I have been to many countries in Europe, but there is none quite like Portugal. The multicolored tiled walls that line the streets, the steep hills creating beautiful viewpoints around every corner, and even the paving stones create unique patterns in cream and black right beneath your feet. If you have a sense of adventure and want a really good cardio workout, then look no further. Here are five reasons why you should visit Lisbon.
1. Gorgeous Architecture
Nowhere else in Europe have I seen colorful tiled buildings line the streets like in Portugal. For some reason, I was expecting Portugal to be similar to Spain, but this was definitely not the case. Lisbon has its own feel, its own culture, its own architecture, music, food everything! The Moorish influences throughout the buildings in the city mixed with southern European flair are largely what makes it feel so unique and special. When you are there, get lost in the narrow windy streets of Alfama and Bairro Alto, stop at the gorgeous viewpoints looking over the ocean, take a tour on a TukTuk and go places you can't find on a map, and hop on the famous Tram 28 just to soak it all in.
Each neighborhood has its own unique feel and history for how it came to be, so make sure you carve out the time to explore each one. Here is a good guide for neighborhoods in Lisbon.
2. unique blending of culture
Portugal has been conquered and influenced by many different cultures throughout its complex history: Celtic, Lusitanian, Phoenician, Germanic, Visigoth, Viking, Sephardic Jewish, and Moorish. As a result, it has created a unique little slice of the Iberian peninsula that you should put at the top of your list of places to visit! The people here are warm and friendly with a strong grasp on their own cultural identity. While Lisbon has been growing in tourism, the Portuguese people haven't let it overrun their beautiful city. It still very much feels like a local place that you have the privilege of exploring rather than a curated city overrun with people blindly chasing the best Instagram post.
Here is a list of ten museums you can visit to get to know more about Lisbon's rich culture.
3. Food & Drink
Lisbon is obsessed with seafood and for good reason. Being so close to the sea means that everywhere you go you can find a delicious plate of fresh fish and seafood (peixe e marisco) typically prepared grilled over charcoal. They also really love their pastries in Lisbon and the most famous of them all is Pastéis de Nata. It is a flakey pastry cup filled with custard and we ate it every single day while we were there with no regrets. It actually lived up to the hype! You are also very close to Porto which is where Port wine is from, so take advantage of that as much as possible and drink that sweet liquid goodness. Portugal is also known for a famous dish called Piri Piri Chicken. Our favorite meal of the trip actually ended up being a little chicken place called Frangasqueira Nacional that sells incredible Piri Piri Chicken to-go that we ate in OUR AIRBNB.
4. They got some bops
The musical stylings of Fado are more than just traditional folk music; Fado shows the soul of the people here in Portugal. The playful melodies of the classical guitar mixed with the tormented vocals could put a dagger straight through your heart. UNESCO has even recognized this styling of music as a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. While Lisbon has many typical tourist attractions worth visiting, I think that no visit is complete without experiencing Fado for yourself. There is a Fado museum where you can go to learn all about the history of this style of music to really grow an appreciation for the art form. The regular price to enter is 5€. You can learn more about the museum by visiting the site, HERE.
There are also several options for bars that have Fado shows to enjoy. For example, a restaurant in the heart of Alfama serving up classic Portuguese cuisine and lovely Fado shows is Clube de Fado. If a smaller more intimate experience is what you are after, Tasca do Jaime D'Alfama is another wonderful option. The Fado museum website has several spots listed as well.
If you would like to sample some Fado before making the visit, I highly recommend listening to this Spotify playlist.
5. Castles of Sintra
The magical town of Sintra is obviously not in the Lisbon city center, but it is a quick train ride away and is definitely worth the day trip. The train to Sintra leaves every 30 minutes from Lisbon's main Rossio Station. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs €4.60 for a return trip. To get to the historic center of Sintra from the train station, you can either walk 15 minutes or take the 434 bus.
The two main castles, and the ones that we paid visits to, are the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. The Pena Palace is the gorgeous colorful estate that you see photos of below. The entrance costs about €14 and you can purchase tickets HERE. It is stunning and the inside of the palace is a joy to walk around as well. The Moorish Castle, as shown above, was used as a fortification so is very different from the colorful and lavish walls of the Pena Palace. It is definitely worth walking along the borders of this gorgeous fortress and taking in the views. The tickets to enter cost €8 and you can purchase them HERE.
I hope that these five reasons have convinced you to make the trip to Lisbon. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below. Thank you for reading!