Why Lisbon Is The Perfect City Break Destination?
There is no doubt that saying this we are highly biased. However with some proper travel experiences under our collective belt, we are sure we are not that wrong at all!
1. Lisbon is compact.
City breaks usually tend to be short escapes to break our daily routine, to go discover a new place or to celebrate some special occasion. Since days are counted, taking the most out of this short event is every citybreakers dream! Attention, we are here not trying to suggest obsessive planning or tight time schedules.. Instead we are trying to say that Lisbon is perfect city break destination as it is compact and easy to handle. In the spectrum of capital cities, Lisbon just happens to be on the side of small ones. And small is great!
A simple 40 minute subway ride takes you to Baixa, the downtown of Lisbon. You can visit on foot most of the historic neighbourhoods (Baixa, Chiado, Alfama, Bairro Alto, Principe Real, Estrela). Trams & subway take you within short ride to other interesting parts of the city (e.g Belem and Parque de Nações).
You want to see the Atlantic Ocean? Well just a 40 minute train ride takes you to Estoril or Cascais. Or an equally timed bus ride to the long sandy coastline of Costa da Caparica. You want to spice up your stay with a day trip? Another train of 40 minutes takes you to Sintra – the magical romantic fairytale city belonging to the list of Unesco heritage.
We are not even going to mention the richness of quality accommodations and delicious restaurants. They can be found everywhere.
So said all that, it is just so easy to arrive in Lisbon and to create and carry out your dream-city-break-plan. Or you choose to visit all the sights or you choose to sit hours by the river Tejo or lie down on the shores of the Atlantic.. You can fit it all in!
2. There is still some touch of old and traditional left to experience.
Although right before Covid hit the world, Lisbon was increasingly popular and worries over dangers of mass tourism were subtly rising, it is still one of the best kept secrets of southern Europe. The tourism numbers were still much lower than in the bigger cities of the neighbouring countries, not all the doors are turned into tourism shops and you can still find some locals living and walking around the city.
This combined with the locals’ pride and love for their culture and traditions, and of course their saudade (longing) for the old times.. helps to keep alive the authenticity and uniqueness of the city. Undoubtedly reinventing, recovering and repackaging some of the old into new is unevitable and only healthy! By the end of the day, the times are changing and generations too.
The famous light Portuguese stone pavement – calçada portuguesa-, the highly photogenic tiles & tile-works on building facades, the little yellow trams rushing through the city, the yearly city parties with sardine grilling, fado performances, people going for little daily coffee-shots (when Portuguese ask for a coffee, they mean an expresso type of strong liquid) in typical local cafés… are just few of these things and rituals that keep the locals grounded in their roots.
The famous Tram nº 28 on Calçada da Estrela
3. Hospitality is genuine and a great source of pride for locals.
It is not a secret that tourism and service sector are increasingly important contributors to Portuguese economy. Don’t get us wrong, it is not only because of money! Portuguese people are just genuinely good at hospitality and receiving others. The language and manners of locals among one another, either with friends or with strangers are full of courtesy. When staying in a hotel or enjoying a meal at a restaurant, you can almost always count on a smile and warmness of the ones in your service!
4. The weather is quite fine all year around.
Of course nowadays, in the context of global warming, one can never be too sure when talking about the weather. Leaving aside the recent heat wave in Europe, the hottest summer days in Lisbon are around 30 degrees and the coldest winter days as low as 10 degrees (a bit colder at night, but always on the plus side). And then there is a lot of days with all kinds of temperatures in-between – perfect for all kinds of things! Hot days for the beach and museums! Cold days for roasted chestnuts, ginja shots and museums! And the enjoyable averagely warm days for endless strolls around the 7 hills of the city!
5. The food & wine scene is versatile & irresistible.
After the first four reasons nobody needs an extra argument to be convinced that Lisbon really is the perfect city break destination at any time of the year.. but hold your horses! There is one more to go!
The food. And the wine. The Mediterranean Diet based gastronomy is full of fruits, vegetables, quality bread and of course olive oil and fish as the main source of fat. Almost every restaurant offers at least few (or many!) fish dishes and olive oil shows up everywhere!
And then there are the pastries! We are not sure how are they exactly connected to the Mediterranean Diet (probably through the quality of cereals, olive oil and other fresh ingredients!), but they are heavenly! You should try the custard tarts (pasteis de nata, especially the ones from Belem) or some popular egg pastries (e.g ovos moles) to start with.
Pastel de Belem & Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
All this goodness is available in hundreds of restaurants and coffee-shops around the city. And even better, there is already more than a handful of restaurants with a Michelin star (Belcanto & Loco being our favourites) and many other interesting projects involving food (e.g. Time Out Market food court or Bairro do Avillez, a space with different eating areas).
Last but not least, if you are a wine lover, you will like it here! Portugal has great wines with very good prices. Besides the famous Port-wine you will find something for every taste or preference. The locals love their wines so much that you almost cannot find any foreign wines at supermarkets. And in case, you have never found any Portuguese wines back home, it is probably because the Portuguese producers are just too small to pay for huge international marketing campaigns. Your city break will offer you enough time to fall in love with some of these Portuguese wines.. which later can be easily ordered online.
Stretch your wings and fly!