It isn’t very easy keeping in touch with friends who are spread across the country especially when everyone has such busy lives these days. So in order to do just that, me and a good friend Lynsey started up an annual girls trip a number of years ago. We have partied in Madrid, chilled in Greece, festivalled in Barcelona, sassed in London and eaten our way around Milan and Lake Como.
Firstly, it is the sunniest European city (keep that little fact in your arsenal for the next pub quiz)! This meant our long weekend, that saw the end of September turn in to October, was an utterly delicious 28 degrees! It is also one of the prettiest cities I have come across. The pastel painted houses are adorned with beautiful tiles and old yellow trams rattle their way around the cobbled streets. You are never too far away from a view of the water, a wine or a custard tart. Lord praise the custard tart!
We booked three nights, quite last minute I might add, in an apartment we found through Booking.com and jumped on a plane from London Luton on Friday night. From the airport we got in an Uber which was very cheap and the driver gave us some great tips on where to go and what to see too.
Here’s what we got up to and some tips and recommendations if you are thinking about visiting this wonderful place:
Where to stay in Lisbon
As I mentioned, we booked an Apartment only about three or four weeks before we went. There weren’t many hotels but I actually loved having the apartment – there was SO much more space, our own balcony and it felt more authentic.
We stayed in these apartments – the one up four flights of stairs called ‘Meet the Warm’.
The apartment was on Rau di Sau Bento in the Biarro Alto district and we loved that area. We could walk to the water’s edge in about ten minutes and up to the bars, restaurants and night spots in about five.
Breakfast and brunch in Lisbon
For us I really should just say brunch as we didn’t really get out for breakfast as such but we did find some amazing places that catered for both.
Zenith – This was such a cool place and worth the walk to get to it (about 20 mins from our apartment give or take a few wrong turns thanks to Google maps). The people were young and cool, the food very delicious and the service was great. There was a queue when we arrived – about 11.30am on a Saturday morning) but were were seated quickly so don’t be put off if there are a few people in front of you.
Bowls + Bar – This one was closer to our apartment and an Instagrammer’s dream! I went for the Shakshuka and it was delicious. It turns in to a bar in the evening and I am sure it would be worth a visit that time of the day too.
Boutik – A concept store and cafe inspired by the ocean! It was the hanging chairs that lured us in … and the avocado and eggs that made us stay!
Lunch and snacks in Lisbon
Pastéis de Belém – A very famous Nata place in Belém, you don’t need to read much about Lisbon to come across this place. We were given the tip to skip the queue outside and just saunter in and take a table….however there was a queue for a table inside so I am not sure it saved us any time. The Natas were incredible though, so more than worth a short wait in a queue whether that is inside or outside. The beautiful tiles inside don’t hurt either!
Landeau – This incredible chocolate cake cafe was under our apartments and served THE most delicious chocolate cake I have eaten. I can’t say more about it other than if you are hankering after some chocolate when in Lisbon, this is your place!
Time Out Market – Time Out have rounded up all the best restaurants and cafes in Lisbon and brought them under one roof, complete with long communal tables, bars, shops and music. They say “If it’s good, it goes in the magazine, if it’s great, it goes into the market.” which I love! Well worth a visit. We went for lunch, drank too much wine in the sun then over ordered on seafood which is pretty much a perfect afternoon! Time Out are just about to open a host of more markets with one opening soon in New York, Chicago….They sound worth a trip!
Evening meals and nights out
Each evening we walked up the hill to the Biarra Alto district, and each time ended up on Rua Dom Pedro V which had countless numbers of lovely little restaurants running down the street. We didn’t book any where and just wandered in to places that took our fancy which is totally doable and in my short experience there, you are still very much going to get an excellent meal.
If you are after a drink only, don’t be surprised to be told to stand outside on the street – they’ll serve you through a hatch and it is absolutely normal! The people watching is fantastic too!
Tapisco – We stopped for a cocktail from the hatch and ended up going in for dinner. Both cocktail and food were delicious. Make sure you have the salt cod and garlic prawns – just don’t expect to be doing any kissing after!
Zero Zero – This restaurant has a gorgeous hidden garden out the back so head that way if it is warm. Cocktails and pizza were delicious as I expect most other things on the menu are.
Park – After our meal on Saturday night, we ask a waiter for recommendations of where to go dancing and he suggested PARK – a bar on the top of a car park. I used Google Maps to direct us there and arrived at a multi storey car park with no signs to show it was anything other. Luckily we weren’t the only ones and followed a group up in the lift to the roof where it was indeed bouncing! It is open to laaaate but this would have been a great place to watch the sunset with a cocktail too I imagine.
Things to do and sights to see in Lisbon
Wander around Alfama
After brunch on our first day we wandered about the city and then decided to jump in a tuk tuk and head to Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon. The friendly (and rather handsome) chap dropped up off at the bottom of the hill and we spent a lovely hour or so wandering the pretty streets and taking in the beautiful views. We walked up to the castle and decided against going in (there was a queue and a charge) so bought an ice cream instead and found ourselves in a little outdoor bar sipping wine for the afternoon.
The seafront around Belém is a lovely area to spend a couple of hours. There are a few sights to see such as the Belém tower and the Monument to the Discoveries, not forgetting of course Pastéis de Belém.
Walk or ride the famous Tram 28 line
Tram 28 is a famous line that these gorgeous vintage trams still run along. It connect two parts of the city and runs through many of the areas tourists want to see so make it the perfect opportunity for a spot of sight seeing. We didn’t jump on one as they were always SO full, but we walked some of the line and loved seeing them rattle passed us. If you are an early bird it would make a great early morning activity to beat the crowds, otherwise stick to foot and follow the line!
There was SO much more we could have done but the whole point of a weekend break with a friend is to take it easy, right?! And I think saw and did we loads…definitely enough to know I firmly want to go back to Lisbon again.
Talking of which, if I do I would love to visit Sintra and Cascais and of course squeeze in some more wine time and delicious seafood!