The days are getting longer already here in the UK, and there’s a definite crisp chill in the air. Yep, it looks like Autumn is here again! Fare thee well summer! It’s not all bad news of course – the trees look awful pretty at this time of year, it’s a good excuse to start adding to our winter wardrobe and surely it can’t be too much longer before we are well within our rights to be indulging in hot, spiced, (alcoholic) beverages? Also: Halloween and Bonfire Night, duh!
But before we totally allow summer to slip through our fingers, my sis and I decided it was time for one last hurrah – a cheap and cheerful mini-break to Lisbon for a little bit of sun, sea breeze and sangria… and guess what? It’s only gone and become one of my favourite European destinations! Why? Sit back, relax and let me whisk you away for one last summer fling before Autumn sets in…
1. The beautiful streets
Everywhere you look in Lisbon there’s a photo opportunity beckoning. Whether it’s the faded glamour of buildings long past their hey-day, ornate balconies and intricate tiles decorating every surface; or the colour-popping street art you will spot in the most unlikely of places, Lisbon is a looker. Anyone seen the film Zoolander? Well, the scenes of Lisbon take derelicte chic to a whole new level. Just make sure you wear decent shoes for walking, Lisbon is hilly and the cobbles can be quite slick. Alternatively, just hop on one of the super cute trams that trundle their way around town. The number 28 takes you on a full tour – enjoy the ride!
2. Food glorious food
The beauty of Lisbon seduced my eyes but the food stole my heart. We literally could not get enough of the delish cuisine – there wasn’t a single disappointing meal from the minute we arrived, wandering the streets looking for dinner at 11pm, to our very last dinner, right before heading to the airport. If you’re an avid fan of seafood as we are, then you’re in for a treat – octopus rice, codfish dishes and sardines are some of the specialities. There were also plenty of fresh, colourful salads, often with various grains or chickpeas for a little bulk and the usual Mediterranean-type fare of olives, breads, cheeses and meats were also to be found in abundance. Plus pastries, custard tarts and gelato… Honestly, I died and went to food heaven.
A great place to explore is the Mercado de Ribeira, a huge covered market in Cais do Sodre. Here, a wide selection of rather fancy but super budget stalls vie for business, offering an assortment of culinary delights from artisan chocolates and homemade cheesecake to oysters, steak and seafood. It’s set out food court style with lots of central bench seating – there’s something for everyone here as well as a few super cute little stalls selling gifts like handmade soaps and fat, little succulents.
3. Cocktails on point
What’s a holiday without a cocktail or two? Take a stroll along the glittering River Tagus and look for the little pop-up stall, Pitcher Cocktails, with its 1920s prohibition style menu. Pick your poison and it will be served up in a cute little jar for you to drink on your merry way. Yes, it’s legal to drink on the streets in Lisbon – slurp away!
We also very much enjoyed the Negronis at Pensao Amor, a bar in Cais do Sodre – look for the giant cherub design on its outdoor canopy as this bar is located just below street level. So named for the brothel that it used to be, the interior is decked out as a rather eccentric and extravagant boudoir – think velvet drapes and plush armchairs. They stay open late for a bit of dancing later on – enjoy!
4. Seaside day trips
If the river just isn’t enough for you and you need to fee the sand between your toes, hop on the train at Cais do Sodre and head to Cascais or Estoril on the coast. The journey takes just over half an hour and the trains run every 20 minutes until late.
The charming town of Cascais is filled with cute places to eat and drink but the main attraction are the golden beaches that litter the coast. Sunbathe, snorkel or paddle board on one of the smaller beaches close to town, or get walking further afield to find a quiet spot to call your own. Although the sun was blazing in late September, the water was too chill to swim without a wetsuit – well, unless you’re freaking hardcore.
5. Rooftop terraces
Like I said before, Lisbon is pretty hilly. So, why not get as high in the sky as you can and take in those cute, red roofs and the sprawling views. Pay a visit to quirky Park – this uber cool, rooftop bar is not a place you stumble across by good fortune. It’s actually on the top floor of a car-park – there are no signs below at street entrance level but take the elevator to the roof and lo and behold, there it is! We made sure that the air bnb we picked to stay in came with a sunny roof terrace – having a leisurely breakfast out in the Lisbon September sunshine, you can just about fool yourself that summer ain’t over yet.
Pics by Alex Saint – for more, follow me on my instagram @alexsaint13