5 surprising things in Lisbon

Lisbon. The city of hills, suspension bridges, heart wrenching music, incredible wine and cobboled streets. And so many, somewhat surprising things more.

 

I feel like a broken record when I keep repeating myself by telling you that hubby is a chef but this time I’m not just boasting, I promise. It’s actually a crucial part of the story. Because, you see, hubby works in the service industry, his holidays are sporadic at best. Some seasons are down right out of question for him to take any time off (say any fun holidays like Christmas or New Year) and because of this, if we want to take time off together we need to do it at relatively random times.

 

And it’s because of this, we ended up in Lisbon in early February. You might think it’s somewhat of a rubbish time to travel anywhere in the world, and I thought that as well when I first booked the darned thing, but honey, you’d be (and I was) so wrong. So let me tell you about the surprising things I learned about Lisbon.

 

 

Unconventional timing is your friend

People are hellbent on booking their holidays during the summer months but what they don’t realise is that booking your holibobs during more unconventional months is a) cheaper b) gives you a more authentic experience of the location and c) you get to enjoy all the things you would have at more generic holiday times, just without the hassle of queues. Fancy seeing the Castelo de Sao Jorge? Rock up at any time and don’t expect to queue for hours to buy a ticket. Fancy a seat at the best restaurant? You can, because they’re not fully booked with other travellers. And, all this while paying a somewhat considerable sum less for your travel and accommodation (to me that means: more money for eating and drinking). Don’t believe me? Check out sites like HolidayGems that give you a good idea of differences in prices for a full package holiday with, or without all the trimmings, and even compare other providers to make sure you’re quids in… all the while enjoying the sunshine, hospitality and sights you would at any other given time too.

 

 

A Vibrant Craft Beer Scene

OK, so now that we’ve saved ourselves some money, it’s time to start thinking about where to spend it. And if you know me, you know I like some good craft beer. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect Lisbon to be a bubbling centre for craft beer, I thought it was more concentrated on wine, but strike me down, hubby and I found an explosive and progressive beer scene there. With places like Cerveteca Lisboa and LisBeer in the city, your craft beer needs are very well catered for. There’s even some Lisbon based breweries like Dois Corvos that pump the sweet nectar to the masses. The craft beer revolution is alive and kicking in Lisbon.

 

 

Sardines

If you hate seafood, I will strongly advise you to take one on the chin and just give these a try. The unsuspectingly plain looking fish gets a total makeover in Lisbon and transforms into something really special. I’ll be frank, I never liked sardines much, but when I had them in Lisbon, I was converted. It’s one of their most traditional foods and I promise, you’ll miss out of you don’t try them. The usual way of serving them is with potatoes and a salad with the fishies grilled, and let me tell you, it’s blooming magic.

 

 

How to know you’re getting the best tarts

Get your mind out of the gutter! When I talk about Portuguese tarts I mean the pastries. And yes, they are amazing. They’re all about that oozing custard and the flaky pastry and yes, it is the stuff of legends! But here’s the trick: there is a way to make sure you get the best ones. There’s a vast difference in the tarts (think Tesco Value and Tesco Finest) and you don’t want to settle for a mediocre one when you could have the best. I’ll be honest; my advice on this is purely anecdotal and based entirely on my own experiences, but you know the best tarts are served in places where you have to consume them standing at the counter from where they are served. No seating allowed. You usually have them with a small coffee and they’re meant to be consumed in maximum of two bites, and then you move on. It might sound rushed but trust me – it’s worth it.

 

 

Have Ginjinha for breakfast

OK – we probably wouldn’t have known about this if we hadn’t watched one of the episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s numerous tv series where he destroyed litres of this stuff – but seeing that we did, we wanted to give it a go. What we didn’t realise, is that there are so many little kiosks selling the stuff around the city… and they all open at around 7am so people can have their fix before work, during lunch and after work as well. Now, Ginjinha or simply Ginja, is a portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries, (sour cherry) in alcohol (aguardente is used) and adding sugar together with other ingredients. It’s dangerously delicious and I promise you, if you don’t have some while you’re in Lisbon, you probably shouldn’t have even bothered going.

 

Have I missed any crucial surprises Lisbon has to offer? Tell me all about it in the comments.

  • Meghna

    Wow! Lisbon had been in my travel list for a while now. Hope you visit it this year.

  • Kari Haywood

    Trying a sardine…eek! I’m glad you liked them, but I can’t even stomach how they look. Lol. But when in Lisbon!

  • Jasmin N

    I’ve never been to Lisbon – though, I’d absolutely loved to visit there! Sounds like you had an amazing time out there 🙂

  • Karoliina Kazi

    I can imagine Lisbon is wonderful in the early Spring and sounds like you had an amazing time – I had (too many!) of the delicious Portuguese tarts when we were in Lagos, they are just incredible! But I’ve never heard of Ginjinha – so interesting to have that first thing in the morning.

  • I have read a lot lately about Lisbon, and I thinking of planning a trip any time soon. I like the warm weather of this country, hope I can make it later on summer. Love your colorful photos!

  • Kitty Limon

    Lisbon sounds interesting and I’m. A big advocate of booking holidays outside summer months 🙂

  • Sondra Barker

    Lisbon sounds so amazing to be at. I’ve always wanted to go there and try the tarts too!