If you feel like you’ve done everything that’s been highly recommended for Lisbon and you’ve hit up all the usual tourist spots, there are definitely a few odd alternatives you can throw into your trip to mix it up.
1. Do your own Graffiti Tour
There is so much graffiti in Lisbon, and it doesn’t seem to lessen as you head more to the countryside either; just like home, some is beautiful and some is inane too. But I found some I really loved. There are some companies offering organised graffiti tours too, but why not just do your own? Have a competition with your travel buddies and see who can photograph the coolest graffiti.
2. Get some fast-food from a vending machine.
Ever bought cheesy chips on the way back from a long night out? That’s possibly a very British thing actually – let me know. In Portugal they seem to have these weird, 24 hour vending machines serving up things like burgers. My housemate said she used to get it on the way home, only when really drunk though. So, I warned you, they may not taste that nice after all, but it’s an experience right? See if you can find one.
3. Pop and see Jesus*
We had planned this for the final day of our trip but sadly the rain and the mist came down and there seemed no point in getting soaked for no view at all. You will notice from any point where you can see the river in Lisbon, that there is a huge, rather impressive suspension bridge across it, and on the other side is a huge stone statue, similar to Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. (Alex would like me to point out that this one is called Christ The King). It looks impressive even from the main side of the river, clearly distinguishable as a huge stone carving of Jesus, gazing right across at you. What we thought we’d do is head across the river to Almada on a ferry (very reasonable for about 2 Euros) and walk right up to it. It’d be fantastic to see it up close and also to look back and get a good view of what Lisbon really looks like, from the other side of the water.
4. Watch the sunset
Miradouros is the Portuguese word for view points, and it’s definitely worth following the signs to one. We visited three or four in one day, by foot, getting some amazing views over the winding streets below and out across the river, from all kinds of angles. The view points vary from small and secluded to larger areas, more like parks. You can often find little vans or cafes in huts serving coffee, maybe a pastry and definitely beer or wine. At some Miradouros people might be selling things or playing Fado (the local music, which can be quite expensive if you pay to see some at a restaurant). One of the best things, for me, is to grab yourself a beer, either from a corner shop on the way up or from the little cafes and perch yourself on a view point and wait for the sunset. Equally, you could try sunrise but maybe without the beer… You may also find yourself surrounded by students and young people chilling out waiting for the sunset too, it’s a great atmosphere.
5. Challenge yourself to a cheap dinner
Eating in Lisbon can be expensive for sure, there are plenty of fancy dining opportunities. There are also plenty of really reasonable places; we managed to eat out twice for about 30 euros, two meals, bread to start, drinks, pudding and a tip. However if you really want to get local and don’t mind what your eatery looks like, you can challenge yourself to cheapest meal you can find. There is a wonderful thing in Lisbon called ‘Menu’. A ‘menu’ meal can cost between 6 and 8.50 euro, or could cost a lot more too I assume, but it should include, a starter or soup, a main dish of meat or more likely fish, a drink, a coffee and a pudding. This is a glorious amount of food for the price you’re paying! Find the most local haunt you can and tuck in.
6. Do a pastry crawl
Lisbon is definitely reknowned for its pastries. From the Pasties de Nata, also known as Pasties de Belem when brought from one particular shop, to short bread, to cake, to what looks like a giant jammy dodger. There are no end of sweet treats to be sampled and they needn’t be expensive (although if you’re into that, go for it, there are plenty of posh cafes to go for). Take yourself on a cafe crawl, or street vendor crawl, and tell a story of Lisbon through pastries. I would definitely have taken this challenge had I been travelling alone.
This is the local shot. We tried it twice; once in Sintra and once in what was supposedly the oldest Ginjinha shop in Lisbon. They are usually tiny little stores, selling only the cherry liquor, which isn’t particularly strong, and the price should vary from about 90cent to 1.80. Don’t pay any more you’re being ripped off! The size will also vary, depending on whether you’re having just the liquor, liquor with seriously boozy cherries in the bottom, or you’re having the shot in a chocolate shot glass. That one is the winning combination for me, what could be better?
8. Ride to a random stop
Lisbon is bigger than you first think, and it’s certainly easy to stay in the old town for days without feeling the need to leave. I’d recommend this tip in any destination but, seriously, get on the metro, or the tram but the metro will get you further and pick a random stop. It’s so cheap it’s definitely an affordable activity too. Either take it in turns to pick a stop, or pick the one where you like the sound/spelling of the name most, and then hop out and see what’s there. It can only be an adventure.
9. Visit the Oceanarium/World Expo Site
This area was jarringly modern when we popped up out of the metro at the Oriente stop. We’d been running in, what we’d hoped, was the opposite direction to the rain and were heading for the Oceanarium. What we found though was a really pleasant area, with plenty of interesting architecture, parks and a peaceful walk along the harbour side. The World Expo site itself definitely wasn’t the interesting part but it would have been good to explore the shops and restaurants here. The Oceanarium is great, €14 entry, and a really great display inside, include sea otters, which I adore, and a pretty cool Sun Fish, which I’d never seen before; if it’s raining I highly recommend it. Also, if you’re interested in doing something a little more random – I’m not sure on the price but you can get a cable car along the harbour side for no apparent reason.