Lisbon has been growing in popularity in recent years and was named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit in 2017. With so many good value flights, a warm climate throughout the year and endless cultural and foodie wonders, Lisbon provides the perfect weekend escape.
Arrive into Lisbon airport on an evening flight. Ryanair, TAP and other airlines run regular flights from London and other European cities throughout the day. You can often pick up relatively cheap flights to Lisbon, even over a weekend, just avoid the very popular Summer months (July/August).
We arranged a transfer from the airport to our hotel in the Bairro Alto area, priced at €30 (our poor driver had to wait nearly 2 hours due to Ryanair delays!). If you haven’t prearranged a driver, there are numerous taxis waiting at the airport, and judging by the taxis we got around the city they wouldn’t be overly expensive.
As it will probably be late once you arrive, check into your hotel and get some rest ready for a day of exploring tomorrow. There are so many beautiful hotels, guest houses and apartments around the city – we chose Casa do Barao, a stunning renovated old townhouse with great access to all the sights around the city centre. Lisbon is quite a sprawling city with many hills so bear this in mind when picking accommodation!
Enjoy breakfast in your hotel, but don’t fill up too much as lunch is a feast! At Casa do Barao they offer an incredible breakfast spread of frittata, cheese and hams, fresh bread, jams, cakes, coffee and homemade juices which you can enjoy out in the garden.
Head North straight out of the hotel and walk up along the tiled streets of Bairro Alto to the viewpoint of Miradoura Sao Pedro. Sadly whilst we were there, big renovations were being completed to the area. We could still enjoy the incredible views back down into the old city through the fence though, and from what we could see the renovations will improve the viewpoint in the future. Be aware that the city often experiences a hazy air in the morning, which can impede the view, or add a degree of romantic mystery to it!
Retrace your steps back down towards the river and stop at Carmo Convent, which offers instagrammable architecture of the old convent, destroyed during the 1755 earthquake of Lisbon. There is also a small archaeological museum housing very random items from bronze age tools to a mummified child.
Take full advantage of your holiday spirits and enjoy a late morning stop for a rooftop G&T at the Hotel Chiado bar, offering unparalleled views over Castelo San Jorge and towards Alfama. It’s worth noting that the views from the bar are largely equitable to those from the Santa Justa Elevator, for which you will pay an entrance fee as much as the price of your G&T. I know which one I would rather spend the money on!
Continue on down to the well know Praca Commercial and spare a few moments to take in the grand architecture and views around the square. Don’t hesitate to drop into the Wines of Portugal bar offering incredible value wine sampling, with a selection of espumantes, table wines and ports starting at under €1 for a tasting glass!
With your stomachs calling, continue along the river, admiring the stone sculptures erected on the bank and the views across to Almada, until you reach Mercada da Ribeira.
This epic food market is run by Time Out and offers a wide selection of stalls grilling and frying up every dish you can think of. Fresh seafood, cured meats, cheese and other Portuguese tapas feature heavily with dishes starting at around €5. It can get extremely busy around lunch so the best plan of attack is to recce the different stalls first and create a shortlist, find somewhere to sit and then take it in turns to purchase your goodies and tuck in!
Some of our highlights were the squid ink croquettes from Croqueteria, the octopus salad from Monte Mar and presunto ham from Manteigaria Silva. Inside of the market there is even a kitchen workshop where you can sign up to learn some new culinary skills.
If you manage to escape from the market without too much of a food coma, head north back towards Bairro Alto. Make a quick stop at the Pink Street, which used to be a striking pink coloured road full of bars and restaurants. Sadly the street has been pounded by its popularity and the pink has become slightly less pink over the last couple of years. There’s still some cool street art in the area so it is certainly still worth a photo stop.
If like us, you’re stuffed full of octopus, wine and various other Portuguese goodies, you may find it time to retreat back to the hotel for a break from the city. Escape to the garden of Casa do Barao and sit back with a coffee and a home made brownie, or take a dip in the pool if the sun is shining.
Once recharged, jump on the famous tram 28 and wind your way up to Alfama. Once there, lose yourself amongst the winding narrow streets. Stop to taste the Ginjinha (cherry liquor) from a local vendor on the way up and keep going until you find yourself at the top of the city to explore Castelo San Jorge.
Finish up your afternoon by grabbing a table at Portas do Sol and order a bottle of espumante or vinho tinto to enjoy whilst overlooking Alfama and down to the port as the light disappears over the city.
If you want to stay in the old town of Alfama for dinner, there are a number of local wine bars and tapas restaurants, majority of which have a maximum of 20 covers so you may need to book ahead. We opted to head back to somewhere local and found a lovely fish restaurant in Lisboa a Noité. We enjoyed scallops with Apple, whiskey flambéed tiger prawns served with a lobster risotto, and sole with clams, along with an excellent and attentive service.
Check out Part 2 of my guide to 48 Hours in Lisbon where we explore more of Lisbon’s outer districts…
Find Out More…
Casa do Barao – http://www.casadobarao.com
Carmo Convent – http://www.museuarqueologicodocarmo.pt
Hotel Chiado rooftop bar – http://www.hoteldochiado.pt/en/bar-entretanto
Wines of Portugal tasting room – http://www.winesofportugal.com/en/
Time Out Market – https://www.timeoutmarket.com/lisboa/en/
Portas do Sol – http://portasdosol.pt/en/
Lisboa a Noité – http://www.lisboanoite.com/eng/