Lisbon. What a city.
I was lucky enough to be flown out there by Visit Lisboa who kindly sorted me out with flights, accommodation and some recommendations on how best to spend my time.
I’m happy that they did sort me out with those recommendations otherwise I would have just lay on a random beach for the entire time.
But yeah – a big thanks to the folks over at Visit Lisboa for hooking me fully up – I can’t express enough gratitude for their hospitality.
I spent four days in the Portuguese capital and could have happily spent another four. There was so much to do, see, eat & drink that it was just impossible to get tired of the place.
This is gonna be a long one fellas, so strap in and get the snacks.
Lisbon: A brief history
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back about 300,000 years – far older than most other capitals like Paris, London and even Rome.
Since its inception, the ‘enchanting port’ has enjoyed a hugely successful time as a propserous trading city. This is where a lot of Lisbon’s initial wealth came from.
However, in 1755 a huge earthquake destroyed most of the city, meaning that it had to be rebuilt for centuries, with some unfinished restorations still standing to this day.
Much like Liverpool (the best city of all time), Lisbon has managed to keep a hold of its character and so much of its rich history – despite being nearly destroyed almost three centuries ago.
Fast forward to the modern day and Lisbon has now carved a reputation as the place to be. There’s so so much on offer here, it is a wonder that it hasn’t been a hotspot for culture vultures for longer.
Why Lisbon is perfect for the modern gentleman
Other than the gorgeous weather, picturesque scenery, friendly people, a strong culture and unlimited adventure – Lisbon actually has a lot of other traits that lend themselves perfectly to the modern gentleman.
Portugal is known for its handcrafted leather goods, especially shoes – essential for any aspiring gent. There are workshops, tailors and good old fashioned menswear stores everywhere in Lisbon, making this the ideal city for a gentleman to pick up some bespoke pieces.
I visited the office of one of Lisbon’s newest and most impressive men’s shoes and accessories makers – Undandy. These guys have taken custom footwear to the next level and being based in Lisbon meant that I had the opportunity to go and check them out in person.
They agreed to hook me up with a couple of pairs of custom shoes along with some accessories which was absolutely ideal. The kindness of the Portuguese really knows no bounds and it clearly stretches to the menswear market!
This was a real kicker – although there are no shortage of wonderful local, traditional restauarants, there is also a huge concentration of high-end restaurants here too.
If you’re big into your fine dining then Lisbon is the place to be – there are some amazing restaurants offering menus that are completely different to anything on offer in England – or anywhere else for that matter. With that being said – I did just opt for a burger when I had the chance…
This is sort of linked to the local craftsmanship point above but the hospitality of the people here is absolutely overwhelming. Everyone is unbelievably laid back and the whole place has a real Amsterdam vibe about it, except it’s about 100 times more beautiful.
This is also a huge plus for gents who happen to be digital nomads or entrepreneurs – there are a bevvy of co-working spaces for those looking to make connections, be productive and work in a friendly, positive environment.
Finally – and this one is kind of linked to the co-working aspect of the above point – you may find a hefty serving of inspiration as you traverse the Lisbon hills.
There’s just something about the views that kind of put you in a meditative state. It could be when you’re at the peak of Alfama, on top of the Rua Augusta arch or looking out from several parts of the Sao Jorge castle, but there’s serious mental clarity to be had by Lisbon’s breathtaking vantage points.
I found myself looking over the city and just running through lots of ideas in my head – a few of them being what on Earth to write in this article, but it proved to be an extremely inspiring experience that I think a lot of us gents can benefit from.
Back up charger
This saved my bacon a lot whilst out and about. Using your phone for pictures, navigation, texts and whatever really drains the battery – quickly.
So, having a back up was crucial for me. I was constantly doing work on my phone through the day so by the time 5pm rolled around i was on about 10%. This is where I had my back up charger, which offered another 20% to see me through to the end of the day which was vital for booking ubers, taking sexy pics of food and finding my way round.
I decided to get a Qi charger as it’s super cool, fits in your pocket and if you already have your own phone case – is a much better alternative than a full charger case.
Tripod w/ remote shutter
This is a bit novel but could be a good shout for those who love the perfect photo. If you’re travelling on your own and want to get those ideal shots, get one of these, grow some hairs on your chest and just set it up in the middle of wherever you want to get your pics.
The remote is ideal as well as it means you don’t have to set a timer and can take as many pictures as you want whilst not having to go back and forth to the camera.
And for couples/friends/whatever, set this up if you want a picture of you that isn’t a selfie. You can pick tripods up for like £10 and a remote for half that so it’s not exactly a Spielberg-esque layout.
I’m a bit embarrased to admit this but i completely forgot to bring a backpack or any sort of bag other than a big holdall that had all my stuff in.
This meant i was stuffing everything in my pockets and just carrying stuff which was less than ideal.
Get yourself a backpack or a bum bag and put all your essentials in and you’ll thank yourself over the course of your travels.
These are ideal when you’re travelling, especially if you were travelling alone like I was. You can really zone out or concentrate on a task you’re doing whilst travelling.
You can even throw ’em on when you’re walking round the city – I did a few times. Listening to a podcast, having a coffee and just looking out on the pure beauty of the city was one of the most blissful experiences of my life – I may have even started to levitate a few feet off the ground…
The pre-flight ritual is a sacred art. Every person’s ritual is different but this is mine – it’s just a guide but it might give you a few ideas going into your next trip.
The checklist is obviously the most important part of the pre-flight ritual – do this before you set foot out the door.
Have you got your passport? Undies? Whatever electronics, adaptors, etc you need? Just list everything you need the night before and do a thorough check before you leave your house to make sure the build up is as stress-free and fun as possible – with no worries of forgotten bits in the back of your mind.
This trip was the first time I’ve done this but I’ll be doing it again every damn time now. Get yourself a wee pamper fellas. Those cosmetics counters that you give no second thought to offer loads of male-specific treatments for travelling blokes.
I got an eye rejuvenating treatment from Estee Lauder which was ideal considering I spend about 90% of my waking hours staring at a screen. I felt was walking round with gleaming eyes (like this) and felt like I had just had a cosmetic epiphany.
Maybe not one for flyers with a dicky stomach but having a decent meal before take-off is a must for me. If you’ve got time, have a nice little sit down, chow down on some stodgy scran and just relax.
This will stop you freaking out on the plane (maybe), stop you going for overpriced plastic food on the plane and maybe even send you off to sleep for the duration of the flight if you want it to.
Plus, airport food is decent – no two ways about it.
This is a bit of a novel one but I suffer really badly with popping ears during take-off and landing and chewing 2 sticks of gum has really helped limit the pain somewhat.
Some people recommend sucking on a sweet (which may work for you) but the chewing aspect seems to help massively and has stopped me looking like a huge man-baby almost crying with pain on every flight.
You can fly straight to Lisbon from virtually any airport in the UK, I went from Manchester which is always a treat. Even though I’m from Liverpool I have to admit that our airport is a steaming pile of excretion compared to what Manchester are offering.
Flights are relatively cheap. They start at about £40 when you’re off peak AF, but mine were roughly about £300. This included priority boarding and a bit of egg and cress on the plane though so who am I to argue?
Once you’re there
Once you’re outside the airport you’ve got a few of options. You can get either of the Aerobus shuttle buses that will take you to virtually any stop in Lisbon centre within an hour. Or you can get a taxi/uber straight to where you’re staying.
It’s about 4 euros for the bus and for me, it was about 8 euros for an Uber. If you’re travelling in a group you may as well just opt for the uber and save yourself time and money. It’s definitely worth getting an uber over a local taxi as these are notorious for trying to rip tourists off.
Where to stay
One thing that Lisbon certainly doesn’t lack is hotels – there’s all sorts to choose from, from palace grounds to youth hostels.
But what sort of luxury blogger would I be if i didn’t go for a swanky little pad? With this in mind, I stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton – one of Lisbon’s sexiest hotels.
The Doubletree is right by Avenida da Liberdade – which is the strip full of all the high-end stores you could think of. This is a nice little way to let off some retail steam before getting into the meat of your trip.
It’s also got fantastic transport links, with 2 metro stations and a few bus stops about a 3 minute walk around the corner. Even though this place has ideal transport links, I decided to get an Uber basically every day because I’m lazy – more on this in the next section.
By far and away the coolest room I’d stayed in, my room in the doubletree was like something you’d see on an episode of cribs.
With all sorts of cool features (my fav being the electric blinds), I was in my element and kind of wish I’d had more time to spend just chilling in there. But let’s be honest, when you’re in Lisbon, you’re gonna want to do a fair bit of exploring…
If the Doubletree excelled with their rooms, then the breakfast took it to a whole other level. I’ve never known a breakfast banquet to be so lit.
They had vats of bacon, hash browns and even a make your own waffle stand. I couldn’t believe it. Each morning I’d sit there with a coffee and an orange juice, collect my thoughts and then wolf at least 6 plates of grub, it was just that good.
The pictures don’t do it justice as I was too concerned with wolfing as many calories as possible in as short a time as possible.
Small and no barbells but I managed to actually get 2 decent workouts in during my stay here. It’s more of a ‘fitness suite’ than a full gym but you can get a lot done with some dumbbells, a bench and your imagination.
There’s also some cardio equipment in here but if you’re going to be exploring Lisbon, then trust me, you won’t need any additional cardio.
There’s a lovely bar and outdoors area in the Doubletree which is ideal for chilling if you don’t want to stay in your room all night.
I only realised this on my last night but came down to do some work, managing to get a decent amount done in the relaxed setting.
Even if you’re not there for a booze up, it’s a nice place to relax after a full day of #activities and #exploration if you don’t fancy going to up to bed straight away.
Lisbon is quite big so getting around may take you on various modes of transport – here’s the best ways to get around.
This is pretty obvious and is how I spent the majority of my time travelling. Walking is the cheapest (obviously) and best way to explore the city. It allows you to get lost in the side streets, see places that are unaccessible by public transport and cars and it’s pretty good for you apparently!
A word of warning though, Lisbon is without a doubt, the hilliest city I’ve ever visited. You’ll be absolutely pooped from a day of exploring the Portuguese capital so keep a few protein bars and red bulls with you…
Metro & Bus
Ah public transport – the second cheapest and most cheerful way to get around a city. Once you get a handle of the Lisbon public transport system I’m sure it’d be easy to navigate but I didn’t have time for this. I didn’t want to wait 30 minutes for a bus and didn’t want to have to stop off every 2 minutes to drop off and pick people up.
I did try the bus once and ended up going the wrong way, meaning I took an hour off my day. With this in mind, I just opted to leave the buses and trains but I’m sure they’d work for you if you took the time to get to grips with it. It’s also free if you have a Lisbon card which bares thinking about.
Let me get this one out there, I’m not sponsored by Uber. But, they offer the perfect solution to getting around a city of Lisbon’s size for a decent price.
From the Doubletree to the various areas of Lisbon was about 5 euros which is a steal, especially if you’re sharing with someone else.
I’d recommend taking all your medium length trips in an Uber as it is far quicker and better priced than the public transport system. If you’re going further afield then maybe take the train and if it’s shorter then just walk – simple.
Not really too practical but the tram is a cool experience so I’d recommend trying it at least once. This one is free with a Lisbon card too.
There are four main areas to Lisbon – Baixa, Alfama, Belem and Bairro Alto. Or at least these are the four that I visited. I know there’s a lot more than four areas in total to Lisbon but for ease of reading, let’s say there’s four.
Anyway, here is the breakdown for each area and what exactly you should do in them. I’d recommend spending at least a day in each place, maybe mixing Bairro Alto in with another area as there isn’t too much to do there in the day time.
Praca do comerico
This is a very picturesque square right in the heart of everything in Baixa. It is right by Rua Augusta, the museums, the waterfront and everything else you can think of.
It is also full of great places to grab a bite to eat which is handy given its position in the middle of all things.
It’s also just pretty to look at, which made for a few very lovely instagram shots for yours truly.
Rua Augusta is a really cool street that stretches for what seems to be an eternity. It houses lots of souvenir shops, local craft shops, museums, restaurants, clothing shops and everything else you could possibly think of.
One thing that stood out was the street performers which were fun to have a laugh at. But, you could spend hours checking out everything this street has to offer so make sure you schedule it into your itinerary or you’ll easily lose track of time!
At the end, just before you enter the Praca de Comerico, you will come to the Rua Augusta arch. It’s a couple of euros to enter but if you choose to head up to the top you get a brilliant view of the square and the waterfront.
You could just get some lovely shots of it from the front like I did though and you’d be fine…
Just off the main square is the waterfront. This gives you amazing views across the sea and really shows off the awe-inspiring landscape of Lisbon perfectly.
You don’t have to sit in awe for too long but just taking a little bit of time to sit back and revel in the sheer beauty of this place was fantastic.
Santa Justa lift
This is literally just a lift that sits in some side street BUT it is very cool to look at and you can actually go up to the top of it.
I wouldn’t recommend going up to the top as the queues are absolutely ridiculous and there are better views of the city elsewhere. It is very cool to look at though and if you were to go to the top you would get a very cool view. Maybe just go super early and beat the crowds.
Another one of Lisbon’s fantastic squares, this is home to fountains, amazing architecture, nice shops and the fantastic Rossio station.
Rossio station, whilst being one of the sexiest stations you’ve ever seen, is the best link to basically every area of Lisbon, including Cascais and Sintra – discussed later.
Let’s start off with the best element of Alfama in my humble opinion. This viewpoint is called Miradouro de Santa Luzia and offers an absolutely perfect, uninterrupted view of Lisbon. Start your day here and work your way down to the bottom of Alfama.
The only way is up from here. Technically it’s down but you get what I mean.
I inadvertently did this after visiting the Alfama viewpoint but then continued to do it throughout the rest of the trip.
Getting lost is the funnest way to explore a city and find some things that aren’t listed on Tripadvisor. It’s a lot easier nowadays to get out of a pickle if you get truly lost with the invention of google maps so the whole situation is all fun and no stress – promise.
Briefly touched on above, the tram is definitely something you should try at least once but it isn’t exactly the most practical mode of transport.
It is rickety and old but that is the charm of the tram. Take in everything about it for as long ass you can before you have to hop off at your stop. You probably won’t get on again!
It usually gets really packed so make sure you jump on nice and early.
St. George’s castle
This is by far and away the best thing you can do in Lisbon. I absolutely loved exploring the grounds of the castle. You can get a breathtaking view of the whole city as soon as you walk in and it just gets better from there on in.
You can grab a snack and a drink and sit in carved out tables and chairs whilst looking over the vast Lisbon landscape, you can climb the turrets of the tower and see where knights of old would keep guard, you can take guided tours of a crypt and so so much more.
The cathedral is a place of sheer beauty and I actually forgot about it until the last day. It was the very last stop before I headed back to the airport – and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.
You head in and are immediately greeted with huge ceilings, detailed artwork and some major religious feels. I am by no means a religious person but even just going to see the craftsmanship on display was worth it. So, even if you aren’t religious I’d definitely still recommend the trip.
This was a bit of a wildcard as I just kind of stumbled upon it as I was busy getting lost in the flea market (mentioned below).
I had no idea what it was and still don’t really know too much about it other than its religious roots but this building is one of the most beautiful in Lisbon and offers a roof-top view of the waterfront.
It was actually one of my favourite activities of the trip and I’d fully recommend giving it a go. Like most things in this article, it’s free with a Lisbon card too.
This is right round the corner from the national pantheon and is apparently Europe’s largest flea market.
Whilst the stuff on offer isn’t exactly cutting edge merch, you can soak up the fantastic atmosphere and maybe pick up a unique souvenir or two on your way through.
Belem was definitely my favourite area of Lisbon and I’d recommend spending at least one full day here. And you should definitely be starting things off with a trip to Belem Tower.
Get there early because the queue for this is stupidly long but if you don’t want to go in you can always admire it from outside and explore the grounds around it.
Another big old queue for this one (about 40-60 mins) but it is oh so worth it. The Jeronimos Monastery blew me away with its amazing grounds. It is also full of little rooms that contain lots of history about the place which is excellent for you Time Team aficionados.
This is also free with the Lisbon card.
Centro Cultural de Belém
The cultural centre of Belem is a very odd building. It merges so many different aspects into one; High security meeting halls, opera halls, exhibition centres and conference hosting.
But it’s the arty side that attracted me – their exhibitions were really interesting and the fact that they’re constantly updating them means you could easily go back and be able to exoplore the place all over again.
It’s also completely free to walk round and is smack bang in the middle of basically everything, making it absolutely bloody ideal.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
This monument is positioned right on the edge of the river Tagus and celebrates the Portugese age of exploration – a theme that seemed quite prominent throughout Lisbon.
Up close, it is spectacular – the figures of the (what I presume to be) explorers are so detailed and imposing, it really took me aback a bit.
You can actually go inside the monument too which is cool but I didn’t have time to be waiting in another queue so decided to just ogle outside instead.
Pastel de nata
Potentially the highlight of the trip – these puppies were on some next level business.
Make sure you go to Pasteis de Belem for your authentic ones as this is the place that has the *secret recipe* for perfect nata.
I can only describe the taste as a pancake mixture inside of some crunchy pastry. If that doesn’t tickle your pickle then you might want to get your head checked.
Try these. Then try some more.
The coach museum is kind of on the edge of main Belem and is definitely one of the more unique museums I’ve been to.
It has the largest collection of coaches in the world apparently and I’m not talking National Express here – these badboys are fit for royalty.
They’re actually quite imposing and very impressive – another one that’s free with a Lisbon card so it’s definitely worth a look.
These next two places are just a little bit outside of main Belem. I took a 5 euro Uber out here for reference.
Once you get here, you are greeted with the coolest place you’re ever likely to find. LX Factory is a refurbished strip of old factory buildings that has now become THE one stop shop for Lisbon’s boujiest boutiques, restaurants and everything in between.
Pilar 7 is right next to LX factory so you could do this before you head off for a meal. If you did it after your meal and don’t like heights, you may just throw it back up.
This place offers a jaw dropping view of Lisbon (and of the ground below) via the transparent viewing platform on the top floor.
Once you get over the jelly legs, this is one experience not to be missed.
Drink, then drink some more
I thought I’d get this one out there first as this is what Bairro Alto is primarily famed for. The thing is, I went out there on my own so didn’t really fancy drinking on my lonesome – meaning I can’t really give a reliable verdict on this.
Apparently it’s rather good though…
Church of Sao Roque
Potentially one of the blingiest churches I’ve ever seen – the church of Sao Roque was a treat for the eyes.
Like most things in Lisbon, it really took your breath away to see the unbelievable artwork and craftsmanship that humans can create – especially when you consider that all this stuff was built hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
You’ll hear a lot about the infamous Lisbon earthquake while you’re here and nothing quite displays the effects of that earthquake better than the carmo convent.
This convent-turned-museum has no roof and is left unfinished to preserve the state that the earthquake left it in all those years ago.
What that creates is one of the most interesting buildings in Lisbon that is unique to anything else I came across during my stay.
It’s only a few euros to get in and is well worth the outlay.
The national museum of contemporary art is over a century old and houses mostly art from the 18 & 1900’s.
It’s definitely an interesting stop on your way through the city and it’s free to enter with a Lisbon card.
It’ll also make you feel a lot more cultured than you actually are, which is always a big plus.
Sao Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint
The Alcantara viewpoint is potentially the best view you can get of the full city and it’s easy to see why.
It’s right round the corner from the church and right next to a tram stop so you can have one of the most tourist-y hours of your life here.
This area used to be the main gay quarter in Lisbon, but now, along with that, it has built a strong reputation as a high-end shopping district for those with rather deep pockets.
If you’re after some new luxurious garms then definitely consider giving Principe real a little visit.
What to wear
Lisbon is officially the sunniest city in Europe, receiving the most hours of sun per year compared to any other city across the continent – beating out the Greek capital, Athens.
When I went it was pretty grey and cloudy as you can probably see in the pictures, but it was still absolutely boiling.
This means that you’re not really going to need a pair of jeans when you’re heading out there. Here’s a breakdown of everything I took out there on my travels:
- 3 x t-shirts
- 2 x polo shirts
- 1 x lightweight trousers
- 4 x pairs of shorts/swim trunks
- 7 x pairs of socks and underwear
- 1 x pair of brogues
- 1 x pair of slides
- 1 x gym kit
As you can see, it wasn’t exactly an extensive list but it gives you some options on how smart you want to play your outfit for the day. I found the slides were great for travelling in and doubled up as my gym shoes.
Food & Drink
There’s so much to eat and drink in Lisbon. They’re famed for their seafood and custard tarts, so you should really try and cram as much of that into your system as possible.
But, in terms of restaurants I tried a few and they did not disappoint. Here’s my recommendations.
This was the first of the bunch and I kind of just stumbled in as I was exploring on the first night. Located just opposite the time out market, this place is a bit of a more laid back experience than the madness of the market.
They specialise in latin influence food (mostly Italian) and delivered the goods with a veal and polenta dish. I followed this up with a chocolate log of some sort and it blew my head off.
I’d never tasted anything like it and that really set the bar pretty god damn high for the rest of the grub for the trip.
The next night, I went to 100 maneiras. This place was, for want of a better word, the dog’s bollocks. They offer a weird and wonderful selection of foods but being the Brit abroad I am, I opted for the burger.
This was branded the best burger in town however and it delivered on that promise and then some. This burger was unbelievable and I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever had a better one.
It’s hard to think of new and exciting words to describe the act of eating a fantastic burger so I won’t. Let me just tell you that it was unbelievable.
Central de avendida
This was the last meal of the holiday and it lived up the hype. I realised I hadn’t even had any fish since I had been in Lisbon, so I decided it was time to test the waters (lol).
This was a tapas gaff so I opted for some tuna along with a load of other stuff which was all a bit different from my usual.
You can see in the pictures just how good this stuff looked. Thankfully, the taste more than lived up to the aesthetics.
Central de avendida is also located in the LX factory which is without a doubt, the boujiest area in Lisbon. Head here if you’re after one of the coolest days (that will probably spill into night) of your life.
I also realise I have used the word ‘boujiest’ twice. Forgive me.
I wanted to do a full day here but didn’t get a chance as I only had 3 to play around with. You should definitely go if you get the chance as Sintra looks picturesque, but if you’re pressed for time – do the main areas listed above.
Another one that you should really dedicated a full day to, which makes it hard to visit if you have limited time on your trip.
Cascais is the main area if you’re looking for perfect beaches and seafront seafood, but again – it’s not exactly essential if you’re on a tight schedule.
I have it on good authority that the trip is definitely worth it if you do get the chance though so maybe you should book an extra day or two on to the trip to go and explore the wonders of Cascais.
Christ the king
Looks cool and has high trip advisor ratings but it really isn’t essential. Like all the things on this list, if you have the time then do it but if you don’t fancy the long trip to get up close and personal with Christ then you can just gaze from afar at the big fella and call it a day.
Whilst they are popular, they are pretty time consuming. In my opinion, this time could be better spent going through side streets, flea markets, museums and beaches but that’s just me.
If you fancy seeing Lisbon from a completely different perspective though, take a few hours out of your day to chill on a boat tour and soak up the rays.
They actually have solid Tripadvisor reviews but I’d recommend swerving the tuk-tuks off if you can. The locals hate them and you can do the exploration by foot for much cheaper whilst getting a far more authentic experience.
Just my two cents.
How about that for a comprehensive, rip-roaring ride through Lisbon? If that hasn’t convinced you that Lisbon is the absolute go-to gaff of the year then something is seriously wrong with you.
This place is what dreams are made of – visit Lisbon.