Is it possible to fall in love with a city after only two days? I think so.
The destination is Lisbon, Portugal – a large city in a small and friendly country neighboring Spain. I didn’t know much about Portugal before we went, but I found so many treasures in Lisbon – here’s what you have to check out if you’re on a time crunch!
Our first stop of the trip was the aquarium. This is the #1 rated attraction in Lisbon, so as our first day was quite rainy we thought it’d be the perfect way to spend the afternoon. It was definitely a cool experience, but not (in my opinion) worthy of the #1 spot. In fact, almost everything else we did in Lisbon was better than the aquarium! Still, we saw a lot of interesting fish, sharks, stingrays, and otters. If you too find your trip plagued by rainy weather, the aquarium is a good go-to spot.
Where to stay: I recommend the Lost Inn Lisbon. This hostel was incredible. I was lucky enough to get this recommendation from my friend who traveled to Lisbon a couple of weeks before us. It’s rated the #4 hostel in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The reception desk is open 24 hours a day, and everyone there was extremely nice and always helped us with whatever we needed – whether that be directions, luggage storage, or dinner recommendations. Our room was large and clean (a great improvement from the other hostels I’ve stayed in) and the bathroom was not only clean but very well furnished.
Another great thing about the hostel is it offered free events – Friday night at 8pm was a Sangria tasting! We were expecting just a couple sips of Sangria, but again we were pleasantly surprised. We each got a couple glasses of delicious sangria, and we were able to try both red and white. The best part of the event though was getting to talk to all of the other people staying in the hostel that weekend. We met people from Paris, Berlin, Norway, Portugal, and more. It was so interesting to compare lifestyles. A woman from Paris gave us some recommendations of good places to eat that aren’t always crawling with tourists. A man from Germany quizzed us on American politics. We all laughed, drank, and had a lot to say and learn about each other.
Whether or not you stay in this hostel, always check to see what is offered besides the room itself. Events like these, wifi, and a complimentary breakfast can turn a good stay into a great one.
On our second and final day in Lisbon, we had an electric bike tour around the city. This is the only thing we pre-planned before coming to Lisbon. I can honestly say that this experience was the most memorable from the trip. I have a little story to tell about this, if you care to know how I fared with this activity. If you can guess, it wasn’t very pretty. Electric bikes are not like regular bikes. Lisbon streets are not like regular streets. Electric bikes are not like regular bikes. Lisbon streets are not like regular streets.
Our group of four had a tour guide, Jeorge, who was a native of Portugal and was very… cool. He rocked a ponytail, need I say more? I quickly realized that this bike tour would be difficult, and let me tell you why:
- Electric bikes are heavy
- Electric bikes are hard to control (pedal twice, zoom forward, pedal again, zoom faster… you get the idea. maybe)
- Lisbon streets are a very uneven cobblestone filled with potholes
- Lisbon streets are tiny (some are about 3ft wide)
- There are many people walking around
- There are also many cars
- Lisbon is a hilly city
- Hills in Lisbon are at about a 60 degree angle (hence the electric bikes)
- It was pouring rain
- Beware of trolley tracks
Phew. Roll all of these issues together and you get an experience that was truly unforgettable. I think I was laughing the entire time, while simultaneously fearing for my life. At one point my bike wheel got caught in the trolley track (issue #10) and I fell over, but couldn’t get up (issue #1) so three Portuguese people rushed to my rescue. Looking back this is hilarious, but after that I was afraid of falling again (issues #2, #3, #4, #7, #9, and #10) and this time being run over (issue #6).
The good news is that we had Jeorge on our side, and he was always willing to help despite our struggles. He even took us to a Portuguese cafe to warm up and escape the downpour. He bought us coffees and traditional Portuguese pastries. Also, at the end of the tour he took us to a tiny bar and bought us shots – a cherry liquor in chocolate shot glasses. Much needed after those rough falls, ya feel? Overall, I had an amazing time and we all have hilarious memories. I’d say it’s worth a try if you’re willing to give it a go!
After the tour came to an end, we got lunch in a traditional Portuguese restaurant – try their food, it is so good – and headed back to the hostel for some hot showers. Much needed after biking in the rain for several hours. After a bit of relaxation and recovery from my near-death experience (a bit dramatic, but still) we headed out for our last night in Lisbon. Everyone we had talked to recommended the Time Out Market, so we went there for dinner. I was once again blown away! Lisbon, you do not disappoint. This market was more like an indoor restaurant ring. It was all one big open space, and along the edges were different restaurants: from seafood to tapas to pastries to sushi to chicken to salads and soups to more traditional Portuguese dishes. In the center were drinks: wines, beers, coffees, smoothies, liquors… and on either side of the drink bars were long wooden tables. It was a great way to meet people because everyone sits together at the same table. The food, sangria, and atmosphere were all incredible. I’d highly recommend adding this to your itinerary!
I wasn’t expecting much from Portugal; I really just felt I should visit because living in Salamanca, we were so close. But it was an absolutely amazing weekend in a wonderful city. Lisbon, you will be missed!