An affordable, sun-kissed Western European country that feels like a European San Francisco... complete with cable cars, steep hills, colored houses and the same bridge architect as The Golden Gate! Closer-up, you see moorish influence on the tile-covered houses, fort castles and uniquely patterned cobblestones streets. This city was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1755 and rebuilt at the end of the 18th century, then spared the WWII bombings due to Portugal's neutrality during the war. Here are some things I learned while visiting Lisbon...
1. Take Ubers instead of Taxis
Especially from the airport, as Portuguese cab drivers have been known to scam and Uber is easily available and affordable.
2. Visit Belem Tower on the Riverbank
One of the only structures that survived the earthquake. While there, grab some pastries de Belem. Family "pasteis de nata" recipe that is passed down from generation to generation.
3. Castle Hop in Sintra
Sintra is a day trip from Lisbon and trains leave every hour or so from the main station. My favorite castle was Pena, a bright, primary-colored castle with stunning views of the sea and surrounding moorish castle. Once there, skip the bus, it is crowded and people push and throw elbows to get on. We really enjoyed taking a "Tuk Tuk" instead, it was the same cost as the bus (€5 per person) but felt like you were on an Indiana Jones ride up the mountain.
4. Visit the Tile Museum
So unique! Gorgeous patterns of tiles on the wall are a nice break from the oil-and-canvas museums you might be used to... be sure to see the tile Church while you are there.
5. People Watch in the Alfama Neighborhood
A quaint neighborhood that used to be the old red-light district, this part of town survived the earthquake since it was on bedrock. It is one of the oldest parts of the city. Portuguese grandmas set up shop (out of their front doors) selling shots of cherry liquors that, sure, might be illegal but is charming and part of the experience.
6. Avoid the Monastary Long Line
If you visit the Monastery (recommended), get your ticket at the Museum and avoid a comically long line! You can walk right past those waiting in line and present your ticket. Inside, you'll find beautiful stone masonry around a courtyard.
7. Eat Egg Pastries ("Pastéis de Nata") Every Day
Just do it. Delicious.
1. Don't Mistake Spanish for Portuguese I know this sounds obvious, but unless you're certain your Portuguese is correct, just use English. Getting Portuguese incorrect and using Spanish words is a quick way to offend locals who have hundreds of years of conflict and competition with their Iberian neighbors. One tip: "thank you" is gendered based on the speaker, so if you do say "thank you" in Portuguese, men say "obrigado" and women say "obrigada". 2. Port is Stronger than Wine! Remember, Port is 25% alcohol content since it is fortified with Brandy, so when you can't remember how to say cheers ("saúde") it's likely time to switch to wine.
3. If you want to visit the ruins of the great earthquake, you'll need a reservation in advance.