When planning a recent getaway with my dad, it took a while for us to narrow down a destination. Our original plan was to go to Sydney, but rules that out when we realized we weren’t likely to get first class on standby (a major factor when you’re looking at over 15 hours of flight time! We considered London or even Singapore, but eventually ruled those out. As our departure date neared, the pressure mounted to pick a city to spend our father-daughter trip.
I pulled up the map of Europe on my phone and quickly crossed out the big three – Italy, Spain and France, having recently visited them all. Then my eyes drifted west and landed on Lisbon, Portugal. Hmm, that could work. I did a quick check of the weather and discovered a stretch of sunny, 80 degree days were predicted. Promising, I thought. I shot a quick text to my dad and a few minutes later he gave me the thumbs up!
With only a few days left before our trip, I started feverishly researching all there was to see and do in Lisbon. History, culture, cuisine and more. Lisbon has so much to offer I don’t know how I ever overlooked it! If you are contemplating a European getaway, I highly recommend visiting Lisbon. Below are 11 reasons to add Lisbon to your bucket list.
Most European cities are relatively easy to reach from the States. Flights typically depart in the evening and arrive in the morning 8 or 9 hours later. Lisbon is Europe’s westernmost Capital city. At under 7 hours of flight time, it’s also one of the quickest to get to. By the time you have dinner, a couple glasses of wine and a quick nap you’re about to land! If you’re not a fan of long haul flights, Lisbon is for you.
Lisbon’s Mediterranean weather is another one of its many draws. The city enjoys some of the warmest winters in Europe with temperatures reaching the upper 70’s late into the fall. If you enjoy warmer climates and beach hopping as late as October, you should definitely add Lisbon to your bucket list.
It’s no secret that traveling in Europe can be expensive. Just one day of sightseeing can cause those euros to add up fast. One of Lisbon’s draws is that you can enjoy it and several other surrounding cities without breaking the bank. While hotels can be pricey, depending on when you go, you can easily find beautiful apartments that are centrally located for under $100 a night through Airbnb. There are several reasonably priced restaurants along Cais Gas as well as Rua Augusta and affordable transportation that makes exploring Lisbon and neighboring cities a breeze!
Those looking for luxury won’t be disappointed either. Rest your head in a 5 star hotel like the Corpo Santo or Avenida Palace. Enjoy fine dining at the modern, upscale Feitora Restaurante & Wine Bar or the elegant and traditional Restaurante Tavares, open since 1784. Or consider a night out at the São Carlos Opera House or the National Theatre D. Maria II. There are plenty of ways to indulge in Lisbon!
Lisbon’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means fresh seafood is abundant. My dad and I enjoyed the fresh catch each night, first at Monte Mar then at Cervajaria Marisqueria Camões in the nearby city of Cascais. Seafood not your thing? No worries, there are a variety of restaurants near Rua Augusta that will satisfy just about every craving. You’ll also find a number of cafes and pastalerias to satiate your sweet tooth. My dad and I happily ended each night with a sweet treat and hot tea!
Lisbon is situated along the Atlantic coast in the western Iberian Peninsula. This makes for some lovely views. Enjoy a leisurely seaside stroll along the pedestrian path, treat yourself to a cocktail at a waterfront café and take in the dramatic sunsets. Those looking to soak up the sun can do so on beautiful beaches in neighboring cities like Cascais.
6. DAY TRIPS
Another reason Lisbon should be on your bucket list is its proximity to other must-see cities. Both the fairy-tale town of Sintra (map it!) and the seaside city of Cascais (map it!) are less than an hour away from Lisbon by train. Given our time constraints, dad and I had to squeeze both of these destinations into a one-day excursion. It was ambitious, but we did it! Although, I wouldn’t recommend this. To get the most out of these unique locations, dedicate a full day to each.
One quality that makes Lisbon such an enjoyable place to visit is how easy it is to navigate. The Lisbon Metro connects the city center to other surrounding districts and the airport. There are also trains that depart from the Rossio and Cais do Sodré Station that connect Lisbon to neighboring cities – perfect for those day trips! The most common (and fun) way to move about Lisbon is on the famous yellow trams. However, my preferred mode of transportation whenever I’m abroad is by foot and Lisbon is a great walking city.
Lisbon’s proximity to the coast, it’s colorful azulejos (ceramic tiled buildings), rolling hills, red terra-cotta rooftops and romantic castles make Lisbon and many of its surrounding cities some of the prettiest in the world. Everywhere you look is a picture. I had to force myself to put down my camera and actually take it all in. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and wanted to capture it all!
From its art and architecture to its music and dance, Lisbon has a particular flare that distinguishes it from other European cities. It’s not uncommon to come across live Fado, a musical genre that originated in Lisbon, being played in the streets and ccompanied by spontaneous dance parties. Join in, you won’t regret it!
The Portuguese know how to party. While Lisbon offers plenty of ways to fill your days, there is also much to do after the sun goes down. Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife is concentrated in the Bairro Alto neighborhood (map it!) and experienced in classic venues like Clube de Fado where patrons can dine to live music then dance the night away.
If clubs aren’t your jam, you can always stroll along the Rua Augusta or take a late night ride up the Santa Justa Lift, a 9 story elevator with a lookout point up top offering stunning views of the city. Folks stay out late in this city and there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and gelaterias that are happy to accommodate.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. Its ancient castles, unique architecture, famous squares, museums and monuments, many of which are concentrated in the neighborhood of Belém, are just a few of the ways visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s rich and complex past.
I’m so glad I got to spend some time exploring this city with my dad. After visiting Lisbon, it’s hard to believe I ever overlooked it. If you’re pondering a European getaway, even if just for a few days, Lisbon should most definitely be on your list!
What destinations are currently on your bucket list? What do you look for in a destination when planning a trip? Share your comments below!