LISBOA: europe’s hidden gem

July 13, 2011 By Archives, Travel

Having never been, nor read much about Portugal, I was excited to see what the country and city of Lisbon had to offer.  This trip also had the added benefit of traveling with one of my very close friends, Mr. Alan Piatek.

To cut to the chase, Lisbon (Lisboa in the Portuguese Language) was a very pleasant surprise.  Located on the coast of the central part of Portugal, Lisboa is a hidden gem of Western Europe.  The food, people, summer weather, and overall feel of the city is very soothing.  Considering as well, both Alan and I were on a recent college graduate budget, we were pleased to learn the reasonable cost of most things.

We spent the days walking around Lisboa and finding new and interesting sights through every turn.  Every other block there seemed to be a cathedral, or castle that was at least 500 years old, and beautiful beyond words.  A huge part of my love with Europe is the long history and rich traditions of every city.  Lisboa was no different.  The classic European architecture was highlighted with a costal feel that displayed designs mimicking the waves of the ocean.  What Lisboa did offer that was a bit different than your typical European city was a hilly landscape.  Walking up and down and up again reminded me very much of San Francisco back in the states.  Another striking resemblance is a giant bring that looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge connecting Lisboa to the other side of the river.

After spending a few days in the city we had the opportunity to travel to smaller towns outside of Lisboa.  Our first stop was Belem.  Belem is just north of Lisboa along side the river, and is very famous for being home to the President of the country, along with a very famous pastry shop.  Having written the pastries on my “must do” list, that was our first stop.  If you are ever in Lisboa make sure you take a trip to Belem and find the closest shop right off the train.  You will come across what you think to be a small one with a blue awning.  Walk inside and find a seat; Don’t worry if you cannot find one in the front room…this shop has room, after room, after room of open seating.  Try what everyone else around you is trying and enjoy!

Other must visits outside of Lisboa are CaisCais (Very famous/ritzy town. Great for dinner) any beach along the coast, Sintra (great landscape/castles) and finally Cabo de Roca.  Cabo de Roca is the western most point of Europe.  Jump off the cliffs, swim west, and after a very long while you will reach the states.  Cabo de Roca is a beautiful sight.  It is worth the bus trip, but make sure to bring a jacket as it is very windy which makes it cold, even in the summer time.  You can see a photo of Cabo de Roca by selecting Portfolio > Photography > Travel.

Now, discussing the sights and sounds of a city and country are one thing, but not everything.  The night life and the food of Portugal were equally as memorable.  Any side café has the typical coffee and small sandwich that all Europeans love, and now I have grown a liking to.  Being so close to the ocean the sea food is amazing, and the meat is just as good.  Chicken, steak, beef, whatever you have, it’s great.

Finally, after the long days of sightseeing and eating everything in sight both Alan and I enjoyed the night life of Lisboa.  Every night usually started out at the hostel with some good friends we met who were traveling from Australia.  The place to be once you initially go out is the neighborhood called Barrio Alto.  Right at the top of a hill that overlooks the central part of Lisboa.  Packed with bars and pubs Barrio Alto sounds like your typical hot spot for night life, but once you go there you notice things are a bit different.  There are indeed many bars and pubs, but no one is inside of them.  In Lisboa it is legal to drink on the streets…so everyone does!  The streets are packed with people.  Every corner you turn you feel like some major sports team won a championship and everyone is celebrating.  It’s really a sight to see, and it is so much fun.  You pop in to a bar, order a beer and then walk outside to drink and meet new people.  That’s the next best thing; Portuguese are very welcoming people.  They are interested in everything, and are genuine when they speak with you.  It does not take long to have five new best friends by the end of the night, we did at least.  The one strange thing about the Lisboa night life is that most bars close around 2-3AM.  This is strange because it’s Europe.  Of course in the states this is the norm.  Don’t fret though…after the bars close you just walk near the river and enjoy the club scene.  Here you are very much in the Eurozone with the blasting techno and US music.  It’s a good time no matter how you look at it.

While I could go on and on about my trip to Portugal, I would much rather give you a taste and make you excited to visit one day.  One thing before I sign off is that this trip was different from trips past.  I was able to share this experience with a very close friend of mine.  If you take anything away from me please let it be that the people you surround yourself with is what makes an experience.  No matter if its your family, old friends, or new friends those people will make the experience.  My trip to Portugal was one of my most memorable because it was shared with a very good friend of mine.  Cheesy it may sound but it’s the truth.

Thanks for reading.