Alright, I confess, the title of this post is a lie. There’s only so much ‘guiding’ you can do when you’ve visited a city for the first time and only for a long weekend at that. The post should really be called ‘Things I Did / Saw / Ate and Would Recommend You Do / See / Eat on an Extended Weekend in Lisbon’. But that would have been a mouthful.
What I can tell you is this – Lisbon is absolutely stunning. Its streets tell the story of Portugal’s decadent past, with now run-down renaissance buildings from the ‘Age of Discoveries’ mixed with the Pombaline architecture of the downtown area, which was re-built on a grid following an earthquake in 1755. The city is lively and colourful, with charming doorways, decorative tiles, (somewhat treacherous) cobbles and narrow streets winding across a hilly landscape. The hilliness of the city also means you get some pretty incredible views.
Jack and I are releasing a series of videos from Lisbon on our YouTube channel, so make sure you check that out – and don’t forget to subscribe if you like what you see! The above shows you five ways around Lisbon (and forms part two of the series – see part one here). But if you’re a lists kind of person, here’s a brief summary of my top recommendations:
- Tram 28 – or any tram for that matter. Lisbon has kept its old-style trams (the first electric tramline was introduced in 1901), which make for a beautiful (if rollercoaster-like) way to see the city.
- Tuk Tuk – perhaps inspired by their popular use in South and South-East Asia, Lisbon offers up guided tours on the little tuk tuks, or you can just use them to get from point A to B. They make for a great ride (of questionable safety, but high levels of amusement), and if you’re lucky with your driver, they might just show you their favourite places to hang out in the city.
- LX Factory – this transformed old industrial site about mid-way between Lisboa and Belem is where Lisbon hides its ‘cool’ (for want of a better expression). LXF is essentially a little artsy village, with product manufacturers, retailers and restaurants/bars, all of a similar (Shoreditch-like) vibe, all in the same place. Have your dinner at one of the many restaurants on offer, then move on to one of the bars for drinks and a little live music (we caught a great band at the Burger Factory).
To see (views of the city)
- Castelo de São Jorge (St George’s Castle) – the main part of the castle is an impressive medieval military structure with ten towers and elevated runways that would inspire a childhood thrill in the best of us. The real reason why this is an absolute must-see, however, is because the castle offers some spectacular views of the city (as a castle should). If you would like to get the same view (and more!), but with the castle actually in it, ask your tuk tuk driver to take you to the Miradouros viewpoint.
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) – this tribute to Portugal’s golden era of the Age of Discoveries presents a beautiful view of Lisbon and the (Golden Gate-like) 25 de Abril bridge to one side and the mouth of the Tagus river opening up into the Atlantic Ocean to the other. If you time it right, you might just get the top of the monument to yourself, giving you space to marvel at the vastness of it all. The monument is right next to the Torre de Belem, which marks the point of embarkation of many a Portuguese explorer, including voyages that led to the ‘discovery’ of India and South America.
- Cristo Rei (Christ the King statue) – inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, this mammoth structure’s construction was approved as a plea to God to protect Portugal from entering into World War II (it seems to have worked, too!). You can go right up to a landing by the statue’s feet, which offers a view of the entirety of Lisbon from the other side of the Tagus river at such a height that Jack declared it to be ‘almost too high’. No such thing, if you ask me.
- Clams at Malagueta Bar and Food – the Portuguese menu is very fishy. If you don’t like fish, you may struggle a little. But if you do like your seafood, try the lemon and garlic clams at this adorable little tapas place, which is high up enough to have a great view. The rest of the tapas is great too, and it’s the perfect stop for a drink after a visit to the castle. (R. Costa do Castelo 26)
- Pastéis de nata at Pasteis de Belem – Natas (basically a custard tart) may well be the pride and joy of Portuguese cuisine. You will see them offered at every corner in Lisbon, but we are told that if you want the real stuff, you must go to Belem. But if custard isn’t high up on your list of culinary experiences, Pasteis de Belem is still a lovely bakery, with its decorated blue tiles and spacious interiors. And if you’re up for a light lunch break whilst exploring Belem, I myself am partial to the spinach quiche. (R. Belem 94-92)
- Chocolate cake at Landeau – Landeau is one of the gems of LX Factory (see above). Jack is of the opinion that they do the best chocolate cake in the world. And the man knows his chocolate cakes, so I defer entirely to his opinion. I myself am not usually one for a chocolate cake, but this was cocoa heaven on a plate – you can’t really argue with that. (Rua das Flores 70)
If you would like to see our trip to Lisbon and all of our recommendations in motion, do check out our YouTube channel here.
Do you have any recommendations for a trip to Lisbon? The more niche, the better!