Listen — I'm a bit of a control freak. And not only that, but I ~love~ to plan things, especially fun things like vacations. I meticulously research restaurants, neighborhoods, flight prices, pin beautiful places on Pinterest, save locations on Google — favorite pastime, guys. Making Airbnb wish lists is like, a hobby of mine.
When my sister was planning on visiting me in Italy, she said she really wanted to go to Lisbon. But the problem was 1) I was swamped with work at the moment and 2) I had never really thought about going to Lisbon and was a little overwhelmed on where to even start (the internet, Katie, duh). So I put off planning like, forever, and let her plan it — something that is borderline impossible for me to do. And damn, she did a good job. So this round-up is 75% brought to you by my little sister Annie's diligent research.
So now that I have been to Lisbon and can report back with real life experience instead of internet research, I can tell you a few things. Firstly, dang, what a bunch of beautiful buildings in that city. I was so obsessed with the tile work and the colorful façades of all the buildings, with the totally unique surfaces on every single apartment — hands down, my favorite part of the city.
Secondly, dang, it is weird getting around Lisbon. First of all, everything is very uphill (a lot of people compare it to San Francisco), but that isn't even what bothered me! The trams were totally crazy, as were the tuktuks, and a lot of the city was built up with unfinished construction, including on the sidewalks. However, it totally just gave this unique vibe to Lisboa that you definitely can't find anywhere else, and we kind of enjoyed the wildness of it all.
Other takeaways include: Wow, they really like sardines. They have really great wine. Portuguese sounds like if a bunch of German people tried to speak Spanish. The Portuguese are some of the nicest people I've ever met in all of my travels. I'm now a pro at spelling Portuguese. And, what a fun city. Let me tell you what we did.
WHAT WE DID:
- Viewed the river from the terrace of our Airbnb: Our Airbnb for the trip was totally cool and beautiful decorated, and was great for a girl's weekend. It was in a fairly good location, with access to a tram nearby, but my favorite part was that it came with a pocket wifi device, which allowed us to look things up on our phones (without using our international phone data — score!) whenever we wanted. And if you've never used Airbnb before, sign up with this coupon code for $25 off your first night!
- Saw great views from Miradouro de Graça: Our Airbnb was very close to this lookout point, or "miradouro," and it was a ~hot spot~ for tuktuks. But it provided some beautiful views of the city, which I always like to see all laid out before me. Largo da Graça, 1100-005 Lisboa, Portugal
- Took some seriously crazy modes of transportation: You'll see plenty of tuktuks, or tiny gas-powered rickshaws, while you're in Lisbon, and you should definitely ride one, if just for the experience. We thought it was a little pricey, but we made sure to find a super cute tuktuk driver to make up for it. We also took the tram, a mode of public transportation, which looks very similar to the streetcars in San Francisco. Though I was 100% not a fan because they were crowded and slow, it was definitely fun to be with a mass of other people all along for the same wild ride, especially when you pass unsuspecting pedestrians who are clinging to a wall since the streetcar almost rides on the narrow sidewalks at times. In the end, our favorite mode of transportation was Uber, as it was almost cheaper for us to take that than public transportation when we split it between the two of us — most of our rides were between $4-$6.
- Grabbed great tapas at Lost In: Though we went to the Lost In for the adorable terrace that was unfortunately closed because of the rain, we still ate some seriously delicious appetizers while we were there. If you can catch it on a nice day, it's really adorable and has beautiful views of the city, no matter the weather. Rua D.Pedro V Nº56-D, 1250-094 Lisboa, Portugal
MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Couldn't decide what to get at Mercado da Ribeira: The Time Out Market in Lisbon is a totally fantastic place to go, no matter the time of day, especially if you're with a group that all can't agree on what to eat. It's known for being kind of a highlight of all of the best food in Portugal, with some really great chefs, and did not disappoint. The market, which is set up like sort of a food court, has a ton of different booths, some with outdoor seating, that serves various cuisine from around the country. We ate there our first day and really wanted to go back but didn't quite make it. It's centrally located, so make sure you don't miss it! Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal
- Got breakfast — as a snack! — at Pop Cereal Café: So, a fun fact about me: I have a sugary cereal problem. So when we happened across Pop Cereal, I was totally stoked and asked the very sweet and patient owner ~way~ too many questions about his giant collection of cereal, while espousing my too-expert knowledge of American cereals. Annie and I grabbed a cereal-filled milkshake and passed the time while playing Battleship — and she beat me, just like she probably did when we were eight. R. do Norte 64, 1200-365 Lisboa, Portugal
- Explored the street of Bairro Alto: This area of downtown Lisbon is probably the most famous and typical of Lisboa, known for it's uneven, upwardly-sloping streets, colorful buildings and alleys to explore. If you have some time where you don't know what to do in Lisbon, I'd highly recommend hopping off the tram near Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara and exploring the nice restaurants and boutiques in the winding streets. Bring good walking shoes!
EVEN MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Purused palaces during our day trip to Sintra: Annie and I went back and forth on whether or not we should make the trip to Sintra, but we are so glad we did and it was the highlight of our trip. My initial hesitation is that I'm not a huge fan of castles, the weather was a bit iffy, and there was still some cool stuff I wanted to see in Lisbon. However, it was definitely the right choice, and our visits to the seriously ridiculous Palace of Pena and the totally weird Quinta da Regaleira paid off. We took a train from the main station in Lisbon to Sintra for about 12€ round trip. Outside the Sintra train station, we caught a tourist bus that took us to the National Palace of Sintra, where we then walked to Quinta da Regaleira and then hopped the bus up to the Palace of Pena, skipping the Moors Castle. Quinta da Regaleira was strange and great — it was a strange garden of moss-covered statues and towers, and the best part, the "initiation well," which was connected to a series of caves and waterfalls. We had a blast exploring. We then took the bus to the top of the mountain to Pena's Palace, to observe the totally crazy-colored castle that looks like something out of Disneyland. Both were worth the trip, just for some general exploring, and we easily caught the train back to Lisboa, just in time for dinner!
- Took a break from Italian wine for some vinho verde: Obviously my first love is Italian wine, but we stopped in an adorable wine bar (pictured here) called Porto Wine (so original) for a quick break during our trip. Of course, the standby to drink in Portugal is port (I say this like I knew this before going there — now you will!), which is a sweet red wine. However, our waitress recommended we try vinho verde, or "green wine," which is a very slightly sparkling wine with a sort of green tint. It was totally refreshing and we drank it the rest of our trip. Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 143, 1100-253 Lisboa, Portugal
- Got fishy at Sinal Vermelho: Our Airbnb host recommended this place for dinner, where we decided to really get some great Portuguese food. Annie and I both got cod — hers grilled, mine baked — and ate every last bite. Rua das Gaveas 89, Lisbon 1200-206, Portugal
Photos and text © copyright Katie Currid & Annie Currid, 2016. All rights reserved.