I didn’t know anything about Lisbon before we went there. The holiday kind of crept up on us so we had no time to plan before we went. What we found was an absolute jewel of a city, beautiful, friendly and best of all, cheap!
Loads of low cost airlines fly to Lisbon, it’s quite a big international airport. We went with Ryanair from Manchester. As much as I try to avoid them (and their accursed jingle when the flight is on time), they do the job for a cheap getaway. Getting into the city centre was a taxi job – it costs about €20 so if there’s a few of you it’s worthwhile. The airport is connected to the metro too.
Lisbon is famous for its trams – in fact they still run the old fashioned trolley-bus style ones, but the main way we got around was on the fairly extensive metro. It was clean, ran on time and really reasonable. We found it best to buy a certain number of journeys and load them onto a prepaid card. You can also use the travel card on the trains which, again, are really cheap.
Lisbon has literally thousands of hotels, from five star palaces to absolute dives. Essentially you will be able to find a place to suit your budget. We stayed in the Good Morning Hostel in Praca Restauradores and it was without doubt the best hostel I have ever stayed in. It was about €20 a night for a private room so it isn’t dirt-cheap, but you get breakfast included which was lovely (think freshly made waffles, industrial sized tubs of Nutella and unlimited coffee) and our private room on the top floor was essentially a penthouse apartment. If you stay there (and you don’t mind the stairs) ask for that room – just look at it! Furthermore the staff were so helpful and so friendly, you literally could not ask for more from them. Also (don’t tell anyone) there is a hotel opposite where, if you just walk in like you own the place, you can use their rooftop pool! The only downside to the hostel is that the dorms don’t have air conditioning, which in summer I imagine could be utterly unbearable.
Wander – Lisbon is a beautiful old city, it’s a great place to walk about, have a coffee, get lost, explore some shops and just soak up the architecture.
The castle – You can see the Castelo Sao Jorge from all parts of the city. It’s up a sizeable, steep hill so if you aren’t feeling full of life it might be worth jumping in a taxi, but you have to go, even if it’s just for the views from the top – they are absolutely stunning. The castle itself is beautiful too and chock full of interesting history.
The beach – The city centre is on the Targus River, but 20 minutes on the train away are plenty of beaches. We went to Estoril, which was busy but pleasant, with lots of bars and restaurants overlooking the sea. We also went to Caparica, which is a little further away by “beach bus,” which was somewhat quieter. The sea however, was absolutely freezing, even in July. Bloody Atlantic.
The zoo – The Jardim Zoologica is one of the best zoos I have ever been to. There’s not a lot to say about it – in the end a zoo is a zoo – but it was a great way to spend a slightly hungover day. They also had a white Siberian tiger which I have never seen anywhere else which was absolutely gorgeous.
Food & Drink
Lisbon has some fantastic restaurants, and some pretty shoddy ones. We found the best ones to be away from the touristy “strips.” I also had the best tapas, potentially in the world, at a restaurant called Tagide. The restaurant has 2 parts, a full blown silver service restaurant, and the wine and tapas bar where we ate. The food was outrageously good, the view over the city beautiful, and it cost about €20 a person with beer and wine. If you go anywhere for a posh meal, go here.
Drinking is a pretty common pastime among Lisboetas. Barrio Alto alone has about 200 bars on a single street. It is also filthy cheap – pints are about €1.50 and enormous glasses of Sangria are about €2. Beers are also available at little kiosks all over the city and again cost about €1.50, which on a melting hot Lisbon day for an icy cold one seems like one of the best bargains of the year.
Lisbon, like any other city, does have a few problems. One of our party was pickpocketed on the first day which apparently is quite common. We were also offered drugs, a lot. The pushers aren’t persistent and will go away if you politely say no, but it does get annoying after the 20th time. Strangely they never seem to offer them to women, only men. Lastly, if drugs are your thing, don’t get them from random men offering you them in the street – our hostel staff told us that most of them are selling you oregano anyway.