“Today there are opportunities that no one knows if they will come round again in the future.” – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugese football player)
This was just a sidetrip for my Spanish trip but it turned out to be one of my unforgettable trips!
I was meeting my friend in Madrid but since I am few days earlier than her, I was battling with myself if I go first to Lisbon or just stay in Madrid and see other nearby cities in Spain instead. But I am intrigued with Lisbon for a long time now, because every time I meet a traveler who visited Lisbon they always rave about it and always tell me that I MUST visit it one day.
Since it’s very close to Madrid, I grabbed that opportunity because I do not know when will I be that close to Lisbon again, unless I plan a separate trip, but when? I do not know.
I didn’t mind going there alone because it’s one of the safest cities. I booked my dorm room at Home Lisbon because even if they are a bit pricey than other hostels, the reviews about their Mama’s Dinner are exceptional. Mama Isabel is the mother of the boys who owns the hostel, she cooks 3-course authentic Portugese dinner every night for everyone who signed-up for the day.
For 10 Euros per dinner, that’s a great deal because the average dinner in the area is around that too, but excluding drinks! This is also a great opportunity to meet the other travellers who are often alone as well.
If I will have to rank the best hostel I have been in terms of being cozy and cool at the same time, Home Lisbon is my No.1! Rooms are clean, staff and owners are all helpful and friendly, and breakfast is truly satisfying. Home Lisbon is very close to Placa de Comercio at the end of Rua de Sao Nicolau where al fresco restaurants are mostly are. It’s in a very good location that is both few steps to Alfama or Bairro Alto. Well Lisbon city centre is that small you can walk from one end to another in few hours only, but this hostel is at the centre but then in the end of the street that it’s quiet enough at night.
In fact, this is the first time that I get to be friends with ALL my roommates, we are all solo travellers from US, UK, Italy, and Germany but we really got along really well that we are still friends until today! I also met more friends from the hostel during the Mama’s Dinner that passed on the Pub Crawl that the hostel organizes too, we decided to just go to Bairro Alto to have few drinks at a very small bar where Caipirinhas only cost 2euros, it’s too small that most of the people just stay at the street.
After that, we thought we were calling it a night, but we still went to an “underground garage club”. I don’t remember how we got there because we were just following a local friend of one of our hostelmate, all I could remember is we climbed some narrow grotty stairs full of graffitis, then on top of the carpark there’s the bar, it’s ironic to say that it’s “underground club” because it’s on top of a building :P
On my last night however, we all decided to go and see an authentic Fado bar with Fado performers performing impromptu. This bar was suggested by of course Mama Isabel. One cannot leave Lisbon without hearing Fado Vadio or Portugese traditional music characterized by melancholic tunes and lyrics, accompanied by Viola (Portugese guitar) and Baxio (bass guitar).
With the help of our local hosts, we have managed to go to an authentic Fado bar where Fado singers sing impromptu and you don’t pay anything but for your Caipirinhas or Ginjinhas only. Fado is listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. I couldn’t believe that I will be able to immerse myself in Portugese culture and arts in just a very limited time I have there. I am truly over-satisfied with what I have seen and done in just a few days.
On my first day, I was able to see almost everything I want to see in Lisbon by just walking, and of course trying the famous Tram 28. My roommate Maria Anna and I took this tram to go to Alfama then walk our way back down to Placa de Comercio.
These are the places we get to see:
- Praca de Comercio a square situated along Tagus River
2. Rossio Square is well known as Lisbon’s heart
3. Chiado is the neighborhood where hip ‘Alfacinhas’ (or Lisboners) go to see and be seen.
4. Elevador de Santa Justa – long queue but fabulous panoramic view on top!
5. Alfama is a maze of medieval and Moorish alleys that are best explored by simply wandering and getting lost. This is one of the city’s most authentic neighborhoods.
6. Portas do Sol Viewpoint – amazing view of Lisbon and Tagus River, stopping at Lisbon Cathedral and Saint Anthony Church along the way.
7. Castelo de Sao Jorge is a stunning structure but we didn’t go inside anymore, we decided to buy drinks with our 10euros instead haha!
8. Bairro Alto – bohemian and hip nightlife hub
On our second day, I joined Maria Anna on her plan to go to Cascais Beach and Cabo de Roca, I would have not seen these places if it weren’t for her! We took a train to Cascais and stayed at the beach for few hours before we explore this gorgeous little town. It is known as the cosmopolitan suburb of Lisbon and is the richest municipality. After a sumptuous lunch, we took a bus going to Cabo de Roca.
Cabo de Roca is the westernmost extent of Europe! It was very windy on top with the panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s so beautiful up there and how we wish we could still stay longer until the sunset. Unfortunately, we had to go back to Lisbon before the last train departs in Cascais. The place reminded me of the Glens highlands of Northern Ireland actually, it’s like a scene in Wuthering Heights :P
On my last day, I took a bus going to Madrid. That 8-hour bus ride sounds really painful but it didn’t matter because of the beautiful countryside scenery I saw along the way. Well, I slept on some parts of course hehe.
There are still some more places to see in Portugal and I don’t mind going back for that. My trip definitely went smoothly and even got more than I expected! I am happy that I took this opportunity to see Lisbon even if I have to go alone without any itinerary in mind. Sometimes I appreciate it more when things happen wonderfully when I least expected it. Had I decided to stay and wait for my friend in Madrid, would I still have same experience and meet same amazing people? Maybe, maybe not. No one actually knows ;)