We decided on a city break at the start of the year. Well, initially it wasn’t going to be a city, initially it wasn’t even going to be a break. After making the momentous decision to replace the bathroom in the summer, we felt we probably shouldn’t be going anywhere at all, however, this proves hard to do when you are sitting in the glumness that is post Christmas and new year blues and what seems like a lifetime of early dark nights.
I had received an email from #lonelyplanet that had stated ‘a craft beer revolution in Lisbon’. This had immediately appealed to us. A short break and flight time that includes beer? Craft beer at that? Where do we book?
Well, unfortunately, Ryanair for a start. The problem with this airline is that in terms of prices, no other carrier comes close. I dislike Ryanair for so many reasons that I won’t bore you with now but had I have had a choice to fly with someone else, I would have done.
So, the flights were (very) cheap. Something like £170 return for the both of us. The accommodation was cheap too. We did some quick research on where to stay and found a company called Portugal Ways Conde Barao Apartments that appeared to be placed in a really convenient part of town. These were also really well priced at about £200 for Monday-Friday. In addition to the apartment, we were offered a connection service from the same company which meant that as well as picking us up and returning us to the airport, on the last day they would take our bags ahead of our flight meaning we didn’t have to drag our luggage around the cobbled streets – and, if you see the cobbled streets of Lisbon, you would be grateful for this!
I am sure that you can get a taxi to and from the airport (it is only 20 minutes max away from the centre of Lisbon) but as our flight didn’t get in until just short of midnight, it wasn’t something we wanted to mess about with.
We departed from Terminal 3 at #manchesterairport. Now, I wouldn’t usually bother writing about an airport terminal but I feel I need to mention this. Terminal 3 is great providing it is not busy. I understand that it is operated mainly by Ryanair and as a result of that, lots of people have their carry on luggage with them. Bare in mind, however, that it is also the smallest terminal and so lots of people with lots of baggage means only one thing: carnage. Thankfully we had booked into the airport lounge – the one good thing about Terminal 3. The views are fantastic, you literally sit on the runway and get to watch the planes take off and land, something which I really enjoy for some reason.
Anyway, back to Lisbon. We checked into our apartment with ease. I understand some reviews on #tripadvisor claim this wasn’t an easy thing to do but we really had no trouble whatsoever. The code to get into the apartments and our actual room was emailed to us several days in advance (I did have to pay a city tax as well) and hey presto! It worked. Our room was spacious and very clean. It did overlook a construction site and again, this has received some criticism from people who have stayed there. I can understand why but if I am honest, you would be hard pressed to stay in Lisbon where construction isn’t taking place at the moment. There is investment everywhere. Old apartment blocks are being renovated all over the city and I can imagine in a couple of years time it will be even more wonderful than it is at the moment.
We arrived late on the Monday night, so we didn’t get to explore any of the city until the next day. The first thing we encountered was the #timeout market, something that wasn’t mentioned in our travel guide strangely enough. Needless to say, we might not have discovered the place unless we were staying nearby. The Time Out Market is attached to a massive fruit, vegetable and fish market. Had we not have been short on time i.e. staying longer, I am sure we would have bought some fresh produce here and made our own food. They had so much on offer, we would not have been disappointed.
Walk into the Time Out market and it is this huge courtyard of various different eating houses. There is something for everyone. We returned later on on the Tuesday when it was far busier than when I took this photo!
Beyond this, we walked up to a place called Principe Real. This is a steep walk (as most of Lisbon is) but worth it for the view. A stunning 360 degree aspect of the city and as we had really good weather for the time of year that we went (an unseasonal 23 degrees) then this only enhanced what we could see. Clear blue skies and dazzling sunshine that swept across the ceramic tiled buildings.
At Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara, there is a little market. It sells things from tiles to handbags from freshly squeezed lemonade to sangria. Obviously, we stopped and sampled both. It would be rude not to!
From this viewpoint, you can clearly see other areas of the city. We decided to aim towards the Carmo Convent, a former Roman-Catholic convent. Again, another steep climb but again, another spectacle at the top with a fabulous back drop.
We started to learn more about Lisbon, probably stuff we should have read about before, like the city it used to be before the massive earthquake destroyed most of it’s buildings and nearly a third of it’s people. We felt quite ashamed that we hadn’t done more research but having said that, it’s wonderful to immerse yourself in history sometimes and enjoy it and understand whilst you are there.
Having had an iWatch for Christmas, I was able to track our ‘walking progress’. There wasn’t a single day where we didn’t hit over 1000 calories burned. Yes, Lisbon is a city where the attractions and sites are close together, but it does involve some climbing.
Public transport is very cheap. There is the famous 28 tram that still operates through the city, but there is also a good bus and train service. On the day we decided to walk to Belem, we caught the train back costing us only three euros. It is a bit disheartening though. A walk that takes you most of the morning, can be achieved in a five minute train journey on the way back!
The walk out to Belem is particularly nice. Mainly because it is flat and when you have spent what feels like your entire life climbing a cobbled street, you really appreciate a tarmac pavement!
Along the waterfront is another up and coming area. Bars are starting to creep up along the way, as well as some places to eat and the views, again, are really great. The Golden Gate styled 25 de Abril Bridge (incidentally, I don’t know if it is styled on the Golden Gate but it certainly reminds me of it) is the constant feature along this path as is the Christ the King Statue. Both of these landmarks can be seen from any viewpoint in the city and they look particularly special lit up at night.
Belem is worth a trip if only for the little delights on the way. We came across this attraction in addition to this statue. Another idea of what to expect from Lisbon. I felt that there was a real mixture of old and new and both had been executed really well. It was all tastefully done and a real compliment.
I could talk about Lisbon all day. I wish I hadn’t written this retrospectively and had completed it as and when I had experienced all of these different things like I have done previously. You live and learn.
A couple of other important things to mention. Walking around the city walls probably involves a queue but is well worth it. We took in the sunset over a couple of roof top bars mainly Noobai in Bairro Alto, which even if it isn’t open there is a great public space that people seem to flock to to enjoy the view. We also went to another recommended place called Le Chat, which is like a glass cubed cafe that boasts more great views (and great white sangria).
We also went to a coffee house called Hello, Kristof which, if like me you enjoy really good coffee in a contemporary atmosphere, then this is well worth a visit. As is the salmon on toast.
And finally – the craft beer revolution I hear you say? Well, yes, that was our initial plan but fortunately Lisbon had a lot more to offer than craft beer. We did seek out some gems of places but we literally ran out of time. That must mean we will have to return one day soon!