Lisboa is the beautiful capital of Portugal. Situated along the Atlantic coast and decorated with several hills and pretty pastel buildings, it provides a breath-taking view with every street you walk past. The city gives off a charming, historic vibe. Although booming with tourists, it feels rather small and intimate (where we were anyway). In my opinion, it’s the perfect place to visit for a weekend, a week, or any amount of time really.
My friends Amanda and Kate and I chose to spend our extended Carnaval weekend in Lisboa. After a day of travelling to Madrid, chilling in the airport, and catching our flight to Portugal, we arrived in the city Friday night. My friends and I were pretty tired by that point. We figured out the simple metro system, and with the help of offline maps, we found our hotel. We were hungry, so we treated ourselves to an early dinner at Pizza Hut. It was divine. Our first night in Lisboa was a pretty lazy one as we prepared for the adventures that would take place over the following four days.
The following morning, we woke up and walked to the bus station. We had a little confusion with the bus lines, but we eventually ended up in one of the touristy areas of the city- Belém. There we simply wandered around, taking pictures of any beautiful sight we saw (trust me, there were many). Pretty much the entire trip consisted of Amanda and I stopping to take photos, while Kate impatiently waited or walked ahead. We walked outside of the Monasteiro dos Jeronimos, through some beautiful gardens, and then ended up down by the water. There was a tall, impressively-detailed structure, called the Miradouro Belvedere, extending out into the river. The view from the top surely took our breath away, as did the many stairs that we had to climb to get there. We could clearly see the hills on the other side of the river, the Christ the King status extending His arms over the Portuguese city. The tourists looked like little ants on the ground below us. People casually walked along the river, and the Torre de Belém could be seen a short distance away. And if you looked towards the city, you could see the many buildings of Lisboa that decorated the hills. A charming city of colors.
Next, we walked over to the Torre de Belém that stood confidently on the water. It was an absolutely beautiful castle.The line was pretty long by the time we arrived, so instead, we simply sat along the water and took in the view. There was something absolutely mesmerizing about the castle, about the waves gently greeting the ground in front of us. I could have spent my entire day there simply soaking in the light breeze and ocean air.
The rest of our day was spent weaving in and out of a nearby bakery, A Padaria Portuguesa. We bought ourselves the famous pastels of Belém (pasteles de nata), which was an absolute delight to my tastebuds. If I could have, I probably would have brought 10 back to the hotel with me, and then 10 more to bring home. The pastry was delicious. Flaky. The perfect amount of crunch. Filled with a delectable cream. I have no words to describe the treats, but I would highly recommend anyone to try one as they’re passing through Belém.
As the evening came, we decided once again to have a really early dinner. We walked to another part of town that was along the water. There was a strip of really nice restaurants. The three of us sat outside, enjoying the chilly breeze and the beautiful view around us. Feeding my constant desire for pasta, I ordered a vegetarian lasagna. The other girls also ordered pasta, and we ordered a pitcher of delicious sangria to share. A nice dinner along the water is exactly what I imagine the good life to be about. It was one of the many moments where I stopped to just fathom the fact that yes, I am in Europe. I get to explore this continent. I am enjoying things I never would have imagined for myself. It was great.
The second day, we walked to the Old City which was only about 30 minutes from our hotel. Again, it was one of the more touristy areas. You could tell you were getting close as the number of pedestrians increased and as you saw the postcards, scarves, and souvenir sardines that sat outside of the souvenir shops. We stumbled upon auditions or something for Got Talent Portugal, which was fun. Maybe we’ll make it on TV here. Who knows. We mainly just explored what was in the area. Some fountains and historic buildings and then several souvenir shops. Again, the people working at these shops were always so excited to have tourists. You would pick up a tiny magnet or something, and they would immediately be by your side, handing you a tiny basket to carry your items. Some people would ask us where we were from, and others would give us their thoughts on our president, Mr. Trump.
We found out that A Padaria Portuguesa was more of a chain bakery, and to our delight, there was another one in that area. We stopped again for a light morning breakfast / almuerzo. I ordered my classic sugar croissant and fresh orange juice, while the other two girls ordered coffee and a fluffy coconut bread called Pão de Deus. We also spent a decent amount of time by the water again. A different area, just as beautiful. People were everywhere taking selfies, and we shamelessly joined in. It was a lovely day.
Something admirable about the city is its mix of transportation. As you cross the street, you have to look for cars, taxis, trams, and tourist buses. You easily pass the metro station or train station. And if you’re by the water, the sailboats will gently sail by as an airplane passes above. It’s really unique to see this mix. As for us, we survived mainly by walking around.
We visited several other elevated locations that provided breathtaking views of the city. I think that’s one of my favorite things to see while travelling, those good 360 degree views of your surroundings. Again, it was a close up view of the intricate tiles and beautiful pastels of the city below us. After taking several pictures, we spent a good amount of our time just sitting on a park bench in the garden just below us. There were so many perfect locations to simply think, admire the view, and savor the present moment.
After an enjoyable, but exhausting day of walking around the city, we came back to our neighborhood. We stopped in a pharmacy to ask people for directions to a nearby supermarket (we were still itching to get groceries). The workers were super friendly and even the customer at the counter helped explain where the store was. Out of gratitude (as well as our own desire for a face mask), we bought a bottle of face mask to use when we got back to the hotel. We went to the supermarket and bought some bread and cheese for dinner as well as some individual snacks. And of course, a bottle of wine to accompany our night of relaxation.
Our makeshift cheese sandwiches were honestly perfect. Simple things like that are enough to satisfy my hunger and my tastebuds. The three of us enjoyed a night of conversation and face masks. It was very relaxing.
The next day was our last day in Lisboa. We checked out of our hotel and spent the morning and early afternoon exploring the city one last time, this time with the company of our heavy backpacks. We returned to the water and did some last-minute souvenir shopping, and of course, we spent one last time in A Padaria Portuguesa. It was a really tranquil day. To me, it felt like the perfect day of reflection. As we quietly sat near the water, a man playing the guitar as tourists walked by, everything hit me in a way more profound than before. This place was absolutely beautiful. My life life is absolutely surreal. I am here. I am able to experience new cities, new countries, new languages. I get to simply soak in the ocean air. It’s just a really magical thing to experience. Europe is an incredible place, and I am living in it. These feelings of deep gratitude, delight, and adventure completely filled my spirit. If this trip was a movie, this ending was a perfect one. Time didn’t exist that day. Just two close friends. Me. And this world. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.