Okay, so Lisbon isn’t really the most sought-after European destination for a city break, but that’s precisely what I love about it – the way it’s so blissfully underrated. Most people tend to visit cities like Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Barcelona when in Europe, without even giving Portugal’s beautifully rustic capital city a second thought. The way I ended up visiting Lisbon back in late 2012 was quite by accident. I’d spontaneously (and rather stupidly, I must admit) relocated to the sunny Algarve region of Portugal the summer before to work for a season there. But, when the summer was over, I didn’t go home – and instead decided to stay on in Portugal for a few more months. Before I knew it, I was in my then-boyfriend’s car driving to Lisbon to meet his family. It wasn’t exactly the best experience, being an 18 year old English girl in a foreign country who (at that time) could barely put a sentence together in Portuguese, and all, but Lisbon’s unique appeal definitely calmed my nerves a little bit. So, if you’re considering visiting Lisbon at some point in the next year, I’m going to give you 5 essential, tourist typical things to do there. If you haven’t considered Lisbon as a destination, however… then perhaps I can change your mind.
Top 5 Things to Do in Lisbon
Head to the Praca do Comércio
This was probably the first thing I noticed about Lisbon when driving through the city, and it’s the first attraction I visited. The Praca do Comércio (Comercio Square) is probably the most well-known point of the city, and was originally constructed to demonstrate Portugal’s wealth and power back in the 18th Century. It’s situated right next to the idyllic Tagus River, and is the perfect spot for those who can’t get enough of taking good photographs whenever they visit a new place.
Sample The Café
There’s no denying the intense relationship Portuguese people have with their coffee. I’ve lived there, and seen it for myself. It’s definitely a world away from the milky coffees that English people tend to prefer – in fact, it’s the complete opposite. When you ask for a ‘café’ (coffee) in Portugal, you’ll be served with a small shot of rich, bold espresso that the locals call a ‘bica’. Portuguese locals believe coffee should be drank within the first 10-20 seconds of being served, because that’s when it’s at the best possible quality. A lot of people (me included) like their coffee served with a Portuguese custard tart, or a ‘Pastel de nata’ as the locals call it. The coffee culture of Lisbon absolutely has to be experienced by all who visit there, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised when you’re charged under a Euro for your purchase.
Wander Around & Enjoy
I apologize to you if the title on this one is a bit cheesy, but honestly – Lisbon is one of those places that you can just enjoy being lost in. I found that some of the best photographs I’ve ever taken were in Lisbon, simply because of how different it looks to other cities. I can’t really think of a way to describe the city’s appearance in general, other than rather run-down, but beautiful, elegant and rustic at the same time. Visiting Lisbon is a little bit like stepping back into the 18th Century, because not an awful lot has changed in the last couple of centuries. The city itself does a great job in maintaining its classic beauty, which is the aspect of Lisbon that I admire the most.
Listen to Fado
Although I didn’t manage to see a live Fado show when I visited Lisbon, it’ll be at the top of my list the next time I go. Before I went to Portugal, I’d never heard Fado in my life, but the moment I did I found it to be captivating. The music originates from early 19th Century Portugal, and typically involves a singer and someone playing the Portuguese guitar. It’s difficult to describe it, and the best way to really understand what it’s all about is to listen to it properly – but if I could describe Fado in three words I’d choose emotional, intense, and haunting. This style of music originates from Lisbon, so it’s definitely the best place to catch a glimpse of it! Visitors can listen to Fado on the street, in a Fado tavern, or in a typical Portuguese restaurant. If you’re interested, it’s definitely wise to do your research and find out the very best spots to head to.
Dine Like You’ve Never Dined Before
If you’re looking for a place in Europe to go crazy for cuisine, then take it from me: go to Lisbon. I’m a complete foodie, and I have to try the local cuisine wherever I go, no matter what. It’s safe to say that I definitely wasn’t disappointed in Lisbon. What’s even better is that the Portuguese capital is one of the cheapest places in Europe, and a dinner for two in a traditional restaurant typically costs around 30-40 Euros, if that… and that’s with a bottle of wine included. When you sit at your table, you’ll be brought appetizers, which tend to be Portuguese bread (which is my favourite kind of bread in the world!) with butter and sardine spread, olives, and sometimes chorizo. Main courses are usually grilled meat or fresh fish, accompanied with rice, potatoes and salad. My favourite dishes are Bitoque, a pork steak with a fried egg on top, served with rice and salad, and mouth-watering Seabass. I gained a lot of weight in Portugal, and I don’t regret it one bit.
I hope my article has convinced you lovely folks on why you should absolutely make it your aim to be a tourist in Lisbon. This budget-friendly European capital has so much to offer, from its delicious cuisine to its stunning landmarks and old-world beauty.