Ahh, Lisbon. I’m saying that as if Lisbon, Portugal has been a topic of much-had conversation over the years. Which it has not. I mean, do YOU know anything about Lisbon? Other than it’s the capital of Portugal? (It is the capital of Portugal, right?) I ask this because… before I booked 3 days in Lisbon, I didn’t know a thing about Lisbon. Lisbon, Portugal is literally surrounded by world famous cities—Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, Marrakech—and, if you don’t even know where Portugal is, you might not have even known that. Is okay. Nobody blames you. (Least of all me who still can’t pinpoint where she lives on a map of Massachusetts. Somewhere near the shoulder? Elbow? I dunno.)
The reason I booked 3 days in Lisbon in the first place in simple: FREE STOPOVER, Y’ALL! That’s right, people. The Portuguese airline TAP offers a free stopover program, much the same as the one offered by Icelandair. What that means is, on your way to somewhere else (in my case, Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest) you can stop in either Lisbon or Porto, Portugal and spend 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 nights there at no additional airfare cost. They do this as an incentive to get you to visit their country—a country you might never have otherwise visited (guiltyyyyy). And, also, to raise awareness for Portuguese egg tarts. #SaveTheEggTart (not, like, from extinction or anything. I just mean save some for me.)
More on the TAP Stopover Program here.
During my TAP stopover I spent three full days in Lisbon and operated on a fairly loose plan which is, apparently, the Portuguese way. Whereas I’m usually a down-to-the-minute planner, in Lisbon I simply maintained a casual list of things I wanted to see and do and only a roundabout order in which to see/do them. So what that means is: you get to sleep in this time! During the long weekend I spent in Lisbon (in late September) the temperature hit 100°F every day so, honestly, many things I had on my list got passed up in favor of cooler activities like taking forever to get ready, beer drinking, and refusing to come out of the shade at all costs.
TIPS FOR SPENDING 3 DAYS IN LISBON
Lisbon, Portugal is, if you don’t know, a country in Europe. It’s down over there by Spain, a little to the left, ok as far left as you can go in terms of contiguous European countries. That being said, spending 3 days in Lisbon is not unlike spending time in most other countries in Europe, so use what you’ve learned from the others (you have been taking notes, right?). But as far as travel tips go, there are a few that are Lisbon-specific, like:
PICK UP THE LISBOA CARD
What do I like more than free stopovers? Videos of people slipping on ice! Okay, well, besides that. Discount sightseeing passes! I’m a huge fan of CityPASS here in the U.S., the Oslo Pass in Norway, the Paris Museum Pass, and the list goes on. I was thrilled to find out Lisbon has its very own—the Lisboa Card—and that their tourism board was willing to hand one over to me all willy-nilly to use during my 3 days in Lisbon. I feel like now’s a good time for an evil laugh so, MWAAHHAHAAHA!
The Lisboa Card gets you free entry into 29 of the top tourist sites, discounts on many others, skip-the-line privileges where applicable, and, what was the biggest help, free travel on all methods of public transportation because does anyone really know how to use those ticket machines anyway? I will literally make it to my destination before I figure out where the coins go. And then I’ll just slither off and pray I didn’t just ride with a bus-full of snitches.
You can purchase the Lisboa Card on their site or just pick one up when you arrive in Lisbon at the Visit Lisboa Tourist Office in Praça do Comércio, the city’s main square. They’re available in 24-, 48-, and 72-hour versions. (The Lisbon tourist office is not where you think it is. Instead, look for the info sign here ⇣)
WATCH OUT FOR PICK-POCKETS
I realize this is one of those general Euro-travel tips I was trying to avoid in this section, but you should know I felt especially in the crosshairs during my 3 days in Lisbon. (If you’ve been to Barcelona, it’s kinda like that.) It’s not that I felt unsafe in Lisbon—because I didn’t—I just felt like a constant target and had to stay on my guard at all times. Except that time I didn’t.
I admit, part of that is probably because of my hyper-paranoia having been robbed in Europe before, but a lot of that is from visibly being followed in crowded areas and my husband nearly getting pick-pocketed in the bathroom at a urinal. (Is that low-down or what? Like that must violate the Bro Code on some level, right?) Also, and I’ll get into this more in a bit, but I’m almost positive my Lisboa Card got jacked while I was being herded onto a tram.
Petty theft (man, I hate that term—nothing about being robbed of your personal property is ‘petty’ to me) is a real problem when traveling in Europe so know your risks. Keep the valuables you travel with to a minimum, carry a purse that zips closed and keep it that way, keep your wallet in your front pocket and your hand in there too when walking through crowded areas. And just basically operate under the suspicion that everyone is trying to rob you. (Because they are. The next week at Oktoberfest a girl had her shoes stolen right off her feet while she was peeing in a stall. Are public restrooms no longer safe spaces? Don’t answer that.) Also, consider purchasing travel insurance before your trip—it’s super affordable and could save you SO MUCH TROUBLE.
WEAR STURDY SHOES
Umm, have you even seen a picture of Lisbon? It’s pretty much vertical. It’s wicked steep, it’s hilly, and it’s got more steps than an Ikea assembly manual. Oh, and the streets and sidewalks and plazas are all covered in slick mosaic tiles. That lingering fear of will I or won’t I bust my ass today? adds a whole new level to international travel that’s just super fun.
For real though, Lisbon is no place for cutesy ballet flats or flip-flops. Every street feels like you’re hiking Everest only it’s 100°F and no one is carrying your bags for you. You’ll be climbing up steep paths, ascending and descending hundreds and hundreds of hundreds-year-old stairs, walking for miles on slick-even-when-dry-for-some-reason tile sidewalks, and you’ll be doing this for your entire 3 days in Lisbon. Wear some real shoes, girl. There’s no place for fashion in Time-Budget Travel. Blisters are not the new black. Unless they are. Which is disgusting.
BE PREPARED FOR A STRIKE
I feel like it’s inevitable when you travel in Europe—at any time, in any city, chances are there’s going to be a strike. Such was the case during my 3 days in Lisbon and for us it was the taxis. The time I visited Montserrat outside Barcelona it was the railway. I can’t remember who was striking when I was in France. And in Italy, it’ll seem like everyone’s on strike but that’s just a typical afternoon.
My advice? Always have a backup plan. Know the various methods of transportation available to you and how to use them. Don’t rely solely on specific trains or buses or taxis because there’s a good chance the operators of the one you want to use will be fighting for fair wages and you’ll be stuck.
BE PREPARED TO ARRIVE EARLY AF
You know what’s great about direct flights from the East Coast to Lisbon? Well, they’re direct. So that’s obvious. Just a quick six hours, bada-bing, bada-boom. You know what sucks monumentally? That they all leave at night so you’re going to arrive in Lisbon, well, still at night pretty much. Only it’s actually early as hell in the morning, pre-sunrise. Cool cool cool.
The Type-A personalities among you might be like, “Yay! A full first day in Lisbon!” That is, until you get there realize the country ain’t ready for you. For this kind of situation, know that you may need to make special arrangements.
For us, our hostel (not to mention everything else in town) didn’t open until 8:45 am though we arrived in Lisbon at 5 am. I was able to get in contact with the people running the place who gave me, the day before we arrived, the key code to get into the building. Where we were then free to wait until the desk opened at 8:45. And by ‘wait’ I mean sleep in a chair in the lobby for two hours while my husband sleeps on the tile staircase.
HOW *NOT* TO DO 3 DAYS IN LISBON
I feel like I kinda threw myself to the wolves during my 3 days in Lisbon. Like just when you think you’ve perfected international travel, the gates of Hell open up and the world throws you a weekend like mine in Lisbon. And not the good kind of Hell either with fried chicken and Ozzy Osbourne. I’m here to tell you how to enjoy 3 days in Lisbon, but I’m also here to tell you how not to let it break you.
⇢ For starters, I got zero sleep on the plane ride over. This is 100% the fault of the airplane meal I ate on the way over. So, okay, I guess it is my fault after all. Regardless, I tell myself everysingletime not to eat the airplane meal and eeeevery time I’m like, “I’ll have the pasta, please.” Lesson #1: don’t eat the airplane food.
⇢ Because of this I was exhausted the entire first day in Lisbon—despite my pathetic two hours trying to sleep like a pretzel in a hostel chair. When Ashley doesn’t get enough sleep, Ashley turns into the Big Bad Wolf who will huff and puff and blow your entire city to the ground. It’s not pretty. Lesson #2: take the Dramamine.
⇢ While a lot of what I ate during my 3 days in Lisbon was freaking delicious, none of it stuck around for very long. Let’s just say it was a long 3 days in which I got to know every bathroom in the city. Lesson #3: bring at least 3 days worth of Pepto Bismol, Tums, and whatever else you pretend to not have in your purse at all times ‘cause you’s a lady. Women are basically that guy from the Aaron Rodgers State Farm Commercial, “I’ve never been in a bathroom. Not once.”
⇢ Halfway through my 3 days in Lisbon I lost my Lisboa Card. Or, rather, I think it was taken from me. The last time I used it I was being herded onto a tram leaving Belém and I mean HERDED. I had no fewer than ten other humans pressed up against my body. I scanned my card on the tram, and by the time we got to our destination it was gone. Lesson #4: Don’t let your guard down for even a second. If even the most paranoid, untrusting traveler with a low-level international spy complex because she watches too many crime-fighting shows of them all can fall victim, so can you.
⇢ So yeah, during our 3 days in Lisbon (and probably long before and after) the city’s taxis were on strike. We used Uber upon landing in Lisbon and therefore remained completely oblivious for the first couple of days. That is, until we needed to figure out how to get to the airport to catch our plane to Munich. We would need to leave a few hours before our 8 am flight, obviously, but there was a big problem. We had no way to get there.
Sure, we could call Uber again, but there are only like three in the city and what are the chances they’re going to be in our area at 6 am? Slim, I was willing to bet. The private cab companies are unreliable at best (so we were repeatedly told). There’s a hotel at the airport we considered staying at the night before but an additional $300/night after we’d already paid for our hostel was redonkulous. I’m a Smith, not a Kardashian. The airport was just a couple miles from our hostel and we legit considered walking. (Walking to the airport dragging our luggage behind us was our solid backup plan. This is why my decision making now has a blood alcohol limit.)
We finally found out there was a night bus we could take that would “totally probably” show up. At 4:30 am. That would take an hour and a half to go the few miles to the airport. Kill. Me. The Night Bus was the new backup plan. On our way to the bus stop at 4:30 am I took a chance and was able to snag the Uber. Kudos to Lisbon’s insomniac Uber driver! Lesson #5: Always have a backup plan. And then another.
⇢ Temperatures remained between 90-100°F our entire 3 days in Lisbon. Look, I’m from the South. I love the heat and have zero issue with it. My body is fully capable of handling it. HOWEVER. In Lisbon, there was no relief from it. At least in Tennessee we know how to cool our homes and businesses to sub-zero temperatures when the thermometer rises above 70°F. Our room at the hostel had no air and no window to open. The restaurants and cafés have no air. The only two places in Lisbon that have air conditioning that I could find? A weird furniture/school supply store, and a church in the Bairro Alto.
Now, before you get all self-righteous on me, I know this is Europe. I know air conditioning is virtually non-existent here. So, Lesson #6: Bring a fan. A foldable one, a piece of cardboard attached to a popsicle stick, or a battery-powered one like I saw some people doing. It’s the only thing that will save you from chewing your husband’s head off on a daily basis. Lesson #6.1: Book a hotel that has air conditioning and make sure of it first. It just may save your marriage.
⇢ Two out of our 3 days in Lisbon, we had to suffer through a series of government protests. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal had it not been directly outside our room’s window. And we were on ground level. Drums banging, horns blowing, whistles, screaming, collective chanting, and—because this is how they do it in Portugal—craploads of alcohol. Lesson #7: Bring earplugs.
⇢ Before I booked my Portugal stopover I did a wee bit o’ reading on Lisbon and what I kept reading was that it’s a “budget destination”. People kept comparing it’s affordability to Prague’s. Score! You can basically live like royalty in Prague even if you, say, blog for a living. Move over, Beckhams! I’ve got a hundo in my pocket and I’m ready to spend it… on Portuguese egg tarts and to heal whatever wounds I incur from walking to the airport.
Fast forward to about a month before the trip: Okay, then why can’t I find a place to stay for less than $500/night? There was barely a hotel room left in the city. We ended up booking a private room at a hostel for > $100/night. Budget destination, my ass. Turns out, there was a huge, weekend-long soccer tournament happening right there in the city center driving up all the prices. Lesson #8: Maybe find out if there are any major events planned in your destination before buying a plane ticket?
3 DAYS IN LISBON // DAY ONE
I’m gonna go ahead and skip past the first few hours of 3 Days in Lisbon: Day One because, it ain’t pretty. We arrived way too early and slept in the lobby of a hostel for far too long. We were exhausted, hangry, and hopped-up on Pepto.
MIRADOURO DE NOSTRA SENHORA DO MONTE
The first stop of our 3 days in Lisbon was the Miradouro de Nostra Senhora do Monte where I realized immediately that I hadn’t done enough cardio training. Miradouro is the Portuguese word for “sexy lookout point that’s totally worth the heavy breathing” and you can find these miradouros all over the city. Since one of my favorite things to do in a new city is find the best vantage point, I wasted no time. Well, that’s not true. I did have to stop for air a lot while my husband ran circles around me.
Each miradouro in town is unique and offers its own unique views. I wanted to fit in as many of these as I could. So I settled for three.
Why visit Miradouro de Nostra Senhora do Monte? Well, for starters, because it was the closest one to my hostel. But also, THESE VIEWS
Pro Tip: Beware the masses of biting flies here at the Miradouro de Nostra Senhora do Monte. Another time a fan would’ve come in handy. And when they keep biting your bare legs, try not to scream, “Jesus Christ!” because this miradouro is at a church and it echoes like a mf back here. 🙏🏼 Namaste.
MIRADOURO DE SANTA LUZIA
After Miradouro de Nostra Senhora do Monte, our plan was to pinball our way down towards Lisbon’s main square to pick up my Lisboa Card, hitting every miradouro on the way down. We managed to find one more because touristing on an empty stomach is hard: Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
Why visit Miradouro de Santa Luzia? Well, amazing views. But also, the area itself is a beautiful backdrop for engagement pictures, apparently.
Pro Tip: This is one of the most popular miradouros so go early if you want tourist-free photos.
PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO
Praça do Comércio is a great place to actually start your 3 days in Lisbon since it’s the city’s main square and also where the main tourist office is located. At the Visit Lisboa tourist office you can pick up your Lisboa Card (if you haven’t already) maps of the city that tell you shockingly little about how many steps you’ll have to climb to get from point A to point B, use the free public restrooms if you can find them, and bogart their free WiFi.
Why visit Praça do Comércio? Well, it’s Lisbon’s largest and fanciest square, it’s lined on three sides by restaurants, bars, shops, and the giant Arco da Rua Augusta (the big arch), which leads directly to Rua Augusta, one of the main commercial (i.e. tourist) streets of the city. There’s a big fancy statue in the middle, the Tagus River on the south side, and a man and his pet rocks that everyone was going ga-ga over even though I’m pretty sure those things are glued in place. Believe what you want. Everyone has his/her own threshold for how much magic he/she can believe in.
Pro Tip: The area near the river is a great place to cool off since the air near the water is a legit 20° less than the rest of the city. I’m not exaggerating. I sat there for an hour.
Yo, this place is also called Cathedral Sé, Lisbon Cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, sometimes just Sé, and so on. So, no, I can’t figure out what it’s actually called but you know the one. Anyway, the Se Cathedral (as I’m choosing to call it) is the oldest church is Lisbon whose construction began in the year 1147.
Why visit Se Cathedral? Because every European capital has that one church that’s super old and cool—this is Lisbon’s.
Pro Tip: Watch for all traffic of all kinds—getting a picture of the Se Cathedral is an extreme sport. Most people try to catch a photo of it with tram 28 passing in front but I was just trying to not get killed. It’s a real-life Mission Impossible movie.
CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE // ST. GEORGE’S CASTLE
Castelo de São Jorge is probably the biggest attraction in Lisbon both figuratively and literally (you can see it from almost anywhere). It was built in the mid-11th century and what you can visit is what’s left of it… which is a considerable amount considering it was built in the freaking mid-11th century. There are 11 towers, a permanent exhibition, a café, an expansive miradouro, and the whole place is just straight outta Westeros.
Why visit Castelo de São Jorge?
- Walking the castle walls high above Lisbon is a totally fun and unique experience.
- The views from Castelo de São Jorge are the best in Lisbon
- THEY HAVE A GARDEN FULL OF PEACOCKS.
Pro tip: The Lisboa Card won’t get you into Castelo de São Jorge but show it to them and you’ll get a discount on admission.
At this point, it was finally time to officially check in to our hostel and get our suitcases out of the lobby. After we did that, realized there was no AC in the room, and had a totally justifiable hissy fit, it was time for an early dinner. And it was only because we decided to have dinner at 4:00 pm that we could have dinner at Cervejaria Ramiro.
Cervejaria Ramiro (cervejaria meaning ‘a place you get beer’ so, no, I don’t understand why they’ve called it that—I mean, I did get a beer there so…), which just so happened to be across the street from our hostel because there is a god, is the most popular restaurant in Lisbon. Don’t believe me? Check out the line down the sidewalk at any hour of any day (except Monday when they’re closed, and except, thankfully, around 4:00 pm). I was a favorite of Anthony Bourdain, that goof from Somebody Feed Phil, and my husband who would totally fly all the way back to Lisbon for a repeat.
Why visit Cervejaria Ramiro? Ramiro is a seafood lover’s paradise. They sell everything under the sun sea here and all prepared in a minimalist, uncomplicated fashion—the best way to prepare seafood, in my opinion. Most of the stuff on the menu will be stuff you’ve never heard of—so order all of it! We went with some stinky cheese, local oysters, clams, tiger prawns, and a spider crab whose body was then used as a vessel for a soup made from its other parts. It was deliciously barbaric. Had we been able to go back a second time like we planned, I would’ve also gotten the goose barnacles, some langoustines, and a bunch of other unidentified creatures that I could only point to.
Eating at Ramiro is serious business. It’s the kind of place that serves steak sandwiches for dessert and almost everything you order comes with a legit mallet and pounding board. Prepare to spend a lot of time here, maybe injure a thumb, and to leave covered in butter and the various juices of sea creatures. Some of which came from table next to you.
Pro tip: The menu is impossible to figure out so ask the waiter how much of everything he thinks you should get. (And yes, I said ‘he’ because I didn’t see a single female working in this joint.) Also, BYOB. Bring your own bib.
After our time at Ramiro we were both too full and too exhausted to accomplish much else. We strolled around our part of town and ended up at a plaza full of bars and makeshift food stands and hung out until I fell asleep with my eyes open. Finally, bedtime! I’ve been looking forward to this for the last 48 hours.
3 DAYS IN LISBON // DAY TWO
3 Days in Lisbon: Day Two started out the way zero days on zero of my trips have ever started out—with me sleeping in. Look, I hadn’t slept in almost two days so I care not about your judgments. I slept for twelve hours and I regret nothing. NOTHING!
To start the day we hopped a tram to Belém which is pretty much a part of Lisbon but like, you can’t walk there. You can take either tram 15 or tram 127 to get there and you can grab those at either Praça do Comércio (the main square from Day One) or, as we did because of proximity (coughlaziness), Praça da Figueira. These trams come in two versions: the larger, more modern, AIR CONDITIONED version, or the super old, should-have-been-decommissioned-by-now, un-air conditioned version my husband made us take because of availability and lack of patience. They pack these trams in tight and just when you think you’ll be fine if you can get your head out the window like a retriever on a road trip, the tram stops and somehow, against all laws of physics, more people get on. None of who have showered.
PASTEIS DE BELÉM // PRONOUNCED ‘PASTAISH’
This is the reason you woke up this morning afternoon.
If you’ve done any sort of research on how to spend your 3 days in Lisbon, you’ve no doubt come across Portuguese egg tarts aka Pastel de Nata. (And if I’m in fact your first stop, aww thank you!) Well if it’s Portuguese egg tarts you want, Pasteis de Belém is where you want to be.
Why visit Pasteis de Belém? Pasteis de Belém is where the whole egg tart thing got started so obviously they’re the best in town. That also means you’re going to wait in a wicked long line. Unless you don’t want to?
Pro tip: The long line you see down the sidewalk is only for to-go orders. If you want to sit down at a table and eat your pasteis like a civilized traveler (just kidding, I’d already been standing up for an hour aka too long), just walk inside (yes, past all the people who simply got in line because it was there) and grab an empty table. The place is huge so you may end up going in way deeper than expected. There’s no AC in the joint but, and here’s another PRO TIP, try to get a seat in the back sunroom—they have misters! Also, the other stuff on the menu is great too—try a chicken pie. I mean, it is lunchtime at this point.
PADRÃO DOS DESCOBRIMENTOS // MONUMENT TO THE DISCOVERIES
Just down the street from Pasteis de Belém is the Monument to the Discoveries and the adorable area around it. The monument has been around since 1960 and represents Portugal’s history of navigation and discovery. It features some of Portugal’s most important historical figures and symbolism and is so bright it’ll possibly blind you.
Why visit the Monument to the Discoveries? Because it’s a famous Lisbon (Lisbonese?) point of interest and because you’re already nearby. (And because it’s next to the water and you’ll need to cool off by now.)
Pro tip: Don’t forget to look down! On the ground around the monument is a ginormous compass rose, a world map, and some fun artwork. (This was actually my favorite part.)
TOWER OF BELÉM
Walk along the water (well, until you can’t anymore) and you’ll end up at the Belém Tower – Lisbon’s most recognized attraction. The Tower of Belém was built in the 16th century and was used both as defense at the mouth of the Tagus River and as a fancy way to be like, “Welcome to Lisbon, y’all!”
You can enter and tour the inside of the Tower, but I opted to just check out that sexy Manueline exterior.
Why visit the Tower of Belém? Belém Tower, along with the monastery I’m about to mention, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plus, admission to it is included in the Lisboa Card. *does the cabbage patch*
Pro tip: Kick off your shoes and check out the tower whilst sitting on your ass with your feet in the water.
The Jerónimos Monastery was one of my favorite parts of Lisbon and dates back to January 6th, 1501 (damn, that’s precise). Here you can visit the cloister, the church, a small history museum, and the tomb of the famous Portuguese explorer you learned about in 3rd grade Social Studies, Vasco de Gama. Yup, he was Portuguese! Who knew?
Why visit Jerónimos Monastery? This place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is GORGEOUS. You could spend all day examining the details in the Manueline cloisters, plus I have a thing for visiting the graves of famous dead people. *shrug* Also, admission is included in the Lisboa Card.
Pro tip: The church is best viewed from the upper deck. Next to the 500-year-old statue of Jesus just casually placed right there, unprotected.
TIME OUT MARKET
Leave Belém and head back towards town ‘cause it’s dinner time! Wait, let me rephrase that…
Wait in a mass of sweaty, chain-smoking humans at the tram stop for 45 minutes, shove your way onto the tram once it arrives like your life depends on it, get your Lisboa Card jacked. Then leave Belém.
The Time Out Market is my kinda eatery: a hundred different places to get a thousand different kinds of food. You see, I’m a big “sampler” and I have pretty strong culinary commitment issues. At the Time Out Market you can get a lil of this, a lil of that, a whole buncha Iberian ham.
Why visit the Time Out Market? Here, you can try all the Portuguese staples you don’t want to commit an entire meal to such as: sardines, various other canned fish products, jamón (okay so it’s Spanish but I don’t care because it’s heavenly), cheeses, Port wine, local beer, and, of course, pasteis de nata.
Pro Tip: People will try to steal your wallet whilst you urinate so… just say no to urinals. Yup, that is my actual real tip for the Time Out Market.
Wanna take a guess at how we ended Day Two? Ding Ding Ding! We sat in a local square and drank beer at an outdoor table. You’re getting really good at this. What we were going to do, had we not still been exhausted and had I been feeling closer to 100%, was see a Fado show. I would totally recommend seeing some Fado while you’re in Lisbon, though I can’t recommend any experience specifically. Sorry, I realize this is the first time I’ve let you down. Please accept my profuse apologies. When I do make it to a Fado show, I’ll update the crap outta this sum’bitch.
3 DAYS IN LISBON // DAY THREE
3 Days in Lisbon: Day Three was pretty laid back. Well, don’t get me wrong, we still walked 500 miles, but we did so very slowly.
We started out with breakfast on the Rua Augusta at Casa Brasileira. Yes, it’s a “touristy” place to dine, but it’s breakfast so who cares? And yessss, there were more pasteis.
RUA AUGUSTA ARCH
Construction on the arch, located on the north end of the Praça do Comércio, began in 1755 to commemorate Lisbon’s reconstruction after the devastating 1755 earthquake. On Day One you saw the Rua August Arch, but today you’re going to climb it. Tis true—there’s a viewing deck atop the biggest arch in town.
Personally, I didn’t make it to the top but that’s not for lack of desire. You know I love a good viewpoint. Admission to the top of the arch is included in the Lisboa Card, but having just had mine taken from me, my stubborn ass refused to pay the measly $3 admission price to go up. It’s the principle, damn it! What? I never claimed to be a rational human being. Hella fun at a holiday party? Yes. Rational? Not even a little.
Why visit the Rua Augusta Arch? For the views! So I’ve heard.
Pro tip: Don’t lose your Lisboa Card. They will not replace it. Even if you have the ID number and a photo of the barcode. Even if you say the magic words.
Personally, the Bairro Alto was my favorite part of town, much to the dismay of all the Alfama die-hards. This part of town is way uphill from the rest, is home to one of my favorites sites in Lisbon, and has a beautiful church with some killer AC.
This part of town is known as the party district, but because I’m an old lady wearing practical shoes, I visited in broad daylight.
CONVENTO DO CARMO // CARMO CONVENT
The ruins of the Carmo Convent was my favorite spot in Lisbon. Convento do Carmo is a former Catholic convent that was destroyed by the infamous 1755 earthquake, leaving some very interesting ruins. Today, you can visit what’s left of the Gothic-style convent and its adjoining museum of archaeology, see artifacts thousands of years old, and ogle at a pair of legit mummies that are too grotesque to look away. See? ⇠ Some things you can’t unsee–consider that your fair warning.
Why visit Carmo Convent? Because you’re an architecture nerd. No? How about archaeology? History? Mummies?
Pro tip: The giant silver ball art installation is actually a balloon. This piece of information will prevent you from suffering a severe heart attack when the wind blows and you think it’s about to bowl you over.
SANTA JUSTA LIFT
Just a short walk out the back door of the Carmo Convent is the Santa Justa Lift—a super weird elevator to seemingly nowhere. It opened in 1874 in the style of the Eiffel Tower and used to transport people from the lower part of town to the upper. I TOLD YOU THOSE STAIRS WERE A BITCH. And for a little more than 5 euros, you too can ride the lift, presumably with about a hundred other sweaty, chain-smoking travelers.
Why visit the Santa Justa Lift? Well, maybe you’re trying to get to the Bairro Alto and you’ve just had it with walking for the day. Regardless, it is worth checking out because it’s so bizarre you just have to see it for yourself.
Pro Tip: I can’t imagine waiting in line and riding the Santa Justa Lift would be any level of enjoyable. Instead, you can get the same views from the top without having to ride the weird elevator. Exit the Carmo Convent and head to the right side of the ruins. Go past the restaurant and you’ll see the backside of the elevator. This is when you’ll realize it’s not, indeed, an elevator to nowhere.
DINNER AT JOÃO DO GRÃO
I have no clue how to pronounce that and I only just now realized that’s the name of the place we ate. We chose João do Grão randomly while walking and we had a great experience. The location was convenient, the service was fantastic, and it was at the moment that I learned sardines are just not for me. The whole time I’d been hearing about sardines while in Lisbon, I was picturing anchovies. Imagine my surprise when I ended up with a plate of foot-long fish. Now I know.
The rest of 3 Days in Lisbon: Day Three was spent stressing over how to get to the airport in the morning and asking everyone I came across if they thought the night bus would run. And if it was really a purple triple-decker driven by a shrunken head with a Jamaican accent.
WHERE TO STAY IN LISBON
⇢ Personally, I stayed at the PLBH Bicycle Hostel 28 during my 3 days in Lisbon and, as you can see, Lisbon is chock full of things with names that don’t make sense. I half liked this place a lot, and half couldn’t wait to leave. Mostly due to heat rage.
For instance, the place was super clean and well-kept, breakfast was provided, and the staff was friendly. On the other hand, it was hot AF in our room (I think the dorm part was maybe better), our room was below ground-level so we couldn’t crack our window open at night (people kept throwing trash in it like DUHH), and we had an issue with paying that lasted a full two months after our stay which eventually ended with me depositing money into a Chinese PayPal account. I’m LOL’ing at just the sound of that.
Pro: our room even had a hair dryer, Con: it was way too hot to even think about using it. Pro: we had our own personal bathroom, Con: it took us an entire minute to lock and/or unlock our door with the outdated key system and I was legit terrified of what to do in case of fire. Pro: the location was great and the building was secure, Con: our room felt more like a cinderblock prison cell than it did a hotel room.
All in all, I think the place would be great if you were to stay in one of the dorm rooms instead of a private room as most of the problems I had with the place were room-specific. That being said, go here to read reviews on TripAdvisor or, if you’re already convinced, go ahead and book your room now.
⇢ Alternatively, my friend Amanda visited Lisbon right after me, stayed at the Sana Malhoa, and loved it. It’s a little farther out but she said it’s really close to public transportation and they have the best continental breakfast she’s ever had in her life. So that’s something! |Read reviews on TripAdvisor or book your room now!
⇢ Don’t forget, there’s always Airbnb! (Get one with a view.) Plus, I can get you $40 off your first Airbnb rental – just click here to activate the discount.
RECOMMENDED TOURS IN LISBON
As lazy I was during my 3 days in Lisbon, what I should have done was let someone do all the touristing for me. So since I’ve had plenty of coffee today, I’ve found some great Lisbon tours for your choosing pleasure:
Lisbon Guided Walking Tour | This 3.5-hour walking tour is billed as being “perfect for first time visitors” and has 5 stars all across the board.
Private Lisbon Food Tour: The 10 Tastings | This 3-hour food tour is exactly what you need for trying all the local goodies and learning more than all the description I could give, “It was good.” Great job, Ashley. You must be beating the food networks off with a stick. Check out the ten stops on the tour here.
Small Group Fado Show and Dinner | Remember when I said to see a Fado show? Here ya go. This tour includes dinner, a local guide, and is restricted to small group for optimum intimacy. This link also describes just what the heck Fado is since I didn’t do that.
Lisbon Sunset Small-Group Walking Tour with Fado Performance | Or combine two of those with the walking tour/Fado show. Instead of dinner it includes snacks, but also includes a great walking tour with tons of 5-star reviews.
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