The plane prepares for landing by circling the beaches, vast kilometres of deep blue waters and white sand dotted by sun-lovers, it makes its descent by overlooking the city and its hills. If this isn’t a scenic landing, I don’t know what is.
Lisbon truly offers it all. And I’m not just talking about the custard tarts. It is hard to write about something you so passionately love.
Lisbon’s city centre is not like many others in Europe. The streets are wide, with intricate pavement patterns (known as calçada), the buildings are made of colourful tiles, the yellow trams go up and down the hills, narrowing into the traditional old neighbourhoods of Lisbon. You’ll find over 30 beautiful terraces and hilltops overlooking the city and the river, where both tourists and locals meet for drinks, thoughts and long conversations. You’ll find a lot of street-based shopping, from high street brands to independent quirky shops. Old versus modern museums and cathedrals, some lost in the city depths (Basílica da Estrela) others sitting riverside (MAAT).
Being a waterfront city means you can get away from the overwhelming city sounds by strolling riverside. There are plenty cafés, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and parks along the river for one to pick from, sit down and relax or dance the night away. Take the train for 30 minutes, swap the traffic sounds for seagulls and waves, the warmth kissing your skin, a cold drink in hand, you’ve found the ocean. For fairytale enchanted stories, head over to Quinta da Regaleira or Pena Palace, in Sintra, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and get lost in its caves and magical wells, romantic and warm-colour palaces.
We do things slowly in Lisbon, after all the best things in life must appreciated. Food, for instance, is one of those things. We dine late and we love to stay at restaurants long after the meal has ended, just drinking and chatting for possibly too long. If there is outdoor seating we might actually stay forever. So apologies if you find yourself in a queue! Best advice: embrace the Portuguese way.
But perhaps better than all the views and food is the people. The Portuguese are friendly, welcoming and helpful. Even if you do meet someone who does not speak English – a rare occasion nowadays – they will try to help you by speaking Portuguese too loud (yes, even louder, and as if that would help anyone understand…). People will want to know about your life, where you are from, what you do, what brings you over. Not because we are nosy, but because you’re new.
Lisbon is becoming increasingly touristy – many say this with criticism, I say it with appreciation. People still go on about their lives (don’t really have a choice do they?), but still go out at traditional and new places, still visit all the above and many other locations that one could consider tourist attractions, still love their city. I believe that this is what, above all else, makes the hype real about Lisbon. You feel like you’re part of the city and its life. And for a greater feeling of belonging go when we’re happiest – April to October. But I’m obviously biased.