Stuart and I had the chance to visit Portugal recently, a place that neither of us had been previously. It’s fair to say it won’t be the last time we visit though, we absolutely loved it, and I wanted to share a few of the reasons why.
I’m going to start with the things that we loved about Lisbon, where we were based for the 5 days we were there.
1. The Tiles
Many of the buildings are covered in tiles, which makes for such beautiful streetscapes. The streets are super narrow, and it’s important to take a glance down every little side street as you never know what Instagram moment awaits!
In addition to the entire buildings covered in tiles, many buildings have tiled scenes embedded into their walls, often relating to either the particular area you are in or the activity of that business.
I got a little obsessed with the tiles, and came home trying to figure out how I could tile our entire house, but Sascha tells me it’s one of those holiday obsessions that just isn’t going to translate to Brisbane and she’s probably correct.
2. Pastel de Nata
More or less as soon as we landed we started getting messages from people telling us their favorite place to go for Pastel de Nata, the portugese custard tarts that the region is famous for.
In the interests of research we felt compelled to try as many options as possible to ensure we didn’t make too hasty a choice.
An early favourite was Manteigaria, where the pastel de Nata was amazing and the coffee was great.
We also got a lot of recommendations for the original pastel de Nata location, Pasteis de Belem.
While it got top marks for tiles, the tarts had a much more mass produced feel to them and weren’t anywhere near as good in our opinion, and let’s not even talk about the coffee…..
In the interests of making sure we weren’t overenhancing the memory of the Manteigaria ones we went back for a repeat sample, and I’m happy to report they were even better the second time, so it definitely wins our best Pastel de Nata nomination.
3. The Waterfront
The waterfront area at Belem is amazing, with a beautiful sculpture paying tribute to the adventurous seafarers who played such a strong role in Portugals history. It was incredible to imagine them departing for parts unknown back in times when the majority belief was that the world was flat.
The huge promenade that runs along the waterfront to the mouth of the river is populated with museums, restaurants and super cute food carts. There’s also one of the ever present forts that are dotted all along the Portugal coastline, originally to defend against the Spanish Armada but now repurposed as museums, restaurants and luxury hotels.
You can hire a bike, Segway or all manner of electric transportation and go for miles along the coastline, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do any of those. Stuart was getting a bit twitchy wanting to run in such a beautiful location, but it was quite a way from our hotel so he had to make do with the much hillier terrain around there for this trip.
4. The Hilly Streets
The tiny narrow streets of the old city were beautiful to wander around, but definitely a decent workout. They were incredibly hilly, and Stuart definitely knew he was alive when he was out for his morning runs!
The cobblestone pavements mean it’s definitely not a place for heels, and you definitely need to have your wits about you while you’re walking as the stones are very uneven. If you happy to be distracted – say looking at tiles maybe – it’s very easy to get caught off balance and find yourself potentially getting a lot closer to the cobblestones than you planned! I can’t even imagine how treacherous it would be in the rain, so while sensible shoe recommendations are not usually a key feature of my posts, Lisbon is definitely a place best explored in something that has a good grip and a bit of ankle support. My trusty old Isabel Marant Bobbi’s worked a treat!
5. The People
The people were so friendly, and very hospitable. We had hired a guide for our first day (more about that in my coast post), and he was super helpful and not only ensured we had a great day with him, but he gave us lots of other excellent tips for the remainder of our trip.
On our last day, we’d decided to head back down the coast to eat at one of the great coast locations we’d seen in our travels. I booked an Uber and we headed off, but after a few minutes chatting with our driver it turned out his usual job was guided tours, and he just worked as an Uber driver on the side when he didn’t have a booking. We quickly rectified that, and had a fantastic day with him, not only eating at his fantastic restaurant recommendation (again check the coast post for that), but returning to the city with a trip over Lisbon’s Golden Gate style bridge up to the Rio inspired Jesus statue that overlooks the city.
On top of everything else, while wandering around we stumbled across a pharmacy museum! We couldn’t resist heading in for a look, and loved the displays of pharmacies through the ages.
Lisbon is definitely a place we want to return to, I’m sure there are a few more pastel de nata’s we need to sample to make absolutely sure we’ve found the best ones!