If you’re hoping to take a romantic European getaway with your loved one, look no further than the Portuguese capital of Lisbon - recently hailed as the most sought after destination in Western Europe by the likes of CN Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazine. The city’s architecture, culinary scene, street art, historical cafes and overarching charm will undoubtedly inspire and contribute to an unforgettable couple’s holiday.
Besides Lisbon’s many attractive qualities, it also happens to be one of the most affordable cities to visit in Europe. Travellers will enjoy fantastic rates on hotels, food and shopping while taking in some of the most scenic sights that the European continent has to offer. While a simple afternoon of holding hands and strolling through the alleys of the picturesque old city together is a worthwhile experience all on its own, there is a multitude of hidden gems to be discovered in entrancing Lisboa.
Here’s where to start.
Experience sweeping hilltop views
Lisbon’s landscape is dotted with hills, allowing visitors to experience a bird’s eye perspective of the city below. Head up to one of its seven urban peaks to marvel at the candy-coloured houses, scenery and everyday paces of city life below. Some of the best views can be had by taking a walk or a short cab ride to the top of the Castelo, Graça or Alfama neighborhoods, especially at sunset.
As you continue to walk uphill in any of Lisbon’s neighbourhoods, the city will open up in front of you – providing sweeping panoramic views and making for the ideal couple’s photo backdrop. To reward yourselves after the climb and unwind from having walked around all day, enjoy a glass of wine at the onsite café and bar at Miradouro da Graça, Lisbon’s most popular lookout point. For those who prefer to visit during the day, check out the nearby architectural marvels such as the famed Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, National Pantheon or Largo das Portas do Sol.
Tour the city on Tram 28
To experience the magic of Lisbon without wearing yourself out, hop onboard the infamous Tram 28. While riding on this authentic streetcar will likely be the most touristic activity you do in Lisbon, its route allows you to see the most colourful and lively neighbourhoods that the city has to offer. A popular activity with visitors, you’ll need to prepare to wait in a queue for at least 20 minutes at most hours of the day and will likely have to stand when onboard, but it will be well worth it. Tram 28’s travel path snakes and winds around Lisbon, passing a multitude of famed museums, monuments and viewpoints. You’ll cruise by the Sé cathedral and the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora before winding through Lisbon’s beautiful squares and its artsy, scenic neighbourhoods. The worst part of this route is that it has to end, but don’t fret – you can take it in reverse as well.
Sample a variety of flavours
Lisbon is regularly lauded as one of Europe, if not the world’s, best destinations for foodies. Start your day with sweet bica, a local espresso, followed by one of the infamous Portuguese egg tarts on offer throughout the city’s many pastelarias. Belcanto, 100 Maneiras, Assinatura, Volver by Chakal and Rota das Sedas are regularly named as Lisbon’s trendiest restaurants to snag a reservation at, while a more traditional Portuguese vibe can be found at A Travessa and Tavares. 12 Bistro Terrace, Restaurant Eleven and Tagide provide sweeping views of the city, while Tease bakery serves up legendary treats for dessert. Be sure to sample bacalhau, Lisbon’s most ordered traditional fish dish. Other local favourites include carne de porco alentejana, a clam entrée and caldo verde, a brothy green soup. Lisbon is especially known for its cheeses, so drop by the popular Manteigaria Silva shop to pick up some local queijo before you head back home.
Take a day trip to Sintra
Just a 40-minute train ride away from Portugal lies the city of Sintra, which is protected in its entirety by UNESCO and has been named as the first centre of European Romantic architecture. Acting as a longtime royal sanctuary, its mountainous terrain is peppered with expansive palaces, ancient castles and pastel-coloured homes. Much like Lisbon, Sintra offers a wide variety of breathtaking views, charming cobblestone streets and historical sights unlike those you’ve seen before. A day trip to Sintra is easily accessible, with round trip train tickets from Lisbon’s Rossio train station costing just EUR 4.30. From the train station, it’s a short 1 km walk or bus ride into the centre of town. The historic National Palace, Castle of the Moors and quirky Pena Palace are not to be missed.
Navigate the art scene
The streets of Lisbon are an open-air museum, filled with complex murals, colourful graffiti and inspiring artwork nearly everywhere you look. After the implementation of a government-funded project hoping to boost the downtown core’s cultural flair in 2010, world famous street artists were invited to Lisbon to quite literally paint the city red (and blue, green, pink and yellow)! Take a walk around the Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s hippest neighbourhood, to see the multitude of creative works that the street artists created. Entire sides of buildings are covered in ornate murals, lending a distinct flair to the area that would be hard to replicate anywhere else. Popular street art tours are available, or you can opt to explore the Bairro Alto at your own pace. For those who prefer a more traditional form of art viewing, Lisbon boasts an impressive collection of museums showcasing everything from ancient relics to progressive modern creations.
From mouthwatering delicacies to romantic architecture and inspiring art, it’s not difficult to see why Lisbon has become the most popular urban destination in Europe. Planning a trip? Browse our selection of Club Escapes in the Portuguese capital.
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