Lisbon has everything you would hope to find on a weekend getaway: nice weather, culture, great food, beach and tons of charm! I could have easily made a much longer list, but these are my ten favorites for a first time in Lisbon.
#1- Try (combining) local delicacies
We kicked off the weekend with two local delicacies. Pastel de nata from Confeitaria Nacional, washed down with a ginjinha or sour cherry liquor. They go together surprisingly well, even at 10 AM. The tiny, open-fronted A Ginjinha bar adds to the experience.
#2- Take in the view from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara
There are many miradouros or viewpoints in Lisbon, but this is probably the most famous one. Besides the great view of Lisbon, there is a lovely little garden to be enjoyed. Right behind the viewpoint starts the Rua Dom Pedro V, a street with many boutiques and restaurants. A Ceviceria is a must try for seafood lovers.
#3- Cool down in Parque Eduardo VII
The designer shops on Avenide de Liberdade lead up to Parque Eduardo VII, set on a slope. Whoever makes it to the summit is rewarded with a fine view of Lisbon and the Tagus. Cool down with a drink in Linha d’Água, a little peace of heaven tucked away in a corner of the park. The cafe is popular with students from the University of Lisbon, which is located right next to it. We sticked to a glass of rosé, but the salad bar looked delicious.
#4- Take a shortcut to Bairro Alto
As the name indicates, Bairro Alto is on the high side of Lisbon. The most convenient way to get there is the Santa Justa Lift in Baixa. The lift takes you on a historic ride, as it has been operating for over 100 years. On top of that, you get rewarded with a beautiful view of Rossio from the platform on top. Not to mention access to the great bars and restaurants of Bairro Alto.
#5- Hop on tram 28 to Miradouro da Graça
The iconic tram 28 is one of the most popular attractions in Lisbon, as proven by the long lines at its stops throughout the city. Beat the crowds by skipping breakfast and stand in line early. Stop Graça is a short walk from Miradouro da Graça, which offers yet another amazing view on the red roofs of Lisbon. Nearby Focaccia in Giro will make you happy you saved breakfast for later. This cute cafe serves delicious homemade focaccias and great coffee, to be enjoyed at their outside terrace.
#6- Walk the walls of Castelo de Sao Jorge
You can hardly skip the sight that is visible from every miradouro in Lisbon. Castelo de Sao Jorge towers above the winding streets of neighboring Alfama. Walk along the fortress walls to its eleven towers and get terrific views of the city.
#7- Admire Alfama from a rooftop terrace
Alfama is the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon. It’s packed with tradition and charm, tiny shops, lively restaurants and hidden squares. After wandering through the maze of narrow streets, go for an overlook at a rooftop terrace. We got this view with our prosecco at the Memmo Alfama Hotel bar.
#8- Taste traditional food at a tasca
Portugal’s authentic food can best be sampled in a tasca. These traditional restaurants offer homestyle cooking, low prices and big portions. Very big portions. We made the rookie mistake to order appetizers and had to send half our bacalhau back to the kitchen.
#9- Stroll along the Tagus to Belém
If you feel like walking off this big traditional meal, you can start at the beautiful Praça do Comércio and follow the Tagus all the way to Belém. Or you can take the bus like we did. Belém is full off history, with many museums and monuments that recall Portugal’s colonial past. After a stroll along the boardwalk, sit down for a drink with a view of Lisbon’s Golden Gate look-alike.
#10- Explore the coastline of Cascais
The sandy beaches of Cascais are just a 40-minutes train ride away from Lisbon. The coastal town has been serving as a charming summer retreat since the 19th century. But Cascais has a rough side too; the Atlantic Ocean clashes into the rocky coastline at Boca do Inferno or Hell’s Mouth. We boosted our Vitamin D levels in Cascais before flying back to Belgium.