I went to Portugal for the first time ever last August. After a stressful week (read my post The one where I forget to renew my son’s passport, and you’ll understand), I was relieved to make it to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, with my husband and two teenage kids. We stayed in the city for two nights, and it was a great way to start our holiday.
Lisbon is built on seven hills overlooking the Atlantic, and it’s a gorgeous, ornate city. As we were only there for a couple of days, we decided to try to get a feel for the place by walking its cobbled streets, taking some tram rides and finding some good places to eat, while relaxing into holiday mode. We didn’t go to any museums or galleries, although I’d like to do that if I ever return to Lisbon. It was hot, but not too hot to walk around during the day.
We stayed at a hotel which I’d definitely recommend: the Fontecruz Lisboa. The Fontecruz is a 5-star boutique luxury hotel in a great location on Avenida da Liberdade in the city centre, and it suited us perfectly. We had two adjoining rooms, and they felt very comfortable and welcoming, and offered everything that we needed for our stay. The wifi was good, and the kids were happy to relax at the hotel sometimes while my husband and I were off exploring.
Apart from walking, we found that an excellent way to explore the city is by tram. As part of its public transport network, Lisbon has some marvellous vintage wooden trams and funiculars which plough up and down some of its steepest streets. The most famous tram route is number 28, and we saw long queues of tourists waiting to join it at the tram stops. We tried route number 12 with the locals instead, because we didn’t fancy queueing – it took us on an interesting tour around the historic castle area. Some of the streets are so narrow that it felt like the tram was going to touch the buildings (it didn’t), and once a car had to reverse up a narrow cobbled street to make way for our oncoming tram – it was all very exciting (but not for the car driver, who looked pretty stressed!)
Time Out Market Lisboa
On our first evening in Lisbon we ate at a restaurant near the hotel, which the concierge recommended to us. It was fine, but nothing special. I’d heard that dining out in Portugal can be hit and miss, and for our second evening we wanted to be sure of eating really well. We ended up at Time Out Market Lisboa, which had been recommended by a friend. I’m so glad that we went there, because it’s a fantastic place, and it was definitely the best foodie experience of our whole Portugal trip. Housed in an old market building, this gourmet food hall offers high quality Portuguese specialities of every kind. It was perfect for us: my daughter and I are vegetarian, but my husband and son are omnivores, and eating out as a family is sometimes tricky. At the market, each of us chose what we wanted to eat from different stalls, then we all ate together at one of the central tables. Perfect!
Pastéis de nata
Pastéis de nata are custard tarts, a celebrated local speciality which is on sale all over the place in Lisbon. We tried some freshly baked ones for breakfast at one of the cafes near our hotel. I wasn’t hugely keen on them (I prefer chocolate pastries) but my husband and son liked them.
Our next stop after Lisbon was the city of Porto, which I’ve written about in this post: Our trip to Porto, Portugal’s second city. To get there, we booked a hire car from the airport, an easy air-conditioned bus ride away from our hotel. From Porto we went on to the coast – check out my post about Praia D’el Rey Golf & Beach Resort where we stayed.
Over to you
Have you ever been to Lisbon? Do you have any recommendations of things to do in the city?