Practical guide to Lisbon

Useful things to know when going on a trip to Lisbon can be read about here – the ones you would be lucky to find in guide books but that you would more likely hear from friends.

  • When considering location, pick a hotel on the south side. Some guide books or internet portals suggest to stay close to the city centre which may seem to be to the north but the most interesting part of the city (Bairro Alto, Chiado, Alfama) is in reality at the coast.
  • As a rule you get a map of the city from your hotel. It is not extremely detailed but usually sufficient.
  • Lisbon has been built on seven hills so there is lots of going up- and downhill. Still, I recommend walking as the best transportation means and experiencing the city. Otherwise, there are trams, buses and taxis.
  • When going sightseeing, get a bottle of water from a supermarket in advance (I recommend the Pingo Doce chain with green-black logo). On the tourist track they will sell you a 0,5 l bottle for €1.00 without blinking.
  • Eating out can cost from €2.86 (to €???) per head, depending what you like and where you are. Although it would seem that fish and other seafood are in abundance here and should not be expensive, most restaurants will charge you about €15 for an oversalted grilled tiger prawn. For a low budget trip prepare a packed lunch – they sell amazing bread* and beautiful fruits in the shops. Or go to Colombo shopping mall where at Chimarrão you will get a tasty and filling meal for the above mentioned price (the queue at lunchtime says it all).
  • Sunblock is a must in the spring/summer! Get it in advance – again, in the city or at the nice beaches further to the West they will charge you double!
  • Listening to fado is a one-of-a-kind experience. Tasca do Chico is no longer a truly locals-only pub but fado is still sung here (Mondays and Wednesdays as far as I remember). It’s cosy inside so prepare to be squeezed and sweat like in a sauna. There are also fado restaurants (one just along the road from Tasca…) but usually expensive.
  • Pastel de Nata (or Pastéis de Nata), a creamy custard tart, is one of the symbols of Lisbon. It is delicious, however, don’t expect to eat more than one unless you have an extremely sweet tooth. Pastéis de Belem are the exact same thing, well, perhaps a bit less sweet than the ones you get everywhere in Lisbon and served with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. It is your choice then whether you want to queue in the huge line that often forms in front of the famous Café Pastéis de Belém.
  • Beware of dodgy neighbourhood – believe me, there is such! If you are thinking of taking a shortcut or going off the tourist route, then think twice, especially if you are on your own.
  • Finally, if you have an extra day, visit Cascais. It is very charming with its marina, old town, sandy beaches and impressive rocky coast (see Devil’s Mouth – Boca do Inferno – further on along the coast). Again, a very expensive place! Trains go from Cais do Sodré station in the city. Alternatively, go to Sintra or the famous surfers’ beach at Guincho, and be prepared for long walks.

* A credit card (or a similar card) can serve perfectly well as a spreading knife if you are stuck – but use clean and only at own risk! Bank of Scotland seems to work best, AmEx is too bendy…

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