Most people typically travel to Portugal for leisure in the summer months, however I fancied my chances at seeing what Lisbon, the Portuguese capital had to offer in January! In this post I am going to go into detail on why you should seriously consider Lisbon as your next city break and what you can do when you are here!
Basic Useful Info
- Portugal is in the EU and it’s in the Schengen Area, so if you are visiting as a resident of an EU country you have no extra details to worry about, if you are from outside the EU you are entitled to 90 days stay within every 180 days!
- They drive on the right like everywhere else on continental Europe
- The use the Euro as their currency
- They are GMT +0, so if you are coming from the UK then there is no time change!
- They use the type ‘F’ plug, like the one that’s used in most of Europe
Lisbon is one of the most easiest capitals to reach, not just for Europeans but also for people that are travelling across the pond!
I opted for a Friday night flight out with a Monday afternoon flight back, flying with the Portuguese carrier TAP which is a member of the Star Alliance frequent flyer programme. I only booked my flights about 5 weeks in advance and bagged my two 2.5 hour flights from Manchester are just over £100 return.
On both legs I was on the aisle seat with no one sitting immediately next to me, I was also at the very front of the economy section (TAP does have a very small business class section comprising of 2 rows at the very front of its regional flights, however I did not look into how much these seats would cost) One other small thing that did surprise me is that a complementary food and drink service was also included on both flights, it was a small wrap and a drink of your choice (beer!)
Upon Landing you have a variety of options for getting into the city center, there are trams, buses and plenty of taxis, but the option I went for was an Uber. To book an Uber simply do it through the app which you need to have set up in advance with a payment option added, reserve it and you will be asked by the driver to wait at the Terminal departure area, not the arrival area! I was informed by my driver that this is easiest place for the drivers to pick you up from!
You can expect your journey from the airport to the city centre to take about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and cost just under €10 each way!
What To See
Lisbon is a densely packed capital city and incredibly hilly, so lucky everything you would want to see as a tourist is within close reach. There is loads to do in the city and I couldn’t possibly highlight everything to do in this post however here is a sample of things you can do in the city.
The first thing I recommend seeing, which I personally try and do in every city I visit is find the best look out point, the best one in Lisbon is called ‘Miradouro da Senhora do Monte’ if you put this into your Map app on your phone it will take you right too it, you can either walk up to the top or take one of the many ‘Tuk Tuks’ you see around the city.
At the top apart from a mobile coffee shop there isn’t a great deal to do apart from enjoy the incredible view.
I also recommend crossing over the Tagus River and visiting the National Sanctuary of Christ the King which is in Almada, you’ll need at least a couple of hours to do this…
To start you’ll need to get down to the ferry terminal in Lisbon, if you walk down to Praca De Comerico and then walk down the sea front towards the direction of the big bridge, you will eventually reach the terminal. You are heading to ‘Cacilhas’ which is the closest point on the ferry to the statue in Almada. You will need a ticket to ride the ferry, it cost €3.10 for a return ticket (50c for the actual ticket which can be topped up and used again, then €2.60 for the 2 journeys) when you go the gates at the ferry port, you swipe the ticket on the reader and then it deducts the amount off the card.
The ferry takes about 10 minutes each way, so when you are on the other side of the river you can either walk to the statue which will take about 30 minutes or get the public bus which is around €1.30.
Finally when you get to the site of the landmark you go inside and pay €5 to go right up to the top. At the top you get incredible views up front of the statue as well as the bridge and Lisbon itself.
To get back to Lisbon you can either walk back down to Cacilhas terminal or get the bus at the site, then use the remaining amount on your card to cross back over the river on the ferry!
One thing you have simply got to do in Lisbon is get on the trams and go anywhere on them, they are visible on most of the streets and climb up and down some of the steepest. You simply get on board and pay the driver and off you go. Maps of the route and available at the tourist information kiosks you see across the city as well at the various tram stops
What To Try
Didn’t get any photos of either, partly because pretty much everyone knows what wine and cheese is and what it looks like!but you have got to try both in Lisbon, together! Some of the cheese you can try here is the best I have ever tried! In the supermarkets you can also buy a decent quality bottle of wine for literally a couple of Euros, in the restaurants, like anywhere else you can pay as much or as little as you want!
One dish I can recommend trying is Pica Pau, it a choice of beef or pork cooked in a spicy sauce and has pickled veg in it, very simple but tastes amazing. I tried this along with a side of olives and cous cous.
Where To Stay
I stayed in ‘Yes! Lisbon Hostel’ that is located on Rue De S. Juliao street. Could not recommend this place enough if you are travelling either by yourself or even with some friends. The hostel is located right in the centre of everything, its seconds away from the Praca De Comerico area and offers clean and comfortable accommodation.
There always plenty going on in the hostel and even in January there were loads of people staying here, my room of 6 was fully booked all 3 nights I was here. They offer tip based walking tours, paid day trips as well as bar crawls. You can sign up for all of these when you get there!
One thing I recommend trying if you do choose to stay here is the ‘Yes! Famous Dinner’ it’s €10 and you get a 3 course home made Portuguese dinner as well as an open bar for a couple of hours. For how much it costs and what you get it is totally worth it.
I booked 3 nights at Yes! and it cost about £15 a night, which I did through HostelWorld.com. When you arrive you need to pay €5 cash as a deposit for a key fob which you get back when you give your fob back upon checkout, there is also an option to rent a towel at €2 euros which I strongly recommend, especially you are just carry hand luggage like I was.
Fabio and all the rest of the staff are very welcoming and will help you out if you need any advice/info on what to do and how to book any onward travel. You find out more about Yes and book your stay click here!
Things To Watch Out For!
- Portugal has a strange relationship with drugs, all types of drugs of all classes were decriminalised in 2001 and now they are treated nationwide as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue. Don’t be surprised when walking down the street to be asked if ‘you wanna little weed’, my advice is to ignore it and walk on, however use this advice if you wish!
- Although a member of the EU and located in an area of the world that sees mass tourism, the reality is that Portugal is still a fairly poor country, most people struggle to manage with the low salaries they are paid, as such there is a lot of opportunistic theft, I even witnesses a bag snatch on my first full day here, that been said avoid ‘flashing the cash’ in front of lots of local people!
- A bit of a follow on from the previous point, if possible try and pay with change where possible when buying things instead of handing large bank notes and assuming that they will be easily changed, some really small shops might even struggle to break a €20 note into change. So if something costs something like a couple of euros, try and pay for it in change in the first instance.
I had an absolute blast visiting this great city, for tourists it is one of the cheapest destinations to go to in Western Europe and full of friendly, welcoming people. It is certainly on my list of places to go back to!