I expected Lisbon to be beautiful, and not only was I was greeted with beauty, but also with kindness, and an openness and warmth I hadn’t felt in other cities. I spoke none of the language but found the sound of it soft and welcoming as I wandered the winding streets. I want to go back.
The only reason I spent time in Lisbon is because my flight landed in Lisbon, I’d heard it was beautiful, and I found a hostel with a good price (Lisboa Central Hostel – free breakfast with delicious pancakes, milkshake Mondays, informed/knowledgeable staff).
I wanted more information about the city other than “I heard it was beautiful”, so I looked into free walking tours and settled on Lisbon Chill-Out Tours based on their reviews. The morning after I arrived, I met the tour guide Gabriella at 10am, and for the next three hours I learned over 5000 years of Lisbon’s history, saw evidence of the 1755 earthquake that killed 2/3 of the population and leveled over 80% of the city, saw changing of the guard, toured different neighborhoods, got restaurant recommendations, took pictures at a free lookout point – she was amazing. After the tour ended, she offered individual recommendations for any of us on virtually anything. She knows Lisbon.
I loved exploring Lisbon on foot. When I arrived, I was too exhausted to see much, but I did walk down to Praça do Comércio and explore a bit of the path by the Tagus river. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining brightly the entire time I was in Lisbon.
Alfama was my favorite place to explore. The winding, narrow streets and steep hills; the tiled buildings and limestone sidewalks characteristic of Lisbon; laundry hanging from lines and balconies; open doors and windows; small, inviting shops; the warm sounds of a language I didn’t understand but felt somehow welcomed by – it was quiet and calm and beautiful. I found myself wandering the streets often, drawn to them almost daily.
I took a couple short trips outside the city: one to Belém (tram 15 there, but a bus on the way back – the tram was WAY too crowded) and to two of the local beaches near Cascais, Estoril and S. Pedro (train to and from both beaches).
The Street Art
I had heard Lisbon encouraged street artists but didn’t know the extent or the context.
The majority of my photos of Lisbon are of the street art. It differed in technique and subject but the magnitude of the art and talent of the artists only added to the beauty of the city.
Any turn in the city could lead to breathtaking artwork: faces, words, scenes, political statements, and even Elvises on a trash bin.
Pastéis de Nata
I arrived in Lisbon at almost midnight, so I took an Uber from the airport to the hostel. The first place the driver recommended was Belém, specifically, Pastéis de Belém – where the Portuguese custard tart (Pastel de Nata) was first created. I’ve never been so grateful that I heeded a recommendation. One of the most delicious pastries I have ever tasted. Served hot and fresh, with cinnamon and powdered sugar at every table. I believe I had three. I wanted approximately 57.
I had pastéis de nata several times in Lisbon and although they varied, they were all delicious. I can’t recommend them enough. Especially hot and fresh from the oven. They’re really and truly delicious, and my time in Portugal would not have been the same without them.