Beach Towns, Pastries and History: How to Visit Lisbon in Two Days
Lisbon is somewhat off the beaten track for most Western European capitals. Most people make the efforts to travel to Paris, London, or even nearby Madrid, but the Portuguese capital just doesn’t always make the cut when it comes to top destinations. We really have no idea why that’s the case. Just as beautiful as Budapest, and just as affordable, Lisbon provides a unique travel experience.
A stunning city, Lisbon boasts an incredible array of historical sites, remarkable museums, and best of all foods that you won’t find anywhere else. For example, one of the best views of the Lisbon waterfront you can find is from the Praça do Comércio, where you can enjoy a robust Portuguese coffee and a pastry while people-watching in this stunning plaza. Surrounded by Spanish style buildings and archways, this plaza provides an incredible starting point for the beginning traveler.
Interested in getting a taste of the local history? Make the trek to the Belém neighborhood to visit the Belém Tower. Also known as the Tower of Saint Vincent, the tower is a 16th-century fortification that serves both as a fortress and as a gateway to Lisbon. While you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to stop by Pasteis de Belem for pasteis de Nata. These precious little tartlets are possibly the best reason to come to Lisbon, as if you needed to pick one. The flaky pastry acts as a receptacle for a thick baked custard. Be sure to top yours with cinnamon and sugar like the locals, and grab some napkins before you start gobbling them down.
Done snacking and ready to check out some other sites? Have a wander through the Alfama district, where you’ll find winding alleys and buildings covered in the iconic tiles that litter the city. You’ll also find some of the best local eateries in this area. Most places have similar menus of incredibly fresh fish, succulent grilled meats, and fluffy omelets. You can’t really go wrong, so pick the one that smells best and enjoy your dinner with a glass of local wine.
Ready for some nightlife? The Barrio Alto neighborhood has options for everyone. An older crowd generally leans towards the Fado clubs, where you can get a taste of musical history, albeit surrounded by tourists. Prefer a more energetic and hip environment? Check out a few of the bars around Rua do Norte and Rua da Atalaia, then enjoy the breathtaking view at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This magical terrace offers a panorama of the entire city and its surroundings.
If you can muster the energy after your night out, take a look at a local art museum. There are plenty of options to chose from, but the must-see is the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, where you can find both Portuguese and international pieces from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. There are more than 40,000 pieces to see in this gem of a museum, so be sure to give yourself a couple of hours to properly explore this incredible space. Some pieces of interest are the fine jewelry and the grand São Vincente’s panels, both on display in the rooms of the 18th-century palace.
Feeling extra ambitious? Jump on the train and enjoy a half-day trip in Cascais, a nearby beach town with a special touch. The city is dotted with seven different beaches along the coast, with a casino at the end as a reward. Spend a couple of hours wandering around the town and indulge in some shopping at the unique boutique stores, then reluctantly head to the airport.