Top 7 Reasons to Visit Lisbon
Lisbon has experienced a massive revival in recent years, with historic neighbourhoods now becoming favourites among tourists and locals alike.
A typical weekend itinerary offers a day of exploring the old cobblestone streets in the traditional neighbourhood of Alfama and indulging in a plate of flaky Portuguese tarts filled with custard cream in the famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belem bakery. The culturally buzzing Lisbon has more than enough sights to fill an entire week, and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems to discover beyond the main tourist sites.
Here are some of the top reasons why you should visit Lisbon.
1. The spectacular views
Since Lisbon is built on seven hills that overlook the Tejo river, you’re never far away from a beautiful view. The city is known for its numerous rooftop bars and terraces from which offer excellent vistas of the old city as well as the bay’s 25th of April Bridge that looks like a cousin of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
2. It’s affordable
When you travel to Lisbon you’ll find it a budget-friendly destination, as it is one of the most affordable capital cities in Western Europe. For example, a coffee in Lisbon costs just a single euro, and a meal in an average restaurant costs less than 15 euros.
Accommodation choices in Lisbon offer great value and are easy on the wallet. For plenty of charm and comfort without breaking the bank, consider staying in Casa Amora Guesthouse, Casa Balthazar or Oasis Backpackers’ Mansion.
3. The amazing seafood
Portugal’s picturesque coastline makes it the perfect place to enjoy some of the country’s fantastic seafood. The local cuisine specialises in seafood dishes, with restaurants serving fresh squid, bream, snook and fried cuttlefish found along the coast.
It’s the bacalhau (codfish) that makes Portuguese locals heart beat a little faster, and possibly yours too. In what is a centuries-old tradition, the salted codfish is imported from the north of Europe, before finding its way into many of the signature dishes found in Portugal. Be sure to try the bacalhau a bras that combines ingredients like onions, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs.
To accompany the country’s excellent cuisine, Portugal also has some terrific homegrown wines. You’ll want to sample the famous Port wines from Porto, while vinho verde (green wine) is a local favourite.
4. Beaches within 30 minutes
Surrounded by a beautiful coastline, Portugal is home to an array of beautiful beaches.
Many of the beaches are within a stone’s throw distance from Lisbon, easily reached on public transportation, or on the Lisbon-to-Cascais train line. Rent a car, and you’ll be able to reach many of Portugal’s less-visited beaches including Guincho, Sesimbra and Caparica, some of which are surrounded by craggy cliffs and coves.
5. The gorgeous tiles
Portugal developed a wonderful obsession with patterned tiles, a lasting gift from the Moorish occupation over a thousand years ago. You can find them adorning many of the buildings around Portugal, where you’ll discover an array of multi-coloured facades, including pastel colours highlighted in Lisbon and deep reds accents favoured in the city of Porto.
The tiles, or azulejos, give Lisbon an artisan flair, with many of the tiled walls depicting historical scenes. Be sure to visit Museu Nacional do Azulejo where you can admire a collection of hand-painted tiles that date back to the 16th century, including pieces from Lisbon’s historic Santo Antonio church.
6. The castles at Sintra
Sintra is a fairy tale-like area with majestic castles just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon. You can find a Moorish castle set on a steep hill guarding over the surrounding landscape, as well as some vibrant coloured palaces that once housed Portuguese royalty. A UNESCO World Heritage centre, these pastel-coloured palaces are unlike any other in Europe.
You’ll want to explore the lush gardens around Sintra, such as the Quinta da Regaleira. These enchanting gothic-style gardens were created in the early 1900s and include a series of hidden tunnels as well as an underground tower. You can easily fill an entire afternoon exploring these grounds with its various nooks and crannies.
7. The melancholy of Fado
The traditional music of Fado is a symbolic embodiment of the Portuguese spirit. You can find many singers performing Fado songs in Lisbon’s traditional Alfama and Mouraria restaurants. The songs emphasise a feeling of saudade, a word that cannot be directly translated but is an expression that involves a strong sense of nostalgia and longing.
The songs are usually about a wife missing her husband who’s sailing the high seas, the sad turning of the seasons or a love that’s forever lost. Often paired with multiple guitarists, even if you don’t understand the lyrics you are sure to feel the emotions, as Fado singers are able to express their passion through their intense melancholy.