enjoyed fish dishes so much and this was indescribably delicious.
Luckily I still had time to visit Castelo de Sao Jorge. The castle can be seen from all angles on a high hill in the city. The foundations date back to the 6th century BC and surprisingly it was still very well preserved. The castle was conquered by the Moors in 1147 and is also called the Moorish castle. Unfortunately the museum was already closed, but the walk to and from was special, because of the nice authentic streets through which you went.
In the evening I had a nice long walk before going to the hostel. I realize that I have seen a lot of the city, but that there is still much to experience. Lisbon is a city to visit for a few days, to fall in love with and to want to go back to. Early in the morning I had another breakfast Pastel de Nata and I left for the airport, knowing that I will come back again.
Do you want to receive more tips for your next trips?