I recently spent a week in Lisbon. Lisbon is a very unique place, unlike anywhere I have been. Lisbon has an amazing vibe, every single part of the city seems to be aesthetically pleasing, locals are friendly and the weather tends to be warm all year round (it is like this generally in Portugal), making it a good place to get relief from the much colder European countries in winter.
On the day I arrived, I arrived very early in the morning after an 18.5 hour night bus from Barcelona – I won’t blame you if you question my sanity reading that but night buses are an excellent way to save money on transport. I also struggle to sleep anywhere but in a bed so I did not sleep much at all. I was very fortunate that upon arriving that I was able to convince the receptionist at my accommodation to allow me to check in early – after he initially said I couldn’t check in early (I had requested this online with my booking). I was sick, tired and feeling very sorry for myself. I then slept for half of the day and later went out to catch the sunset (pictured above). I headed to a popular lookout to watch the sunset, Miradouro da Graça. It was quite a hike up many steep pathways and stairs but it was definitely worthwhile.
If you keep up with me on Instagram you will know that I have unfortunately been unwell for a while (nearly 3 weeks as I write this), since I was in Barcelona. So, I really tried to take it easy in Lisbon in attempt to speed up my recovery. I spent 1 full day sightseeing, 3 half days sightseeing and 1 cheeky night partying – the rest of the time I spent in bed or in the common room resting at my hostel.
I had a series of strange experiences (mostly the good type of strange) in Lisbon and I ended up feeling like I was living in a strange foreign film, the kind I would watch when I was a teenager. It was a bit of a confusing time for me (I was somewhat an emotional wreck) but I felt like there was definitely some travel God magic going on, I met multiple people exactly when I needed to and they taught me lessons that I needed to learn at that time. These kind individuals really picked up me up when I was feeling hopelessly down and sent me onwards on my path, with my smile slightly bigger each time.
One of the mornings I went sightseeing, I couldn’t sleep so I just got up at about 3am, showered and I watched the film ‘The Night Train To Lisbon’ which I highly recommend you do either before your trip to Lisbon or while you are there. It is a really great film and set the mood for some exploring. When it just started to get light outside I set off with my camera, ready to explore. The travel God’s intervened within literally a minute.
“Hey Blondie” a man yelled at me which totally startled me, fearfully I quickly spun around to see who this person was. Soon a gentle giant called Christian introduced himself to me after putting me at the ease by saying “don’t worry honey I am gay, I won’t hurt you”. He turned out to be the owner of a bar which was a short walk from my accommodation and told me I better be there tonight. I told him that I was having a rough time so he could count on me being there to drink away my sorrows. He said some very reassuring words that I hope I always remember. I walked away with a huge grin, chuckling to myself and I went on my way.
I wandered through the city with the aim of seeing a few places I had in mind and just to explore. On my way to one of my first destinations, I walked past the Santa Justa Lift. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about it but I had walked past it on a number of occasions and when I did there was always a huge line. I googled what it was – a lift to one of the best views in Lisbon. Coincidentally it was right on the time they opened the attraction – 7.30am and I happened to be the first person in line feeling very, very lucky.
This is really one of the best views I have had of any city and the best view of Lisbon, with panoramic views of the city, for me it was worth the money (5 Euros or about $7.80AUD – note: if you have a Lisbon Card it is free to visit!).
I then headed to Rua Augusta Arch and onwards to the nearby Promenade.
I took out my kindle and read some of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and enjoyed the peace of being by the water. For some reason, I thought of a scene from Baz Luhrmann’s film version of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when Romeo (Leonardo Di Caprio) is on the beach and this Radiohead song called ‘Talk Show Host’ plays. I listened to this song on a loop and continued to for the rest of the morning.
Later that night, I went to Christian’s bar, Arroz Doce which was a great little bar. This particular street (Rua Atalaia) is really interesting because people from the bars in that street spill out onto the street with their drinks, so it is a great place to mingle. I’ve never encountered a night scene like this and I recommend checking this out. Christian introduced me to his friends and I spent the night chatting to them, unquestionably saying way too much because I was on another level of drunkenness. I normally don’t get like this FYI, I am a massive lightweight and I pride myself on knowing my limit but I made the mistake of mixing my drink choices (wine and followed by a very potent cocktail). I eventually headed back to my hostel because I started to feel nauseous which was a very good choice. One of Christian’s friends, Slobodan, happened to be a freelance photographer and I told him that I am also interested in photography and showed him some of my photos. He invited me to come and sightsee and take some photos with his friends in the afternoon of that day (it was very early in the morning). So that is what I did, the following pictures are from this outing.
Slobodan’s friend, Karajičićevá, was an expat who had moved to Lisbon from Serbia, she knows Lisbon very well and acted as a tour guide, taking us to a number of places and told us interesting information about each place.
We walked for a very long time, soaking in the picturesque sights of Lisbon. I headed back towards my hostel a few hours later when my boots were starting to really hurt my feet. I went to a vegetarian/vegan-friendly supermarket called Celeiro and got some ready-made vegetarian food (Spaghetti Bolognaise and savoury pastries) and then to Liquid Smoothie and got myself a green juice (as I did twice while in Lisbon – I love this smoothie bar).
As I headed back to my accommodation the travel God’s intervened again. On my journey to find food I already had a guy awkwardly use a bad pick up line on me (he ended up walking away out of embarrassment). “Excuse me, do you know where X is?” a guy said to me. Soon I became acquainted with a French guy called Thomas, he also loves Liquid Smoothie he got a smoothie and we drank them together. We ended up locked in some deep discussion about a range of things and walked around the city together. I got something that had been bothering me for the past few days off my chest and in the midst of these conversations I had an epiphany about myself. This epiphany has served as a springboard for some personal goals. Time flew and it was suddenly dark, so Thomas walked me back to my accommodation. I had dinner and got ready for my bus to Porto.
Other recommendations for Lisbon:
–Accommodation: I stayed at a guest house called Friendly Hills Bairro Alto that had a 4-bed dorm room, it was very comfortable, in a great location and I had free breakfast every morning. I paid $65.74 AUD (on average $16.43 per night) for 4 nights and later extended which was excellent value for money. This is in an excellent district near many bars which is good if you want to go out for drinks but it can also be a noisy area at night, if you are fine with this I recommend this accommodation.
–Food: In addition to my recommendations for Liquid Smoothie and Celeiro, I also recommend heading to the ‘Time Out Market’ which is a great place to try lots of delicious local food. The market is especially great if you wish to try local seafood, it can be a little pricey, I paid around 13 euros/$20AUD for a prawn dish (I am pescetarian by the way if me seeking out vegetarian food and eating seafood confuses anyone), however, for me as a foodie it was worth it.
I hope you enjoyed the stories in this post and found my recommendations and tips useful. Maybe I will return again to Lisbon as there is simply still so much more for me to see there. Thank you to all the people who I met along the way as they made this week very special when I was feeling down and out and also to my friends and family for being there for me when I needed it.