Today’s blog post comes to us from University of North Texas student & API blogger Karina Feliciano. She’s studying abroad with us in Lisbon, Portugal.
Before I studied in Portugal, I really didn’t know much about the country, and as I mentioned I was studying here to other people, I found out they didn’t know much about Portugal either. Living in Lisbon has given me the best experiences of my life, so the purpose of this blog post is to share these experiences and to show people why they should visit Lisbon!
Top 10 Reasons You Have to Go to Lisbon
1: Pasteis de Nata
In Lisbon, there is quite literally a bakery on every corner, and each bakery sells this sweet little pastry that nearly everyone can’t get enough of. A pastel de nata is an egg tart pastry that has a crunchy, buttery crust surrounding a warm, sweet, creamy center that you can dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon. When you order one with a coffee on the side it is *chefs kiss* the perfect combination. It originated in Belém, only a short train or bus ride outside of Lisbon, and you can even go to the bakery where it originated and eat a pastel de Belém that still makes it with the original secret recipe from nearly 200 years ago. However, anywhere you go no matter the recipe, a pastel de nata will never disappoint.
2: Gorgeous gardens
Lisbon is full of gardens/parks to escape the bustling city. They range from extravagant botanical gardens with exotic plants to humble parks where you can meander aimlessly while taking in the nature around you. A lot of events take place at parks as well, and there are usually kiosks where you can stop to grab a snack or a drink. I definitely recommend visiting Lisbon’s gardens for a nice breath of fresh air.
3: Beautiful beaches
Lisbon is just along the coast of the Tagus river and doesn’t really have sandy beaches, but if you hop on a bus or a train to Cascais which is west of Lisbon, a short 20 minute ride can take you to some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Also, a 20 minute bus ride south of Lisbon can take you to Costa da Caparica that has a long beautiful coastline where you can surf, shop, or just take in the sun.
4: Poppin’ nightlife
If you are a party animal, then Lisbon is the place to go. Most nightclubs open between 8pm and 12am, and stay open until around 4am to 6am. Many of the nightclubs such as K Urban Beach and Lust In Rio are right along the Tagus river, so if you stick around until they close you can experience a beautiful sunrise by the water. If you are looking for a more laid-back night out, then there are countless sports bars, speakeasies, and rooftop bars to fit any mood.
5: Cool Castles
Castelo de São Jorge is a 2,700 year old castle atop a hill looking over the city of Lisbon. Not only are the views absolutely spectacular from its walls, but it is also full of history and contains an exhibition, a garden, and ruins. A short train/bus ride west of Lisbon to Sintra will also take you to some of the most beautiful castles in the world. There is the Palácio da Pena, Palácio de Monserrate, and Quinta da Regaleira just to name only a few from that area. Sintra makes for a wonderful day trip!
6: Calçada Portuguesa (Portuguese Pavement)
Anywhere you walk in Lisbon, you will be walking on cobblestone pavement that in many areas have distinct, artistic designs like a mosaic. My favorite design is found in Rossio Square, which is made to look like waves on the ground. Although they are beautiful, they are extremely slippery when wet. My advice is to bring shoes with good soles!
If you are looking to get a traditional Portuguese experience then I recommend going to see Fado which is classical Portuguese folk music. Fado is considered raw emotion in musical form, and has been an honored tradition since the mid 1800s. There are many Fado bars and restaurants around Lisbon that book Fado guitar players and singers who create an atmosphere unlike any other. If you are ever in Lisbon, go see Fado!
Portugal is known for its ceramic tiles known as Azulejos. They are everywhere from the exterior of a large number of buildings, walls of churches, decorations in restaurants and metro stations, and so much more. There are countless beautiful and colorful designs and many are even painted to portray Portuguese history. Azulejos are such a unique art form and are easily one of the things I will miss seeing around the most. If you are ever in Lisbon and would like to spend a day or two on a tour of Azulejos, this link provides info on the best places in the city to find them.
One of the best things about Lisbon is the accessibility to get anywhere. Leaving the airport, you can grab a viva viagem card for €0.50 and can get daily unlimited passes for the metro and busses in Lisbon for €6.40 per day. I also recommend downloading google maps because after you input your destination, it will give you multiple options to get around via busses or metros near you in real time. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to get around with google maps and my viva viagem card; that combination completely takes away the stress that comes with figuring out transportation in a new city!
10: The views
Last but certainly not least, the views overlooking the city will take your breath away. There are countless places to overlook the city. Rooftop bars and parks are my go-to when I’m looking to soak in Lisbon’s beauty. My favorite spot in Lisbon is called the Secret Garden LX and it’s located right off the side of Miradouro da Senhora do Monte which is the highest viewpoint in Lisbon. It has a bar, a spot for dj’s to play their tracks, an art studio, and lots of places to sit and enjoy the gorgeous view.