Driving through Lisbon was a bit stressful- sharing the road with trams/cars/trucks/bikers/random pedestrians – was not a very relaxing experience.
You can easily find a park on one of the hills and it will be free. We stayed on one of the hills (Graca) and could easily reach downtown by foot.
My infatuation with Lisbon began immediately and it secured its spot in my heart forever…
Sharing a similar history with Andalucía, Lisbon has a lot to thank Moorish muslims for. First of all, the infamous wall tiles: fantastic for insulation (keeping the house cool in summer and keeping the cold away during winter). Moors also gave the city it’s name, Lisbon. Very melodic songs about missing a loved one were hugely influenced by Arabic style of melody structure and gave birth to Portuguese Fado.
Lisbon was prospering during 15th-16th centuries largely because of maritime discoveries turned into colonies in South America, Asia and Africa.
However, the luck didn’t last long. The earthquake of 1755 in Lisbon destroyed the majority of the city and the rest of 18-19 centuries’ history wasn’t that sweet with Napoleon’s occupation and the Portuguese King assassination. Even though the republicans overthrew the monarchy in 1910, they didn’t have it all figured out since the leaders changed 45 times between 1910 and 1926 with some leaders only lasting for a few hours!
Then, a very familiar route in many European countries – dictatorship.
The Carnation revolution in 1974 did not spill a drop of blood but signified the end of suppression and beginning of liberation.
Today, Lisbon is thriving! This city has everything: amazing weather, sea, great food/wines and fantastic people!
Tip #1: The city is very hilly so try not to be tempted to wear heels or thongs – you will walk most of the time either up or down on cobbled stones.
We ate Pastel de Nata (local pastry) in at least 8 different pasterias! It’s sort of like a tart with egg custard inside. Yum!!
Tip #2: Go to the Pasteis de Belem bakery in Belem district and order their signature pastry. The recipe is only known to three people: the chef, the sous-chef and their assistant. They also sell on average 21,000 of these a day so they know what they’re doing. Once you try it, you would never look at pastel de nata the same.
Being a very hilly city, Lisbon has a few advantages too, like viewpoints (miradoures). The best one in my opinion is Miradouro Da Senhora Do Monte in Graca.
Tip #3: Walk around and get lost in the streets of Alfama. Find a local restaurant and have some bacalhau (fish) or just have a drink on a street (it’s legal!!).
Don’t get surprised if you’ll be offered to buy cocaine/ marijuana on main streets of Lisbon. Using drugs is totally legal here however selling them can get you into trouble or something a bit worse – into prison!
So, street scammers will offer you “cocaine”, but actually will be selling flour or instead of marijuana you’ll get some nice oregano for your soup. No laws are broken and you end up with some expensive flour to bake with
Tip #4: Avoid talking to cocaine scammers even if they want you to try their stuff.
The day of our departure coincided with the start of a 10 day long celebration of “popular saints”. It’s a festival with lots of food, music and fun all on streets of Alfama. We were told that the festival will start on Friday, but during our casual evening walk on Thursday – it looked like the festival has already began :-))
Overall, Lisbon feels like a big lovely village. Everyone seems to know each other and grannies are hanging their washed undies on the streets to dry. People are so incredibly friendly and the city itself takes your heart away. I fell in love with it and I wish we could stay longer than just 3 days.