I’ve always loved the idea of starting the new year with a holiday so instead of waiting around for someone else to be up for it, I booked my second solo trip abroad for the beginning of 2020.
I researched a few places but eventually settled for Lisbon. After a particularly hectic Christmas, I was in the mood for nice weather, tasty food and lots of sightseeing.
And Portugal’s capital delivered with abundance. The weather was glorious! With blue skies, sunshine and mild temperatures during my entire stay, it felt like I had stepped into springtime! At one point, I needed a gelato to cool down on a particularly humid afternoon. Speaking of food, the pastel del natas were to die for! But more about those little custard delights later.
Exploring is my favourite part going abroad so most of this post will be centred around sightseeing. Getting ‘lost’ in a new city, soaking up a different culture and observing how people live in another part of the world is mesmerising to me.
I prefer to stay centrally so if you want to be near everything, I couldn’t recommend Lisboa Carmo Hotel enough. Not only was the location superb but the hotel itself was gorgeous with stylish interiors and lovely facilities. The Nespresso machine was a great touch! Also, I felt safe and comfortable there which is crucial to me when travelling alone.
On the first day, I headed for the Elevador de Santa Justa, a public vertical lift which offers great views over Lisbon and the River Tejo. It was literally a 5-minute walk from my hotel and my favourite ‘viewpoint’ in the city. The view from Castelo de São Jorge was also wonderful but it wasn’t as incredible as the Santa Justa. However, I did spot the famous number 28 going up to the castle so it was still memorable.
Next up was a scenic journey to the Museu do Azulejo, i.e. the National Tile Museum which, hear me out, was not as boring as it sounds. Housed in a huge monastery, it is full of stunning tilework through from the 15th century to the present day. I mean, just look at that breath-taking chapel too!
As the sun was shining, it was a pleasure to walk around the city and soak up the atmosphere. The winding streets were brimming with colourful buildings, trendy artwork and impressive architecture. The food was also fantastic! The seafood is a speciality along with tinned sardines which make unusual but fun souvenirs. Foodies, make sure you visit the Time Out market at Cais do Sodre. It was a treat!
On the second day, I made my way to the charming Belém district, which is the setting for many of the city’s tourist attractions. Here, I saw the Torre de Belém, Lisbon’s most famous and photographed monument as well as the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Palace and Pasteis de Belém, the traditional home of the Portuguese custard tart. This was an experience in itself! But so worth the crazy queues and chaos. Don’t waste time eating tarts anywhere else!
I’m not particularly bothered about shopping abroad because I prefer to see the sights but Lisbon had so many quirky boutiques and vintage shops, I couldn’t help myself! It’s a good thing I couldn’t fit anymore in my suitcase otherwise I would have certainly bought a new hat or two. I have a weakness for European fashion, it’s rather sophisticated!
I made the most of exploring on the last day and took a stroll around the roofless ruins of the Carmo Convent, which was more or less opposite my hotel. See what I mean about excellent location?! The convent was a fascinating attraction, I spent a decent few hours wandering around. If you like history and architecture, it’s not to be missed!
If I’m honest, Lisbon has never been on my travel radar so I was surprised at how much I loved it. The breezy sea views, warm temperatures and pretty buildings were a welcome break from the dull British climate. It felt like I had escaped to spring! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back one day and get more accustomed to the Portuguese way of living. Tchau for now, Lisbon!