People call me antsy (understatement of the year!). Our time in Barcelona has been absolutely fabulous, but after weeks of enjoying my favorite city in the world (so far!), I started daydreaming of new places to explore. “I’m feeling the need to go somewhere – see something new. What do you think of a little weekend trip?”, I asked the ever-logical, always-rational Bryan. Only if it’s practical, he said. And so my search began for a destination that I could sell. Those who know me well, know sales is indeed my forte 😉
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea of a weekend in Lisbon; the perfect excursion from Barcelona! An affordable, walk-able city with lots to see, and just a two hours from Barca (by plane). I researched Portugal in the past and am aware that there is much to see and do in this beautiful country – the volcanoes of Ponta do Pico, the waves of Nazaré beach, the gorgeous hikes of Madiera, and the caves of Lagoa (just to name just a few!) – but I managed to force my head out of the clouds and suggested a weekend in Lisbon with a quick trip to Belem. Sold!
Lisbon is truly captivating. From the moment we stepped out onto the cobblestone streets made up of intricate patterns, I was in awe of the rustic beauty. I found accommodations in the Alfama neighborhood, the oldest and, in my opinion, most charming district, with streets filled with gorgeous buildings and colorful mosaic tiles, all seemingly crumbling to pieces, which only adds to the character.
We enjoyed walking through Baxia, good for shopping and people watching, as well as Bairro Alto, with charming restaurants and bars, as well as a more chic shopping scene. Lisbon is known for jewelry stores (and cheap silver!) filled with filigree style wire-work, an intricate and incredibly delicate design very popular in Portugal.
More importantly, Lisbon is full of incredible sites to see! We visited the Moorish Castle of São Jorge, which sits high in the hills with phenomenal views of the city.
Apparently, a group of Portuguese peacocks have made this spot their home! Enjoying the company of these colorful beauties while exploring the castle was divine!
The highlight of our time in Lisbon was our visit to Belém, a Parish just a quick train ride away. In Belém our fist stop was a visit to the massive Jerónimos Monastery at the entrance of the harbor. Then we took a beautiful walk along the water…
Passing the Monument to the Discoveries on our way…
I timed our visit so that we reached our most anticipated destination, the Belém Tower, at sunset.
There’s something about this beautiful, limestone tower that is like no other I’ve seen. We purchased drinks from a nearby vendor, and enjoyed the setting of this incredible example of Portuguese Manueline architecture.
Our final stop on our ‘Tour de Belém’ was to satisfy our sweet tooth. Almost every bakery in Portugal sells a mind-blowing pastry called Pastel de Nata. A crisp, layered, filo-dough-like cup filled with Portuguese cream, lightly browned on top. It’s like biting into a piece of heaven, and Pasteis de Belem is known to have the best. We ate many during our time in Portugal (and even brought a box home!), but none compared to the hot-out-of-the-oven treats we enjoyed in Belém.
Our last evening in Lisbon was magical. I made reservations at Club de Fado for Portuguese style cuisine and traditional Fado music, which includes intricate strumming of the Portuguese guitar accompanied by a beautiful (but sorrowful) female vocalist.
The experience was incredible. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone wanting to experience Portuguese traditions through song, food and wine. We were served perfectly timed courses of fabulous food, with a series of 10 minute performances every 30 minutes, providing the perfect atmosphere to eat for a while, talk for a while, and enjoy the show as well.
I will warn you of one thing that I have yet to encounter in my travels. A new experience from Portugal! Every meal we had included an appetizer ‘of sorts’. Some olives, sausages, perhaps some potato skins to munch on prior to your meal. It was served without our asking, and also without disclosure that we would also be paying for it! We always enjoyed the accouterments, and would not complain, but it did come as a surprise that these ‘included’ treats were on our bill!
Our last stroll was through Praça do Comércio, a beautiful square by the sea that is perfect for people watching. Just a quick subway ride to the airport for a short flight back to our Barcelona home. The weekend was perfect. I left with my head in the clouds and my backpack filled with Pastel de Nata.