Lessons Learned from Lisbon

April 12, 2016

I went to Lisbon a few months back and felt like I stumbled upon a gold mine. I had a sticky situation with a visa, so it was a bit of last minute trip with not a ton of plans made ahead. I’d never really thought about going to Lisbon before, so I didn’t have a bucket list of things I had to do. I think this openness lead me to not have expectations and just enjoy the trip! A few days in I was wondering why this beautiful city hadn’t always been at the very top of my list of desired destinations. After a week of wandering the Alfama, gorging on fresh fish, and taking in the breathtaking views, here are a few lessons I learned from Lisbon.

1. Be prepared to do stairs. A lot of stairs.

I brought the baby stroller with me and didn’t use it once. The only time I did have it with me was when we took the subway from the airport to the apartment, and we lugged it up the stairs…and down the stairs…and to the broken elevator…and back to the stairs. Most of the streets and sidewalks are all cobbled, and there are so many twisty-turny alley type streets with tons of stairs. Be warned, you’re going to get some serious “flights climbed” credit on your phone’s health app.

Lisbon Portugal Alfama Stairs

2. Know what to order. Or be okay with a surprise.

Look up the names of a few popular dishes so you can order in Portuguese at a small, neighborhood restaurant. Or be okay with a surprise. Our first night we ate a raw fish/seaweed dish and some baked fish at A Taberna da Rua das Flores; it was super fresh, flavorful, light but filling. I was looking for something similar at a little tasca (neighborhood restaurant) in Mouraria, but since I couldn’t speak Portuguese, I ended up with a traditional dish: a large piece of fried white fish and potatoes. Though it was made with local, fresh ingredients and tasted great, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Lesson learned: know what you’re ordering!

3. Order a sleeve of pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém. Just for yourself. And eat them warm!

Pastéis de Belém near the Jerónimos Monastery churns these little egg tarts out by the hundreds. They are warm and creamy and I want to melt into one right now. If you don’t make it to Belém, try Manteigaria. Get the real deal.

Lisbon Portugal Pasteis de Belem

4. Go on a tuk tuk tour! It’s a funner version of Indian Jones at Disneyland.

Cobbled, winding, hilly streets make for a great adventure on the little three-wheeled scooter tours.

Lisbon Portugal Alfama Tuk Tuk Tour

5. Uber may be the best way.

Like I said in lesson #1, we carried the baby stroller up and down the stairs when getting on the subway, switching lines, out of the subway, basically all up and down underground Lisbon. We were so tired afterward, I think we didn’t care how much a taxi cost for the trip back to the airport. And then come to find out, an Uber ride was €6.75. That was from the center of Lisbon, Mouraria, to the airport. I’m usually a big proponent of public transit when traveling, but I think it was the cheapest, quickest, and best Uber ever.

6. Enjoy the beautiful weather, and the amazing views.

I asked a local her favorite thing about Lisbon, and she said the sky. That Lisbon has the best sky. With views like these, it’s hard not to agree.

Lisbon Portugal Alfama


Lisbon Portugal Tagus River


Lisbon Portugal

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  • Reply Lori May 29, 2016 at 12:20 am

    Excellent writing! Makes me want to go and take it all in!

  • Reply The Best Pastel de Nata in Lisbon September 13, 2016 at 6:16 pm

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  • Reply Peggy May 19, 2017 at 12:58 am

    Ok – your reviews of Portugal is seriously the best out there. Thanks! Heading there in 3 weeks – and now I’m super excited.

    • Reply Kelly Barcus May 19, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Hi Peggy! It’s always so nice to hear when someone finds them helpful. 🙂 You have a lot to be excited about. Hope you have an amazing trip!

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