“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” -Henry Miller
In September, the sun is still out and warm in Lisboa (or Lisbon), and the city is buzzing with visitors and locals enjoying the warm weather. With its fascinating history, coastal neighborhoods and beaches and its gateway access to the rest of the country, Portugal’s coastal capital is a European hot spot. With its relatively low cost of living, it is also a popular spot for travelers looking for bargains (although we found Croatia to be a better European bargain location right now).
We visited Lisbon twice but both times while entering and exiting the country. So we did not see all the sights or have a chance to visit the beaches in the Northwest (which we would recommend), but we did have enough time to get a good sense of the city and taste plenty of the pastel de natas. It is an incredibly beautiful city with new waterfront boardwalks, ancient twisting back alleys, vast squares and parks and historical buildings. And of course, plenty of hills and trams to help you get up them.
But getting out of the center was nice. The Belem neighborhood, a 15 min train or Uber ride west of the city center, is one of the more modern spots of the city with new landmarks and a beautiful path along the waterfront. And with its many museums, the Jeronims Monastary, and the Monument to Explorers), it is well worth a few hours or more, especially if the museums are interesting to you.
We spent a couple hours at the Museu Berardo which would be worth a visit if for no other reason to check out the building itself. But it also houses a great collection of modern and contemporary art.
Parque das Nações is another neighborhood outside of the city center that provides some different sights and while it is designed for visitors, the developed waterfront attracts many locals and its size and scope make it feel a lot less crowded than other locations in Lisbon. It is very close to the airport and the train station making it a perfect location if you are transiting. We flew into Lisbon airport, stayed in the neighborhood for the night and walked to the train station the next day to head out to Porto – it was a very convenient locale with some great running options.
There are a number of days trips that you can take from Lisbon including beach towns and “mountain” towns (Portugal is not known for its mountains, but locals will refer to their hills as mountains). We took a 45 min train out to Sintra which is a UNESCO city with a number of castles and ruins. It is incredibly hilly, but for the adventurous, a day of “urban” hiking will reward one with views and vistas that are incredible.
Lisbon, similar to Porto, is undergoing a boom driven by tourism. Public works projects, including waterfront development, new transit options, and countless hotel and home renovations are changing the landscape dramatically. From our limited perspective, it looks to be positive change. Of course, not all are happy. Gentrification, traffic congestion due to development projects, increasing housing and travel prices are some of the challenges.
Nonetheless, go there! – it is a worthwhile visit.
If you need some additional motivation, check out Night Train to Lisbon (currently on US Netflix and there is also the book) which is another interesting WWII thriller with some great shots of the city of Lisbon.