Lisbon has everything. Mouth-watering cuisine, an agreeable climate, beautiful views over the river and estuary, little plazas, great nightlife and friendly locals. I’ve visited many times and have sworn that if I ever move abroad, it would be here. So, what do I miss when I leave the Portuguese capital?
Sipping on a bica
Bicas are to Portugal what espressos are to Italy, though slightly longer. The smoother taste comes from Portugal’s lighter roasting compared to their Italian counterparts. It’s perfection best enjoyed in one of the little sunny plazas or in Café A Brasileira, an exquisite coffeehouse opened in the early 20th century selling top notch Brazilian coffee.
Hitting the surf then chilling on the sandy beaches
Portugal is known for having Europe’s finest surf. Though it’s not possible to hit the surf in Lisbon, it’s shores being the Tagus River and estuary not the Atlantic proper, there are some excellent spots nearby. Cascais is just a half hour train ride away and provides some great swells for beginners. Further up the coast is Ericeira, another town with plenty of surf schools. For those with experience, visit between November and January when then most consistent Atlantic swells roll in.
Spontaneous conversations with friendly locals
Even when you travel alone, it’s easy to spark up conservation with friendly locals. Even if you’re Portuguese isn’t up to scratch, many people speak English, particularly the younger generation who are keen to show you their city.
The views down over the Tagus River
Lisbon is built on seven hills. If you like exploring a city on foot, this means two things: you’re going to get really fit quickly and when you reach the highest spots, you’ll be treated to some of Europe’s finest city views looking straight down to the Tagus below. If walking sounds too much hard work on holiday, catch one of the old trams, an interesting experience in itself.
Drinking shots of ginjinha
One of the first things I do when I arrive in Lisbon is head down to A Ginjinha, a hole-in-the-wall bar just off Rossio Square, which sells nothing but a sweet sticky liquor made from sour cherries. Particularly good to warm up during Lisbon’s colder months.
Admiring the blue-and-white tile clad buildings
I’ll never tire of wandering the streets of Lisbon admiring the blue-and-white tile clad buildings. There is something uniquely charming about them. Found on the exterior and interior of churches, schools, restaurants and ordinary houses, ornate azulejos not only decorate a building, they also help with temperature control, keeping houses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Gorging on piri piri chicken
Then can be no better way to while away an evening than gorging on piri piri chicken washed down with plenty of vinho verde. Bom Jardim is a no-nonsense restaurant in the centre of Lisbon and serves up what is undoubtedly the best piri piri in the city. Spatchcocked chickens grilled until crisp and served up with mountains of chips and piri piri oil. Bliss.
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