Portugal has been on my bucket list for too long. It still is, because so far I have only visited Lisbon and its surroundings. But I would go back anytime, I swear. I am yet to plan a trip to Faro and especially to the marvelous beaches of Algarve. But Lisbon is wonderful, too. Actually, it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen – it made me feel at home. It gave me that cozy feeling from the hotel room to the narrow streets and warm people. Lisbon makes you fall in love the moment you get there. It truly is my soul city and now I know why. Here are 13 reasons why you should visit Lisbon, too:
1. It’s Affordable
I could mention so many ways in which Lisbon is an affordable city (and I guess Portugal, too). From plane tickets to accommodation and food, Lisbon is a place for every pocket size. I flew with WizzAir from Bucharest directly to Lisbon and the plane tickets were around 50 euro in February, on Valentine’s day. You could also try Ryanair or EasyJet since they fly from many European cities. Regarding accommodation, I stayed at PH Downtown Suites, a small hotel right next to Praca do Comercio (central). I can’t remember exactly what I paid, but it wasnt; more than 90 euro/person for 4 nights, breakfast included.
Tip #1: try the bacalhau (cod) which is cooked in sooo many ways
Tip #2: try Kiku Sushi (delicious all you can eat, trust me)
2. Pastéis de Nata
I don’t have words to explain this dessert: some will call it a simple custard tart, some will call it heaven on earth. I call it the best dessert I have ever eaten! It is a drop of rainbow-unicorny-thing and it is my favorite food ever. I could have one thousand of them and it wouldn’t be enough. You can find it in any pasticceria in Lisbon, but the best ones are in Belém – here is their website. It’s a traditional Portuguese dessert and I’ve heard there are only about 5 people in the world who know the original recipe. So if you’re reading this because you decided to visit Lisbon, please, please, do not forget about Pasteis de Nata!
3. Jeronimos Monastery
Since I was talking about Belém, right next to the wonderful pasticceria there’s this amazing monastery – a lovely building for all the architecture lovers out there. This is why you should visit Lisbon! It’s a mix and you can find anything here. The monastery has this Portuguese Late Gothic Style and it was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I also talked about it and its monumental door, here.
4. Belém Tower
In the district of Belém you will also find this historical place, the tower of Belém. It also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was a part of the defense system on the Tagus River in the late 15th century! I didn’t have the energy to visit it, but Andrei told me the view from above is worth it. You should prepare for a long queue before going up. The ticket was around 6 euros, but it is free with the Lisboa Card. Here are the details.
5. Sé Cathedral (Lisbon Cathedral)
This cathedral is called Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Sé de Lisboa. It’s imposing and it has impressed me and made me remember it because it was one of the first things I saw when exploring Lisbon. It doesn’t have an amazing interior, in my opinion, but I love the architecture. It has been built in 1147 and it has survived many changes and earthquakes.
6. Sao Jorge Castle
Sao Jorge Castle is one of the main attractions and one of the biggest reasons why you should visit Lisbon. It is a Moorish Castle dating to the mid-eleventh century and it’s on a hilltop overlooking Tagus River and the historical center of Lisbon. It is definitely worth exploring. The ticket price is 5 euro for students and 8.50 euro for adults.
7. The Streets of Bairro Alto
All the streets of Portugal have this special thing to them, but the streets of Bairro Alto (Upper District) are unique. This neighborhood is a fundamental to the city, formed outside the wall of the historical city. You really need to allow yourself to get lost on these streets, eat some local food and just roam around the city. I guarantee you’ll conclude that they’re meant to be one of the reasons why you should visit Lisbon.
8. Elevador de Santa Justa
Lisbon has many places that allow you to see the city from above (my favorite activity). These places are called Elevador, just like “elevator” and, for a nominal sum, you can really have a great time observing the beautiful Lisbon from a scenic place.
Elevador de Santa Justa is one of them. This one was on our way to getting lost in the city, but there are some other points of observing the city from above: Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Miradouro de Santa Luzia and others. Check them out and thank me later 🙂
9. Estadio da Luz
This one wasn’t exactly my choice, but I ended up liking it after all. For all football lovers, you might’ve heard of Benfica and Estadio da Luz. For me, it was the first stadium experience and the tour was really interesting, taking you from the team’s dressing room to the actual pitch. The ticket is 10 euro and there is a metro station right next to it, so it’s easy to reach.
10. Lisbon Tram 28 – definitely one of the reasons why you should visit Lisbon
The famous Tram 28 is a touristic attraction due to its beautiful interior design. It dates from the ’30s and such a tram would now be in a museum in any other country. Not in Lisbon. Luckily, Tram 28’s route is not suitable for modern trams, so it is the only one which can be used on the narrow streets as public transport. The ticket is about 2 euro and you can ride the Tram through Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela neighborhoods.
Tip: take the tram late at night (as we did) or early in the morning, since the streets are beautifully lit (at night) and it isn’t crowded.
11. Sintra – Palacio da Pena and Jardins do Parque da Pena
Talking about surroundings, there are a few places to visit if you decide to do some day trips. Palacio da Pena and Jardins do Parque da Pena are the ones we decided to visit and it was totally worth it. Sintra is about 30 mins away from Lisbon and there is a direct bus that takes you there. It is a beautiful small town that has some castles, Palacio da Pena included – a beautiful 19th-century palace. The castle takes a few hours to visit, but you also have to see the gardens that surround it and the actual town of Sintra, both wonderful.
12. The quietness of Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is one of the most amazing places in Portugal. You have to go there if you decide to visit Lisbon. I say this with all my heart and I am ready to prove it. It is the westernmost point of continental Europe and one of the quietest places I have ever visited. It’s not much. The ocean and some rocks. But the feeling is incomparable. It can also be visited by public transport: you have to take the train from Lisbon to Cascais and then the bus from Cascais that goes to Sintra. Just make sure to stop at Cabo da Roca on the way there. The bus goes every other hour to Sintra, so you have plenty of time.
Tip: a good day trip would be Lisbon – Cascais (mainly for the beach) – Cabo da Roca – Sintra – Lisbon. And it can all be done by public transport. 🙂
13. Almada and Cristo Rei
If you haven’t had the chance to visit Rio de Janeiro yet, you must find out that there is a similar statue in Europe, too. It is located in Almada, Portugal and it overloos the city of Lisbon. It can be reached by car or by ferry from Lisbon (2,50 euro). Almada makes a great day trip, also.
The statue can be visited and the view is stunning. It overlooks, besides the city of Lisbon, the Tagus River and Ponte 25 de Abril – which is often compared to Golden Gate Bridge. The town of Almada is a small one and besides the statue, there is not much to visit. The port, Cacilhas, has some amazing (and cheap!) restaurants with delicious food. We had some tasty prawns with 3 beers for only 10 euros. My point exactly.
+ One: Why You Shouldn’t Visit Lisbon
It’s addictive! You’ll love it so much you will feel the urge to return as soon as you leave it. The streets, the food, the people and the sunsets are just some of the ways Lisbon will make you fall in love with it. It’s so charismatic!
The Portuguese have this word, saudade, which doesn’t exactly have a translation in English. Some say it means missingness, some that it means the love that remains after someone is gone. Everybody can agree that it is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone. Exactly what you’ll feel after leaving Portugal. 🙂