I had never been to Portugal. In fact, I can honestly say it never really was high on my list. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because in a way it doesn’t make the history lessons or come to mind when one thinks of Europe. But let me set the record straight now that my mind has been blown Portugal is a must see, a must go, and a must do if you ever take a trip to Europe.
Let me tell you why.
1. Easy Transport
I’m lucky enough to have traveled to many different countries. And though some transport systems have been great, Lisbon, Portugal takes the cake.
Lisbon offers three options when it comes to transport; metro, tram, or train. You can buy a 24 hour transport card for 6 euro, or a zap card that cuts the price of transport in half each ride you take and can be recharged. I went with the zap card because the 24 hour had a few restrictions. I put 15 euro on it and that got me through five days of exploration.
The metro connects directly to the airport. The ride from the airport to the main city walk costs 1.90 and is easy to navigate, even if you have never had experience with the metro.
Trams run the length of the city of hills. A simple swipe of your card and you can get on and off as you please. I took two day-trips out of the city, catching trains from two different stations at about 5 euro round-trip. Seriously. I cannot stress the ease of getting around here or the straight forwardness of it. Those that know me understand how easily I get turned around and confused with public transport. That did not happen to me once.
2. Water, water, water!
The city is right on the water. I wandered off the metro, turned a corner to walk to my hostel and -BAM. Water, and the most beautiful view surrounding it. Hat off to you, Portugal. I should have realized how stunning this city on the water would be. The river is beautiful and a forty minute train ride out of the city will land you at many beaches along the Atlantic. There are amazing spots under an hour out of the city, and even more if you’re willing to travel 2. I stayed about 40 minutes outside and visited Cascais. Stunning. All of it.
3. A Culture of Traditions
Many people clump Spain and Portugal together. While certain aspects of their culture are similar (think seafood, tapas) there are vast differences that shouldn’t be ignored. The language for one sounds nothing like Spanish. I could connect a few words through their Latin base, but Portuguese is a completely different tongue full of heavy ‘j’s and ‘g’s. Example- ‘parada’ (Spanish), ‘paraja’ (Portuguese). Such a pretty word to say in Portuguese.
They also have traditional pastries that will blow your mind. Fado music that laments the soul and the heartache of missing a person or place. A tragic history and earthquake that destroyed over 80% of the city in the 1700’s. And a way with different flavored liquors. Lisbon is so different from the Spain I have come to know and love, but that is a piece of what made it so wonderfully surprising.
4. Easy to Travel Solo
There is so much to do and see not only in Lisbon, but around it. The people are friendly, used to tourism, speak English, and eager to help you explore their country with tips and tricks. I traveled solo this trip and was constantly on the go. Lisbon itself took up an entire day, and was a healthy workout as it is the city of hills (much like San Fransisco. Actually, it was a bit freaky all the San Fran vibes I got from this amazing city.) My four days of playing tourist seemed to just scrape the surface of all that this country has to offer. It is one of the safest cities in Europe, well-lit at night, and easy to navigate. If you enjoy traveling solo, I recommend Lisbon.
Money always matters, even if I like to pretend it doesn’t. I went during off-season, so my view on the prices reflects that. Obviously, if you go during high-season, you will deal with inflation. That being said, I still think Lisbon is a very inexpensive city to visit.
My hostel was 16 euro a night with breakfast included in the heart of the city. (More on this amazing hostel later.) An average meal ranges from 7 to 15. Glass of wine 2 euro. Beer 1.80. Shot 1.20. Public transport cheap. There are a handful of free museums, though most cost under 10 euro and have student discounts.
In short, you can budget in this city and still do it all.
I was only there for 5 days, and only four gave me time to explore. I think two weeks would have helped me accomplish everything I wanted to see once I started doing research on the other amazing places in Portugal. Guess this just means I’ll have to come back.
More posts to come!