What to do in Lisbon: Should we return to Portugal?

From August to December, the end tail of 2016 is completely up in the air for us.

Right now we’re working and playing in Chiang Mai, Thailand, all set to travel for a fortnight in Japan then spend three months in Bali, the Island of the Gods.

Then we’ll fly back home to celebrate my Mum’s 60th birthday – and then? We could go anywhere we like, within reason.

Carmen is fairly determined to go to Berlin, but I think it will be too cold. My choice, when the chips are down, is Lisbon – the grand and elegant sun faded capital of Portugal, my absolute favourite European country.

What to do in Lisbon trams Double-Barrelled Travel

Trams clatter past in Lisbon

We had the luck of visiting Lisbon way back in 2012 when we were newlyweds, still grinning away at our jobs in London and the dream of hitting the road to travel and work for ourselves was a very distant one.

Returning to Lisbon

So why go back? There are many reasons…

I fell in love instantly with Lisbon’s hushed streets, burnt orange rooftops, blue and white Azulejos tile art decorating the sides of buildings, the cobblestones and ancient trams, the sweet sea breezes and bright flashes of flowers in window boxes hung above licks of brilliantly executed graffiti.

Lisbon cafe What to do in Lisbon by Cercamon Double-Barrelled Travel

A cafe scene in Lisbon. Photo by Cercamon.

Whether it’s for a quick city break or a long visit, Lisbon is a city that rewards ambling around and getting lost. And what to do in Lisbon? There are plenty of sights to see, such as the delightful castle of São Jorge that towers above the rooftops, or the waterfront district with its arcades of charming shops and restaurants.

But I love Lisbon because it’s truly alive. It’s not merely a city where people come to work and then leave again. Lisbon struck me as a place full of vibrant local life, with character and history and belonging.

What to do in Lisbon Church of Santa Engracia Double-Barrelled Travel

A beautiful church in Lisbon

What to do in Lisbon

Lisbon is an arty city that’s rich in culture. You can visit an art gallery, go to the beach, or admire a monastery.

But for us, we liked to spend our days exploring, slapping our feet on the hot cobblestone streets as we searched for another cafe to call home for an hour, sipping an espresso as we watched the outside world go by.

On our first night we climbed a hill and admired the view. The sun set on the terracotta rooftops, bathing everything in a purple hue. In the distance the ocean glimmered and everything seemed right with the world.

Lisbon sunset Double-Barrelled Travel What to do in Lisbon

Capturing the magical moment in Lisbon

Fond memories of Lisbon

My favourite memory from our trip to Lisbon was buying cold drinks from a corner store and sitting on a park bench in the middle of the old town, shaded from the streetlight by a gnarled old tree growing out of the foundations of the staircases that crisscrossed like a castle battlement.

A gaggle of young kids were playing football in the street, kicking the ball between themselves, laughing and joking and carrying on while their mothers and fathers chatted on their homes’ front steps.

When it was time for dinner the game stopped and they all went inside, their muffled joy echoing into the street from behind closed windows and doors glowing with electric light.

What to do in Lisbon Belem Tower by Loic Lagarde Double-Barrelled Travel

The Belem Tower in Lisbon. Photo by Loic Lagarde.

The romance of Lisbon

Carmen and I walked hand in hand through Lisbon, searching for somewhere to eat, and found a candle lit place with thick vines creating an outdoor ceiling. We ordered a bottle of tasty Portuguese red and steaming bowls of Caldo Verde, a soup made with potato, shredded kale and chouriço, the spicy Portuguese sausage.

The stars came out, the sounds of trams clacking past ticked through the night air, and we raised a glass to Lisbon. Saúde!

So don’t be too surprised if we go back to Lisbon later this year. Once is not enough, especially when the living is that good.

What to do in Lisbon? Have you been? Let us know!

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About the author

Dave is the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel and has been nomadic since May 2013. When he's not busily working on a novel, he can be found exploring a war museum, sailing a yacht (unfortunately not his own), or hiking up a mountain.

3 comments on “What to do in Lisbon: Should we return to Portugal?”

  1. Lindsay Reply

    We just arrived back from Lisbon. We loved it as well! Check out Porto next time you are there. It is a quick train ride or car drive up from Lisbon. Also, check out Blah Blah to catch a ride from a local!

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