September 14, 2013 by mariannat92
In my last post I mentioned that last week it was my 21st birthday! Wooooo! Having already had a pre-birthday with my family before I left the UK, I decided to re-celebrate and treat myself by heading to one of my favourite cities in the world: Lisbon.
Last summer I spent a month in Lisbon studying Portuguese in the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and spending every spare moment exploring the city. As you can guess I’ve got a massive soft spot for the place and was longing to go back asap in my Year Abroad! Luckily my friend Maria, who was also coming from Manchester to study in Coimbra, was due to spend a couple of days there before moving north so I invited myself along to show her around.
Despite having really rather a lot of tequila the night before, I caught the train at 11-something in the morning and arrived at the Praça do Comercio at 2, ready for some proper touristing. I met with Maria there and we popped back to the hostel to leave my stuff in our dorm. The hostel was incredible, by the way, by far the best I have seen so far! I’ll definitely be staying there next time I go too.
Next we went up through Chiado to one of my favourite spots in Lisbon, Noobai Cafe on the Miradouro Santa Catarina. I would really recommend this place, it’s just outside the Bairro Alto with an incredible view through the old town and the industrial ports out across the river to Christ the Redeemer (yes, Lisbon has one too!). The food there is really good and the atmosphere is lovely, you’ve got to try it!
After lunch there we decided to head to Belem, home of the Mosterio dos Jeronimos, the Monumento aos Decobrimentos, the Torre de Belem, and most importantly, of course, the incredible Cafeteria de Belem, where they make the best cakes you will ever taste in your life EVER. We did have a nice look at all the monuments there, especially the incredible entrance hall to the Monastery, where you can see the tombs of Luis de Camoes and Vasco de Gama, but, to be totally honest, I was mostly concerned with getting to the Cafe. Trust me, if you’d been there you would be too! As always, the Cafe didn’t disappoint and we did indeed have the best pastries in Portugal!
After a quick relax back at the hostel we headed out for dinner at another of my favourite spots, Bom Jardim: Rei dos Frangos. This is a brilliant restaurant in Restauradores that specialises in delicious piri-piri frango assado. SO much better than Nandos! I had their chicken, no doubt the BEST thing they make, and Maria tried a bacalhau dish which was apparently really good too.
After this we made our way to the Bairro Alto for beers and caipirinhas – I would recommend that anyone going to Lisbon spend some time there, everyone buys drink in the three main bar roads and then socialises in the streets, so the atmosphere is fantastic. We stayed until about 3 and then went back for a very long chat with the hostel receptionist about Coimbra (he used to live there so was full of gems!).
The next morning we packed up and went for a walk about & lunch at a little side cafe, then went back via the hostel to catch a train to Coimbra. I really enjoyed the day but we didn’t manage to fit everything in, so here’s my top 5 of Lisbon (hopefully I’ll be able to add a few more to this by the end of the year!)
Marianne’s Top 5 Things to Do in Lisbon
- Belem. Belem Belem Belem. i’ve already written about it here but whatever. Get the no.15 tram from Praca do Comercio and get off when you see a Starbucks on the right hand side (on no means actually go there, the cafe I wrote about is just next door!) Besides the monuments I wrote about here there is a huge art gallery in the centre where there are often exhibitions of Portuguese and Brazilian modern art, highly recommended!
- Walk around the old town. I’m not necessarily a fan of the Alfama, where most guidebooks will send you to explore, I would rather explore the area around the back of Avenida up to the Parque Eduardo VII where they sometimes hold outdoor jazz concerts and things like that. The atmosphere in this area is much less touristy and relaxed.
- Go to Cascais! Cascais has wonderful beach coves, lots of little shops and restaurants and the famous ice cream parlour, Santini’s. A great day trip, get the train from Cais do Sodre.
- Explore the Miradoures. Being built on 7 hills has given Lisbon some pretty impressive views, which you can enjoy from the city’s various viewpoints. Most of these have a public square with some kind of bar or kiosk on them, so just sit back and enjoy the view. Not a viewpoint but definitely worth a mention is Martim Moniz square, which has tiny huts selling beer and food from around the old Portuguese colonies during the daytime.
- The Aquarium and Parque das Nações. This area (go on the metro) was the site of Lisbon Expo and has now been turned into a generally nice place, with an amazing aquarium (Seriously, just go.), a huge public square with loads of little canals and lakey bits, a cable car, the awesome Vasco de Gama shopping centre and loads more. It’s a really nice day out, a lovely place to just hang out.
So that was my birthday, it was lovely to return to Lisbon and have a proper look round again. I think I might be going back quite a lot this year, especially with train tickets there for only 22€!!