My Weekend In Lisbon
My stay in Alfama, the quaint Palacio Belmonte, situated in the oldest quarters of Lisbon.
Once an abandoned home of past heritage, now a revitalised retreat for the refined traveller.
Welcome to a palace that has been on quite the journey, but now rests comfortably in elegant authenticity, with its own poetic language.
Landing at that compelling arched red door, its bold presence among simplicity. I knew I was in for a rather special getaway.
If you’re just as drawn to arches as I am, you’ll love this place.
Archways have always been enchanting in my eyes, symbolic of heavenly gateways leading you to new beginnings.
While you stay here, you can’t help but admire its rustic, sophisticated charm.
Long-standing in its resilience, this wise, stylish, and cultured elderly dates back to the 15th century -- proudly crowned the most ancient building in Lisbon.
Stepping out onto its private terrace, on a peaceful Friday evening to say hello, with a lovely glass of gin I helped myself to in the self-serve bar -- I sensed these balcony views are for romantics.
The vision was a portrait of harmony: the tranquil Tagus River contrasting an outline of Alfama’s soft tangerine toned city buildings, resounding enough for the space to light up like folk songs in the nighttime.
Here, you take moments to breathe and truly admire what this luxury escape has to show you: interiors with intricate detailing, stone walls, elements of pure natural beauty, serene ancient artwork in blue and white complement many areas of the hotel. I was lucky enough to slumber in a room dipped in such, they almost served as intriguing bedtime stories encircling my bed.
Word of mouth, this fantastical fortress was once referred to as: ‘not a palace, but a sculpture built over five periods, tweaked and personalized according to the needs of each one’, my interpretation?
Life created from ruins and a vision with a beating heart.
A relaxed, chatty city in grace
Saturday morning. After eating a yummy organic breakfast by the pool, my slumber in the heavenly Palacio Belmonte was just too good. But my rise?
Pampered, ready. Pastels and pastries await.
Belem, a bustling, green historic district in Lisbon.
Welcoming primrose buildings, large open spaces that contrast the classic slender streets of Central Lisbon. Boasting hearty attractions such as the Belem Tower and the most celebrated architectural heaven: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Peckish, I had to stop by to sample sweet Portuguese specialities at the renowned Pastéis de Belém.
These glazed delights are a must-try while you’re in here. Their ancient, secret recipe never fails to impress; it has the holy touch, as it was sparked to life in the famous previously mentioned Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Stepping into the delightful venue, an open lotus flower blesses this Moorish high ceiling; you’ll notice engravings are a reoccurring motif of the city’s interior, retaining the beauty of ancient Lisbon.
To appear one of the locals, try eating here stood up as soon as your order arrives. You’ll be desperate to anyway, as the aromas are ultimately divine.
Touristy for the odd hour...
To achieve the full Lisbon experience, I knew I had to toe-dip into classic tourism. Invest in “My sister went to Lisbon and all she got me was this lousy shirt”. Maybe I skipped out on that souvenir.
I opted for so much more.
Sao George Castle, a stand-out landmark hosting some of the best panoramic views of the city. A mesmerising fortification concealing intriguing depths to Lisbon’s fascinating history while sitting pretty on a hill overlooking Lisbon and the Tagus River.’ Much to my delight, I roamed the grounds among peacocks. Could this place get any more symbolic?
As a nature-lover, I adored the garden of the Castelo de S. Jorge. Olive, strawberry, and pine trees beautified its pathways.
A Taste of the Big Blue
Saturday evening, surprisingly not tipsy. I looked forward to a particular dinner reservation.
The Ibo Marisqueira. Waterfront dining had become a theme for Saturday.
Lightly snacking throughout the day, I knew I had to leave enough room for the stunning Portuguese cuisine to come, as the Portuguese proudly feast late.
Once a salt warehouse, now a hub for experimental gastronomy featuring Portuguese beloved cuisine, rocked by Mozambican flavours and inspired by the owner’s beloved time in Mozambique. With a huge array of creative, tantalising dishes – I finally made my decision. The shellfish with Mozambican prawns, a wonderful combination. Bit on the pricier side, but I was splurging because Lisbon is worth it.
Here, outdoor dining is a must.
Reflecting on the views of the river I had been sailing on not long before, they are honourably stunning at night,
I indulged in not only the spectacular food but the comforting atmosphere: happy people strolling to live music along the riverbank.
The Ibo Marisqueira is remembered fondly. Its friendly service is full of smiles and swishing and sipping rich white Portuguese wine. What more could you ask for?
We hate tourism tours.
I awoke to a Sunday that stirred me into smooth slam poetry, a track off the beaten path where the heart beats more feverishly.
Although the skies were cloudy, they welcomed me into heartfelt locals and their declarations of love for their cities’ passions.
I began with a tour. A more intimate introduction to the city I’ve been exploring. I wanted something new, different from your standard guide. What I received was even better than I could’ve imagined.
‘We hate tourism tours’ is not a quirky title I made up - it’s the name of a real distinctive sightseeing opportunity advertised as ‘created by friends, for friends.’
Priding themselves on ‘not doing anything special’. This experience lived up to its unwavering honesty. Lisbon has always felt as such: brave, open, original.
The heart of this venture is meeting people, discussing the rocky history of the city and keeping the alternative roots of Lisbon alive with a rather meta concept full of individuality. If you’re brave enough to engage and admire a cheeky sense of humour, this is sure to peak your interest. This is cultural exchange, engaging with Lisbon from the perspective of a local.
You cannot get any more authentic than this.
However, I must note – dates may differ post-pandemic, thankfully they still operate on Fridays.
Innovative, animated, fun – glasses up to the youth, the admirable locals.
And not the youth according to age, but beyond such a concept.
The people of Lisbon want more. They’ve known of destruction and uncertainty and have used such turmoil as a catalyst for change, fuel for method hunting to bring the community even closer.
Oh, the vocal streets of Graça, a timeless, charming neighbourhood coloured by its people. Stop by the Open-Air Gallery. Here, I was lucky enough to catch the Lata 65 workshop in action - founded by Lara Seixo Rodrigues, a subversive street artist from Eastern Portugal.
Set to destroy age stereotypes, she was on a mission to integrate people from all walks of life into one common desire: to leave their mark on their streets, unabashedly. What an inspiring sight to witness: older and younger generations, connecting over the cathartic medium of art, celebrating Lisbon as the soulful canvas for the people.
The exuberant storm of creativity. The brash and creative – the people of passion.
Lisbon is a nurturing ground for local businesses; simplistic, friendly people with unique and remarkable game-changing ideas.
Show your support and stop by.
Had we slept in? Had it been a dream?
Thankfully not. But, after so much action, it was time to return back to Sunday. Taking it easy.
Strolling the narrow and familial cobbled streets of central Lisbon, I felt weightless. Delightfully, I was strolling for the hills. Ladies, unless you want to spend all of your time here clinging to a tram in agony, I suggest you leave the heels behind and let your feet breathe here, you’ll be doing a lot of uphill wandering. Although the vibrant trams are to be fully admired, I had no desire to ride them today. To experience Lisbon by foot is a must.
I see why the Portuguese love brunch.
Lisbon is so wonderfully relaxed. It feels loopy in the best, most merry way, to brunch as the Portuguese do. Early risers, you’ll have to get used to the routine here. Late breakfast is custom as Lisbonites are night-owls, party people. In Lisbon, even on a quiet, ambiguous Sunday, it still somehow feels like you’re celebrating.
I could only let my senses guide me; my hedonistic intuition was finally having her say.
She picked a great spot: Fauna and Flora. A vegan-friendly plant loving eatery for the finest diners in town. Only downside to this wonderful place is that there’s no pre-booking and its usually very busy.
To be in with the best chance of eating here, play fate and hope your weekend is good to you.
Mine sure was. I tucked into their notoriously delicious pancakes – a must-indulge!- and scrumptious Avotoast.
A rainy lane.
The clouds had a motive of their own: Sunday afternoon in the rain signalled me to get creative. Sundays are close to endings. Rain questioned my commitment to seeking intimate Lisbon. One at this point would feel down, but the rain could never dull this care-free city - only compliment by providing a lovely ambience. My journey in this vibrant city was not over.
What better an in-house escape than a coffee shop? Café Janis - this cheery spot, full of character, can always be relied on as it remains open all day, Mon-Sun. I took the sofa spot, with its cosy book-reading style lounging. Admiring funky art on the walls and bold interior design. Café Janis is singing in the rain.
One could say the weather couldn’t make up its mind today, it loosened up to commemorate my time here. Surprising me with an evening that felt like summer. Time had reset, and there was only one activity to end this chapter of sightseeing in tune: a picnic on the beach in its blanket of sunset.
Before doing so, I needed supplies. In the light, late afternoon, I stopped by the infamous ‘Mercado de Ribeira’ Time-Out Market, a contemporary, high-spirited indoor attraction.
Running 10 am til 10:30 pm, I searched for a spread that would satisfy my restless belly.
The options here are endless, and with only 4-5 star curated cuisine restaurants, it was tempting to dine in. But I had made my decision.
A picnic on Praia dos Galapos, South of Lisbon and an hour away from where I was staying but worth the commute due to its angelic white bed of sand and tender crystalline water.
I was snug, unboxing my goodies: a cultural favourite – rich Pink tónico port [rosé and tonic water] sourced from the lush ‘Taylors’, some stunning, fresh Portuguese bread and the mild yet pungent ‘Queijo de Azeitão’ cheese for cute sandwiches, all courtesy of the fantastic charcuterie ’Manteigaria Silva’.
Finally, to satisfy my sweet tooth: fresh, dainty sprinkled doughnuts from ‘crush doughnuts’ and the equally sweet-smelling ‘Ach Brito’: Portuguese soaps from ‘A Vida Portuguesa’ - a Portuguese antics shop you simply can’t just pass by- you’re welcome, mum! A perfect addition to the spread, of course, thanks to its lovely, addictive scent!
This idyllic sandy marvel can be described as a lot of things, but the sensation that comes to mind for me is warmth.
Soft sand between my fingers, a place to rattle a melodic stream of consciousness, a place for thinking out loud.
For clinking glasses with new friends.
Embracing the taste buds of Portugal, I resided by my basket: thinking of the Lisbon scene and its woven baskets on bikes, full of fresh produce; its vintage vespas, cultural exchange, late-night bites and laughter. I was full. Happy to reflect on all the culinary vitality I have relished.
Lisbon is unapologetically a city of rebirth, passion, vitality and purpose.
It’s a soft energetic spot unchambered, that never sleeps.
There’s no wonder why this capital is gaining so much traction. Rightfully so. It feels interconnected, in sync, yet simultaneously doing its own unique thing at every corner.
This Portuguese charm is held by the locals. No matter how much tourism tries to sweep the city, it cannot be changed.
Its boisterous character is fixed, thriving forevermore.
An aim of mine while here was to have encountered the real Lisbon through a multifaceted experience. On reflection, I have. Or have I barely scratched the surface?
With endless possibilities - there’s still always more to uncover.