Bom dia, Lisboa (and Sintra)

I feel like everyone’s been raving about Lisbon since 2014. Expectations therefore were high despite not having done any actual research. Sometimes, you just gotta believe the hype.

Lisbon is as cool as what they make it out to be. It has the grit, the charm and a history that even non-history buffs like me would find compelling.

My friend and I kicked-off our trip the right way: with a generous serving of spinach rice with five sardines which costed, drumroll please…€4.50. Now, before I paint you a picture of a cheapskate’s paradise, I didn’t come across another plate for the same price again but still, meals are relatively cheap compared to other Western European countries. The rest of the weekend turned out to be a Bourdain-like quest for seafood and shoving Pastel de Bélem in our mouth at every given opportunity.

We stayed in a relatively quiet, seemingly tourist-free neighbourhood, Saldanha, 20-30 minute walk from the city centre. Our hostel, The Nest House, is one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in and is so conveniently located it had the metro right outside their doorstep. Our last night however happened to be the night of the finals, and as luck would have it, we were greeted by football fans in their best behaviour and had non-stop honking as our bedtime lullaby. We asked the hostel staff why this seems to be the rowdiest of all streets whilst the old town felt empty when we left at midnight. As it turns out, Saldanha and two other nearby areas which names I no longer recall are what locals would consider their city centre. If you want to stay away from hordes of tourists, you know where to go.

As per, with limited time, it felt like we’ve only seen a fraction of the city despite the nearly four-hour, free walking tour we did. It was great though – just be mentally prepared, and maybe bring your own sandwich.

If you can’t decide on what to eat and can’t be bothered scrolling through TripAdvisor for good finds, Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira is worth taking a peep. Not the cheapest of places and certainly not the easiest when it comes to finding seats but give it a go anyway as it sure won’t disappoint. Sample of an exquisite dish below – courtesy of Cozinha da Felicidade.

On our last night, we decided to take a stroll around Alfama hoping to stumble upon a Fado performance and get a taste of authentic nightlife in the city. Having said that, I still couldn’t make my mind up whether Fado is a local thing or predominantly aimed at tourists (anyone care to enlighten?).

Just when I was ready to suggest home time and tell my friends my feet could no longer take it, we stumbled upon a group of young people rehearsing Lindy Hop at Miradouro das Portas do Sol. Both my friends were invited to join in and there I was, left alone with my camera, immortalising the moment in vain. Not gonna lie, a pang of jealousy suddenly crept up which I admitted as soon as we were about to walk away from the scene. My friends then without hesitation grabbed hold of one of the dancers and forced him to teach me a few basics before we all call it a night. If opportunity doesn’t knock, beat the door down, I guess.

We’ve also squeezed in Sintra on the itinerary.

Words to note: queijadas de sapa. A pack of six might not be enough.

Words to avoid: “Where is the palace?” There’s a few dotted around, be more specific (we really came well-prepared…). In the end, we went for Palacio da Pena.

Lastly, don’t be that idiot who wears this kind of shoes when going for a mini-hike.


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