If I am to describe Lisbon in one word, it would be “antiquated”. Although that usually has negative connotations I mean it in more an affectionate manner.
Nothing really looks new or clean and if it did, it would probably be out of place. There is a discernible sense of faded grandeur about the place. Many buildings looked in need of a lick of paint and a clean up.
That is not to say I wouldn’t recommend it though. Some of my personal highlights:
Lisbon is renowned for its old trams. They are small and quaint and it feels like you are in a moving museum however they are used by locals and tourists alike to navigate the undulating landscape. Tram 28 is one of the best known. I took it from near the castle up to its terminus near the Jardim da Estrela. Its a great way to see the city and certainly a novelty.
There are a number of viewing points throughout the city but the view from Castelo de Sao Jorge is probably the best.
Looking back across the city from Castelo de Sao Jorge:
The view from the Hotel Chiado terrace as the sun sets on Castelo de Sao Jorge:
Just outside Lisbon, the Belem Tower can be easily reached by bus:
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is also close by:
Another town within easy reach of Lisbon is Sintra. I didn’t visit it on this trip but it’s supposed to be particularly beautiful.
Bairra Alto is the hub of the nightlife where you can find all the main bars and restaurants. It only livens up around 11 where the narrow streets become crowded and there is a good buzz with everyone standing outside drinking and chatting.
Grapes and Bites is both a hostel and the restaurant located in Bairra Alto. They have an excellent selection of local wines and ports. They also have live music most nights. Mostly covers on acoustic guitar but the evening I visited was particularly good. Everything from Layla to Californication with an original twist!
A little off putting is the sheer volume of guys trying to sell drugs. “Psssh hash, cocaine, marijuana” is a consistent refrain. They obviously think that every guy in his mid twenties is mad to buy drugs! Despite this, there was no sense of unease or danger around.
In general, I was not blown away by the standard of the food. There were plenty of nice places but nothing which I would be rushing back for. That said nothing is particularly expensive either.
I was taken aback by the amount of Germans I encountered. Over the few days I was there, it was very noticeable the amount of German accents I heard in a number of the different sites. Interesting!
The weather was very pleasant. Most of the time it was cloudy but no proper rain and nice spells of sunshine. Considering it was mid October, it was great to be able to wear shorts and t-shirts throughout. Even at night it was not particularly cold.
Lisbon is a hilly cobblestoned city. Bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
There is an excellent public transport system. A 24 hour ticket for the bus/tram/metro costs €6. This is very good when compared to most cities. Alternatively you can pay a once off fare of 50 cent for a reusable card where each (metro not sure about bus/tram) trip will cost €1.40.
The airport is also just over a half an hour from the city centre on the metro which is particularly convenient.