36 Hours in Lisbon
There’s no doubt that Lisbon is Porto’s youthful, faster and engrossed cousin. What it does have in common is that there is something to look at every turn from Gothic architecture to roman pillars and panoramic vista. There are steps everywhere and if you have any breath left, the views will take it away.
We stayed in the gorgeous Casa do Principe for our two-night finale to our Portuguese adventure. The staff steered us away from the tourist areas and towards the local restaurants. Whereas in Lisbon, we were offered ‘weed’ on every street, here it was upped to ‘coke’, which set the tone somewhat.
The temperature at the end of November stuck comfortably around the mid-teens, however, as it was pouring with rain when we arrived, we dived into Le Petite Prince for a coffee and plan out the evening. This place is so tiny that the bookshelves take up more room that than the cramped seating area but what a delight. The owner apparently speaks umpteen languages and I heard a few while drying off. Close by is Cafe Tehran which served us up a scrumptious feast that included ingredients such as pistachio, mint, yogurt and of course, chickpeas. We had to try anything that was called ‘Lovers Cake’ after which we realised this meal proved so powerful it stopped the rain. We headed out into a dry night in Lisbon to be absolutely delighted by their dazzling Christmas lights. These showed the city as being modern, fun and proud.
The next night, we ate Thai food in the Time Out market which we’d discovered early on. The place is filled with indie food companies, there is something for every taste bud plus a tonne of bars with local produce. On a Sunday evening, it was full of families and frankly, there should be one of these in every city. (They are coming, although to N. America rather than Europe).
The must-see sights for me include the castle where the peacocks roam around while you have coffee, Praça do Comércio, a grand square by the sea and also make the trek up to the Panteao Nacional where many of the great and glorious are buried. However, the reason to go up is to experience the old Lisbon in its rawest form and then climb down a little for a treat at Copenhagan Lab.
Alternatively take your chances on having a very experienced driver who can navigate the hills, cobbles and twists on the bus.
Other coffee shops to visit in the capital are Tease and The Mill. I’m unsure about Hello Kristof and especially Fabrica as I dislike cafes who insist on your speaking to one another rather than having wi-fi. There’s no need to dictate how people should live their lives.
Lisbon does shopping. The city is small but feels big and our train from Porto arrived into the train station which had little market that lead into excellent shopping centre. If you want to shop - or just get an idea of what the locals do, I recommend Centro Colombo which had some good places to eat.
One of my favourite brands, Rituals is everywhere and I thought I’d found a product not available in the UK only walk into my friendly local branch and found it there. Oh, how the staff laughed (on the inside).
There are plenty of bars to choose from and we ended our last evening in the Swiss Ambassador’s former residence. A Port Fizz & and Old Fashioned - with a port twist - in The Decadente.
It’s worth a trip out to Belem Tower and the sights around it. We managed to jump on a bus after visiting The Mill for a last coffee close to our hotel before we checked out. It’s understandably touristy, however, a half day could have happily be spent here as there’s also a museum and a monastery to explore.
Lisbon was that much more magical after celebrating the beloved’s birthday in Porto and then travelling to the colourful capital with its warm November sunshine. It’s a wonderfully civilised city in the evening with late opening shops, plenty of eating choice and at this time of year, it’s stunning festive lights.