Lisbon Loving

Jessica Eades and I had both been wanting to go away and visit somewhere we’d never seen before, and a city break to Lisbon seemed like a great option. As we’d both heard lovely things about Lisbon we decided to try it and got about researching our trip. As with any holiday, I think it’s important to keep an element of spontaneity as you never know what you’ll find when you get there or what the locals recommend.

We researched a few hotels but in the end chose the NH Collection Lisboa Liberdade for our four night stay, and I would highly recommend this hotel. Not only was it really central, but it also had a gorgeous rooftop pool and bar area – something we were keen to have – and after visiting some of the other hotels we were looking at online it was definitely the best. The views were amazing and the food was so good.

The first day was spent relaxing by the pool and taking a little wander around the area. Note that if you do visit, there are buses from the terminal to many of the main streets in Lisbon for a tenth of the price of a taxi (we got a bus direct to our hotel on Avenue Da Liberdade for just €5 return).

Being the capital of Portugal, you’d expect Lisbon to be very expensive. Naturally you can spend lots of money if you want to, but I found it very reasonably priced – we ate out every night and didn’t spend more than €20 each. The first night we went to a local pizzeria called Luzzo. It was down a cobbled street that didn’t look overly impressive, and I have to admit we almost walked straight past it, however looks are definitely deceiving as when we walked in we were presented with the most beautiful courtyard setting, and a stunningly decorated restaurant. The courtyard was fully booked but we sat closeby and had a lovely meal, the food was amazing and all locally sourced.

On the second day we decided to take a walk and were recommended the Hop on, Hop off bus tour by the hotel. I am so glad we decided the do this. There is so much to do and see in Lisbon and as we were only there for four days, we really wanted to make the most of it. We decided to buy tickets for two routes of the tour, the red Belém route and the orange Cascais beach route. The idea is that you can travel up and down the route as many times as you like in the day, and get on and off when you want. Belem is a part of Lisbon I had been wanting to visit ever since I heard of their famous custard tarts, so this was the perfect opportunity. Pasteis de Belém has been making the traditional tarts for centuries, and the ancient recipe has stayed secret to this day. People will come to Belém just to try the pastries and for a mere €1.50 you too can try a piece of Portuguese sweetmaking history (they are delicious). Other stops on the tour included the Jeronimos Monastery which was honestly one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen – the architecture and history in Lisbon is amazing. On the way back we wandered through the Parque Eduardo VII which had some lovely pop-up food and market stalls and a festival type vibe – there were stages for music and tables and chairs laid out on the grass. Not ones to miss out on a good foodies experience, we had dinner at Hard Rock Café Lisbon that evening.

We’d heard about a Pena National Palace in a town called Sintra that was just outside of the city and decided to head there on Friday, our last full day. We took a train from Restauradores metro station (a short walk from our hotel) which took about 1 hour. It was a bit surreal leaving the city and gradually ending up in a picturesque village in the Portugal countryside. As we disembarked we found ourselves in a sleepy community, with tiny cobbled streets and quint local shops. It was another short walk into the village itself and we decided to stop off at Café de Paris for some lunch. Eating lunch and overlooking the Sintra National Palace was pretty special. We then got on a little train for €5 each that took us on a ‘village tour’ and was very close to getting stuck down the windy streets, but we got to see parts of the village that we wouldn’t otherwise have done. Next was the final stop, the Pena National Palace (I didn’t realise just how high up it was, I have no idea how it was built that high and on a hill). Anyway, we had to take a bus, a small people carrier and finally walk a little to get to the palace, but it was definitely worth it. It got noticeable colder at the top, and we could see the clouds around us, but I am so glad we made the trip up to see it. It was such a romantic palace with exuberant architecture in bright, clashing colours – a wonderful representation of Portuguese royal history. Dinner that night was at Nosolo Itália on Praca do Comercio Plaza and we visited the Skybar at the Tivioli Lisboa Hotel for drinks that evening. The Skybar is listed as one of the top ten rooftop bars in Lisbon, and as it was opposite our hotel, we had to pay it a visit. With superb views over Lisbon, especially as night, it was a great way to wind down after a long day exploring.

On our final day we were lucky to have a late flight back so we checked out at 11am and made the most of the pool and bar area (it was 34 degree’s, and yes, I did get burnt) for the rest of the afternoon. We then took a walk to the Amoreiras Shopping Centre for their 360 Degree Panoramic View experience. For €5 you could visit one of the highest point sin the city, and see Lisbon for miles. The views were fantastic and the skies so blue it made for some pretty good last-minute photography conditions.