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33 Things We Love About Lisbon

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Lisbon turned out to be one of our favorite places so far on our travels, so after three weeks in the Portuguese capital, finding thirty-three things to shout out over the rooftops was easy!

1. The yellow trams

Similar both in look and feel to the San Francisco trams, these beautiful yellow trams serve as a very useful public transportation system spanning the central city area. The older street car trolleys continue to connect the coastal areas to the high up hilltop neighborhoods, while the trams travel across town on the streets at sea level. Most are slightly aged but in full working order (like much of Lisbon, actually) and they are lifesavers for getting you up and down the steep hills in comfort. The Number 28 route has become the de facto tourist tram, as it circles the city center. You’ll see tourists seated on the wooden benches, hanging out of the open windows with their cameras, while the locals have tend to cram into the aisles to keep using the line.

yellow tram lisbon portugal2. Multicultural make-up

Lisbon’s mighty maritime history in the 15th to 19th centuries means that Portugal gained several colonies throughout the centuries. The effects of this can be seen in the cultural make up of its capital city today, which, along with more recent immigrants from all over Europe and further afield, make Lisbon a culturally rich cosmopolitan city.

3. Vinho Verde

Despite its name, Vinho Verde or green wine, is not green at all. It is a light white wine, made of green grapes, and is one of Portugal’s specialties along with the more globally known Port wine. At €7 a bottle in the restaurant and much less in the store, there is no excuse not to try this delicious Portuguese wine.

Vinho Verde Portugal4. Cascais train ride

Cascais is the biggest beach town just outside of Lisbon, and it could not be easier to get there. The train leaves from central Lisbon and glides along the coast, with several stops throughout the various beach villages on the way to Cascais. Easily my favorite way to get to the beach, this sunny ride got me right in the mood for a day of ultimate relaxation! Make sure to ride on the left side of the train when traveling from Lisbon to Cascais for the best beach views.

5. Santa Justa Elevator

Lisbon is built on seven hills, and climbing this multilevel city can get tiring, especially without car. Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a Lisbon native born to French parents, Mesnier served as an apprentice to Gustav Eiffel, and brought the inspiration from the construction of the tower home and applied them with the Santa Justa lift. The lift was commissioned and created to facilitate the movement of people from down in the Baixa section up to Carmo Square. The design is intricate, beautiful, and the lift itself is free, but for just €1.50, you can climb the stairs to the top of the elevator for great views over Lisbon.

santa justa tower lisbon6. Cheap bakery breakfasts

Within a one-minute walk from the door of our hotel, we had the choice of six pastelerias, or Portuguese bakeries. While we are sure that plenty of people in Lisbon eat breakfast at home, people are pouring out of these pastelerias, all of them, each morning. We ordered a double espresso and one of the many delicious pastries for around €2 to start our day sugar shocked and uber-caffeinated! You can take a look at some of our favorite breakfasts in Portugal here.

7. The views

In Lisbon, there are views just about everywhere, from hilltops to hotel rooftops, plus countless parks and even from the castle. My favorite place for a view was to climb the streets up to the Miradouro e jardim do Torel viewpoint which is a little park in a residential area just off the Avenida da Libertade. The benches were so comfortable, and the trees provide a breezy, cooling shade. Even on days of intense summer heat, this park is the perfect spot to have a coffee and read a book while the rest of Lisbon is baking below.

lisbon view with castle

8. The Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Belem

The Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art has a great collection of the world’s biggest artists of the 20th century- Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Duchamp, Magritte, Miró,  Jackson Pollock and many more. And the best thing: the museum is always FREE.

9. The beaches

We just can’t get enough of the beaches in Lisbon. The city itself is lined with coastline, along the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean – which can be reached by car, train, bike, bus or GoCar within minutes. A second option for more beaches lies just across the 25 de Abril bridge (the Golden Gate Bridge’s twin). A ten minute ride once across leads to the Costa da Caparica and miles and miles of Atlantic Ocean beach access. Both areas have a laid-back beach culture, surfing, and plenty of great restaurants to keep everyone fed and happy.

costa caparica beach portugal10. Pasteis de Nata pastries

These pastries are a Portuguese institution, and one of Dani’s favorite sweets from our time in Europe this year. They are custard filled pastries, with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top.

11. Coffee

They love their coffee in Lisbon, and while walking the city streets, an espresso is available just about every 50ft. Known locally as ‘bicas’ these super strong espressos kept us buzzing all day long.

pastel de nata & cafe lisbon12. Sagres and Superbock beers

We kept that buzz going at night as well, with these two popular Portuguese brews. Both are light, crisp, and delicious cold – which after a day in that sizzling Lisbon sun feels gooooood.

13. Sculptures everywhere!

Lisbon is filled with sculptures – the biggest one being the Cristo Rei statue in the Almada neighborhood on the left-bank of the Tagus River, a giant stone Jesus Christ figure, which is overlooking Lisbon and was inspired by the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio de Janeiro, but you will come across bronze and stone sculptures everywhere in the city, including the magnificent Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) in Belem, and a gigantic Fernando Botero sculpture on the north end of the Eduardo VII Park.

botero sculpture lisbon portugal14. Tiled houses

The tiles of Lisbon are what help to maintain that intensely old school charm of this capital city. The buildings and sidewalks are both covered in tiles, and form designs or patterns, or even larger murals.

tiles lisbon15. Bairro Alto & Chiado

This area of Lisbon is a combination of bohemian creativity and classic luxury. A place where art museums and fusion restaurants meet live music and old-world wine and whiskey bars. If we lived in Lisbon, this is where we would go out for all occasions.

16. Indian Restaurants

Goa, India was a Portuguese territory until the mid 20th century, and one culinary result is that Lisbon has over 50 Indian restaurants in the city and counting! We couldn’t have been happier with the Indian food as it was both vegetarian and delicious. In fact…we managed to eat at a different Indian restaurant almost every single night, and no, it wasn’t healthy. But it was good!

Indian sauces Lisbon Portugal

17. The subway system

You may be charmed by the trolleys, the sleek super quiet trams, the buses which provide a great tour for the price of bus fare, or the fun ferries which cross the Tagus river – but don’t forget about the fully functional, easy, clean subway system. Our hotel entrance was at the top of the Almirante Reis exit, so we took the subway often and found it to be very convenient.

18. Ponte 25 de April

We’ve mentioned it before, but we just love how this twin of the Golden Gate – only one of many similarities to San Francisco – adds an extra touch to the classic beauty of the skyline.

Ponte 25 de Abril lisbon19. Affordable prices

From food and transport to clothing and tourist attractions, Lisbon is a fabulously affordable city. The capital is home to some of the finest theater and hotels, but the luxury here seems present, but muted – Lisbon is also the most no-fuss capital we have visited and can easily be done on a budget.

20. The Alleys of the Alfama quarter

The Alfama quarter of Lisbon is the most romantic area of the city. Built upon dense bedrock, the Alfama survived the 1755 earthquake, which makes a visit to this area like a trip back in time. Stepping through the narrow medieval cobblestone areas brought us to tiny squares, inside mystic churches, and past whitewashed houses decorated with colorful flowers and laundry hanging out to dry.

lisbon alley alfama21. Survival of the mom-n-pop restaurants

If we ate seafood, then it would surely be on this list of thirty three things we love, since Lisbon and all of Portugal is known for its fresh, delicious seafood. And although don’t eat seafood (or meat), we can appreciate the way it is sold and eaten here in Lisbon. Even in expensive downtown real estate, streets are lined with family-owned shops and restaurants open for generations. Shops specialize in specific products – fabric, yarn, bags, antique books, florists, tools and, of course, seafood. It’s a great feeling to pay someone for an item and know that the cash is going right to them, not to an (inter)national chain.

22. Wine and whisk(e)y in wooden boxes

Continuing along our love of the old school style of Lisbon and the survival of the mom-n-pop, we love peeking in to the dimly lit downtown booze shops which still sell dusty bottles of wine and whiskey packed individual in wooden boxes.

23. Santo Domingo church

Its nondescript facade hides one of the most beautiful churches we came across in Europe during this trip, and believe us, we have seen a ton of churches! The salmon-colored walls are so unusual, the detail on the many statues and columns incredible. We don’t actually attend church, but we’d go back to this one again any time!

santo domingo church lisbon24. Docas – The Santo Amaro Docks

Under the 25 de Abril Bridge in the Alcantara area of Lisbon between Baixa and Belem, former warehouses now house a string of bars and restaurants which now overlook a trendy yacht marina. You can eat everything from Tapas and Mexican to traditional Portuguese, but the best part is enjoying a drink and a view of the lights twinkling on the water at night.

25. Bike path to Belem

The 7km cycle path along the coast leads from the downtown train station to the area of Belem, and is a flat, easy ride under the 25 de Abril Bridge, past countless trendy bars and restaurants and toward some of Lisbon’s most popular and significant tourist attractions.

lisbon bicycle path to belem26. Baixa

This area is the heart of downtown Lisbon. It’s beautiful, wide squares and great shopping streets were re-built after the earthquake of 1755 leveled the city. The neo-classical architecture today houses some modern shops, but several of these downtown store fronts are still run by sole retailers selling hand-crafted goods and services. Baixa is the main area for public gatherings in Lisbon as well.

27. Street Art

Cities with great street art always win our hearts, and parts of Lisbon are like outdoor art museums, with eye-catching, intellectual street art.

lisbon street art graffitis28. Avenida da Libertade

This central, tree-lined boulevard across town from the Rossio Square to Parque Eduardo VII, and is the main shopping street and thoroughfare for parades in the city. The Libertade is known as Portugal’s equivalent of the Champs Elysees in France, and with its luxury shops, it sure feels that way.

29. Queijo mestiço de Tolosa

As we do in any European country, we grabbed a bottle of red wine, a freshly-baked baguette and this delicious soft white mestiço de Tolosa cheese and had a picnic in the Jardim do Ultramar. At some point, we ran out of bread, and then out of wine, but we kept right on nibbling at this excellent cheese anyway – so good!

portuguese wine & cheese

30. Campo Mártires da Pátria

The statue that sits on this space, Sousa Martins Statue, is dedicated to Dr José Tomás de Sousa Martins, who, in the 20th century, worked with the poor treating tuberculosis. Today, there are thousands of engraved plaques and stones still thanking the doctor for his help. The attached park, Jardim da Cordoaria, has peacocks, pheasants, ducks and geese paddling around a pond, plus a cafe called O Coreto, which is popular with locals who like the solitude of this peaceful park right in the center of the city.

31. GoCar Tours

Exploring the town from the view of a little yellow GoCar is a great way to see Lisbon. Read what we thought about our Lisbon GoCar Tour, and if you are on your way to Lisbon, you can book a Gocar tour here.

lisbon gocar tours32. Portuguese style

Lisbon residents are a handsome bunch. Golden brown from the summer sun and thin thanks to climbing the city’s many hills, people here have the bodies to pull off tight, short and barely-there attire – but no one does. Instead, the style is much more natural and comfortable. Men wear button-down shirts and linen trousers, while women wear long, flowing dresses/skirts and loose-fitting linen shirts. Overall this brings such a relaxed fashion sense to match the laid-back attitude and a lack of pretentiousness that we could really get along with.

33. A Ginjinha

Ginjinha is the name of a liqueur which infuses sour cherries in alcohol with sugar. This super sour shot burns its way down and doesn’t taste all that pleasant at all – the pleasant part is that it shots are available all day long from A Ginjinha, essentially a gritty, singular market stall, right on Rossio Square. The wrinkly old Portuguese vendor slaps shot after shot on the counter for the continuous stream of locals and tourists who gather to spend five minutes with their cherry shot throughout the day.

a ginjinha lisbon portugal

If you enjoyed these 33 things – check out the things we love about some of our other favorite destinations:

1. 33 Things We Love about Costa Rica
2. 33 Things We Love About Nicaragua
3. 33 Things We Love About Guatemala

For highlights in Central America, Mexico and Europe, we’d love you to have a look round all our Things We Love articles!

Have you been to Portugal? More specifically to Lisbon – Did you love it as much as we did? What were some of the things you love the most about Lisbon?

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Lisbon, sweet Lisbon: Our favorite breakfasts in Portugal

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**Warning: This post contains an outrageously high amount of calories and the meals talked about in this post should in no way considered as a healthy diet.**

I shot out of bed each and every morning in Lisbon, not because of the clear blue skies or gorgeous summer weather – it was all about the pastries! Like a match made in heaven, I’ve got a super sweet tooth and Portugal is famous for its delicious pastries. It was amazing to us just how many bakeries, or ‘pastelerias’ there are in Lisbon. In fact,  just within 2 minutes walking from our guest house there were no less than SIX different bakeries, all filled with dozens of chocolate eclairs, Portuguese-style doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and  last but not least pasteis de nata, the signature pastry of Portugal.

Pastelerias are perfect for grabbing a quick espresso and a piece of cake when the tummy starts rumbling mid-afternoon, but they are the most packed first thing in the morning: Office workers, street cleaners, housewives, grandmothers, mothers with children – in short, the entire bustle of the city streets burst out of the bakeries while everyone has breakfast here before work or school.

And breakfast means sweets. Pastries!

I couldn’t believe my luck – a country where it is practically mandatory to eat sweets for breakfast! What could be better than starting each day with sugary or chocolatey or creamy doughnuts? Over the years I’ve gotten Jess to like all kinds of sweets, which didn’t interest her in the least before she met me, but sweets for breakfast are still not really her thing, unless it’s granola or yogurt with fruit.

So we set off to find a bakery that also offered yogurt for breakfast, and after seven or eight bakeries, we were finally lucky – this is what we found:

meia de leite yogurt & pastry portugalI’ll admit that her Greek yogurt with berries was delicious, but I was happy with my giant sugar-topped custard pastry, and we both had a Portuguese cappuccino called ‘meia de leite’.

Healthy options are few and far between, however, and the next morning both of us ordered something sweet. So, instead we ordered a small sampling of a variety of pastries to get an overview of Portuguese baked goods:

pastry selection & cafeSugar overload! My favorite pastry was the one on the top right, which was similar to a the national pastry – pastel de nata. The pasteis de nata are small round flaky pastries filled with vanilla custard and topped with a mix of cinnamon and sugar. The flavor is unique, distinct and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. This is what they look like:

pasteis de nataOnly one single bakery in Portugal, in Lisbon’s Belem neighborhood, still uses the original recipe, appropriately called Pastéis de Belém. Now juggling its reputation as both a tourist attraction and a legitimate local’s spot, there is usually a long line of people outside the bakery at all times of the day. However, all the other bakeries also make excellent pasteis de nata and some modify them a little bit and fill them with apple or almond sauce instead of custard or use powdered sugar:

pasteis de nata lisbon Doesn’t this flaky dough crust look delicious?! My favorite pasteis de nata are still the original ones though. If you visit Portugal, you have to try them!

After a few days, we grew tired of the same ol’ sweet breakfasts and just wanted some granola or a hearty breakfast. Not to be found though. Instead we’re  another sweet start into our day…

pastries & meia de leiteThis was actually a very good breakfast and the pastry with the sugar icing and chocolate sauce on top was one of my favorites of all the ones I ate my way through, and Jess also thought that her strudel was delicious.

The next morning, we got breakfast served along with 30 Seconds to Mars sugar… sweet 🙂 !

cafe & pastryYou may be seeing a pattern develop here. Morning after morning, pastry after pastry, with every day we spent in Lisbon, our pants got tighter and tighter, despite our daily hour-long eight-mile exploration walks through Lisbon… Of course we did not eat pastries for the entire three weeks in Portugal – even I got a bit tired of the sweet breakfasts, and at some point we switched them for fresh fruit in the morning. Next time we go to Lisbon, we’ll need to tack on some ski holidays in France afterwards to work off all these calories!

Please find an array of delicious Portuguese breakfast pastries below:

cafe & pastries portugalA sugar doughnut filled with custard, and a chocolate-covered vanilla custard dream… The Portuguese really love their custard!

pastry selection & cafe lisbonAnother custard-filled doughnut, a custard-filled eclair with sugar frosting, and a selection of cookies – glorious!

portuguese pastriesI couldn’t leave Lisbon without one last sweet breakfast, so on our last day, I went to the bakery and got the mini versions of my favorite pastries. Heaven on a plate! Of course I finished them all and I can’t wait to go back to Portugal for more…

What about you – are you a fan of sweet breakfasts? Where in the world have you had the best breakfast? Share in the comments

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Lisbon on Wheels – Get Out and Ride!

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Portugal’s capital city took us completely by surprise when, after booking a three-week stay on a whim, we ended up enamored by Lisbon’s allure. Unlike other European capitals, Lisbon balances its role as a cosmopolitan capital and once-commanding role in global maritime history with endless stretches of sandy beach and cool ocean breeze for relaxing days at the seaside.

Lisbon view rossio squareThe only way to experience all of these charming facets of the city is by imbibing it from as many perspectives as possible. Climb the city’s seven steep hills for sweeping views of the city and beyond to see where the mighty Tagus river estuary to the south empties into the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Or, just get out and ride – whether that be in a car, on a bike or a more adventurous form of three-wheeled transport.

gocar lisbon dani & jessRent a car – Lisbon on four wheels

Cruising around downtown can help visitors to get their bearings, but we’ll save city center exploration for a set of fewer wheels below. We rented a car to explore the surrounding areas outside of Lisbon, starting in Sintra, an enchanting little city and UNESCO World Heritage Site 25km outside Lisbon.

sintra houses portugalLuckily we pulled into town just before 10am, early enough to find parking and have the town’s 9th century Moorish castle almost entirely to ourselves. Day-trippers flock to Sintra and its fabulously ornate 19th century Pena Palace, so beat the crowds here and then leave Sintra and loop over to Praia Grande, ‘big beach’, a popular surfing beach and Praia Adraga, a much smaller version of the big beach on your way to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. During our visit, it was chilly and wet, so when we discovered the six kilometer hike from Adraga Beach to the Cabo da Roca, we had to turn it down and drive instead.

portugal cabo da roca western most point of continental europe After imagining life for Portuguese sailors using the lighthouse as a guide centuries ago, we left Cabo da Roca, and, as we rounded the curve to the coast of Cascais, the rain stopped and sunny Lisbon life returned as quickly as the clouds had suddenly rolled in. Cascais is a not-so-small beach town that retains heaps of charm, and a spot we decided to actually stay in next time we come to Lisbon. The calm waters of the Atlantic are perfect for swimming, restaurants are varied offering anything from Indian to British to Portuguese fare. People here (and there are many, many people here during the summer) are all about relaxing on the beach, so even though we were far from the deserted beaches in Costa Rica we loved so much, and just a few feet from the nearest beachgoers, we just immersed ourselves in a book and enjoyed the sun.

cascais beach lisbon

The late afternoon cruise back to Lisbon along the Avenida Marginal de Cascais made us really realize what a fabulous destination Lisbon really is. The 20km drive along this beach promenade is dotted with beach town after beach town, each with its own patch of wide sandy beach, restaurants, bars and hotels. Everything here is geared toward one thing: the beach. fThere are no ridiculous monstrosities obstructing the view, no theme parks, aquariums, or museums that act as tourist traps on this road. The town of Cascais itself has a surprisingly rich cultural calendar, but along the promenade all the way to Lisbon, the beach remains the main attraction.

cascais promenade lisbon portugalA second day trip option with a rental car in Lisbon is to head south to the Costa de Caparica, over and past two world famous monuments you never knew existed in Lisbon. Cross the Ponte de 25 Abril bridge, which is the spitting image of the more famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and at the end you’ll pass directly under the shadow of the Cristo-Rei (Jesus Christ) statue, which bears more than a slight resemblance to the famous Cristo Redentor statue in Rio De Janeiro.  From there, it is just another 15 minutes across the peninsula before there are over 40 miles of non-stop beaches to choose from to spend a relaxing day at the beach. Stop off to eat at any of the beach side cabanas or pack a picnic for the beach.

Lisbon street and bridge 25 de abrilGoCar Tours – Lisbon on three wheels

Back in the city, one way to gain unique access to Lisbon’s smaller streets comes on three wheels with GoCar Tours, which we found ourselves doing one sunny Wednesday morning.

jess cocar lisbonWe turned into a narrow side street near the imposing Lisbon City Gate to find yellow go-carts all lined up in a row. The staff inside could not have been more friendly or helpful, giving us tips on what to see in Lisbon as well as in the surrounding areas. After a quick how-to session, we were given helmets and headed off to explore the Lisbon city streets. We set off and  were immediately welcomed by the English-speaking GPS guide, who not only gives driving instructions, but also explains the history of several attractions and locations throughout the tour.

gocar lisbonWe zipped around town for just under an hour in these speedy yellow three-wheeled machines, but some people rent GoCars in Lisbon for the entire day and even drive it down to Cascais.

One of the things we loved about the GoCars is the access to the side streets unavailable to cars. Lisbon has countless hilly side streets only no wider than two horses, and these narrow streets offer up some of the best glimpses into true Portuguese neighborhoods.

lisbon alleyIt was great to be able to shoot up and down these hills and hear about the history of these local gems, albeit catching some stares from the bewildered residents peeking down from their windowsills above. As we drove, we always made sure to give fellow GoCars a friendly wave, as well as the dozens of tourists who turned their cameras on us as we tooled by – when you rent a GoCar, you become a tourist attraction yourself!

Tram reflection gocar lisbon

There are a few things to keep in mind if considering a GoCar rental. First of all, you should be looking for a bit of adventure. Weaving in and out of traffic among cars, trucks streetcars, bicycles, buses and pedestrians is an adrenaline rush, especially if you, like us, are not accustomed to go-carting. Also, it is a bumpy ride at times. Lisbon is covered in cobble stones, and you’ll be bumping along very low to the ground for much of any tour through the inner city. If this is a concern, scoot straight over to the Belem area. Not only are many of the famous tourist attractions located here, but this is a flat area right on the shore with paved roads and pathways. If it sounds like fun, but you’re not looking for too much adventure, Lisbon GoCar Tours do make a small set of golf cart-like vehicles available, which are easier to drive and might be more familiar to some users.

lisbon belem monasteryRent a bicycle – Lisbon on two wheels

For a liberating day out with sun, sand and shoreline, the best thing to do is rent a bike in Lisbon. We started off from Bike Iberia, right downtown a block from the train station and pedaled the seven kilometers along the bank of the Tagus River.

lisbon tagus river viewThe clearly marked cycle path is popular both with Lisbon’s fit, athletic types out running and cycling and the city’s fisherman, who set up their fishing rods early each morning. Along the way, we passed sexy sunset lounge bars and clusters of slightly upscale waterside restaurants serving up primarily Italian, Portuguese and Spanish cuisine. Once in Belem, we locked up the bikes and headed to sample Pasteis de Nata, Portugal’s most famous pastry, at the renowned Pasteis de Belem, where only three chefs know the recipe for what are considered the best Pasteis de Nata in the world. After filling up on these creamy, sugary delights, we spent the afternoon at the popular tourist sites here like the Belem Tower, Jeronimo Monastery and the Museu Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art before our ride back to the heart of Lisbon.

pasteis de nata lisbonAnother option is to take the bike right into the train station and hop on one of the coastal trains out to Cascais where the cycleways are perfect for peaceful riding along the shoreline or take the ferry across the Tagus to the Alameida and ride 20 minutes to the wide, sandy beaches of the Costa da Caparica.

costa caparica wavesCycling this expansive area of the coast in its entirety is too much for one day if you want to catch the ferry back in time to return the bike to Bike Iberia, so just cycle along, stopping off at whatever stretch of beach strikes your fancy for a few hours and then head on to the next.

While we loved the freedom we felt with our bikes in Lisbon, those seven steep hills in the center are too much for us mere mortals to attack on two wheels. This means that city center exploration up and down the character-building hills must be done on your own two feet, or you can hop on to one of the many streetcars in town which again evoke pleasant memories of San Francisco.

lisbon tram 28Lisbon on one wheel…

Exploring Lisbon on a unicycle? Honestly, we haven’t done that…yet? Maybe we will save this on for next time!

Either way, the more time you take to explore Lisbon, the more the city unfolds to reveal the depths of its charming character. Each city side street hides little secrets – a beautifully-tiled building, a centuries-old basement gin joint, tiny art galleries, or a pasteleria overflowing with good-natured Portuguese locals at all times of day, and with the sun and the sand so nearby, we found ourselves as cheerful as ever! Taking the time to explore the city on four, three and two wheels is what made us fall head over heels for Lisbon.

lisbon bike ponte 25 abril

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Cities in Europe we could live in

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Our recent flight to Toronto was bittersweet and as Europe disappeared behind us, a feeling of melancholy won out over the rush of excitement we normally feel when stepping into our next major phase of travel. We reminisced about the amazing fourteen weeks we spent in Europe this spring and summer, where we discovered new treasures, re-visited old favorites, reveled in the comfort, beauty and style of European life. It had been awhile since we had been in Europe and we found ourselves wondering – if we were to ever stop traveling, which European city could we see ourselves actually living in? There are so many great cities in Italy, Germany and Spain, we loved spending time in Prague, Oslo and Amsterdam, had a wonderful time in Innsbruck and so many other places, but putting down roots is another prospect entirely. We may have narrowed it down to the following cities in Europe we think we could live in.

Lady in Lisbon, Portugal

London

A wise man once said, “If you tire of London, you tire of life,” and even after three years of life in London before becoming nomads, we never got tired of exploring the city’s neighborhoods. Creative Shoreditch, glamorous Chelsea, the punks of Camden and up-and-coming areas like Dalston, Deptford and Stoke Newington. London is easily the greenest city we have lived in, with massive open spaces in Hyde Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond. London is also a foodie paradise – Borough Market and enough eateries to keep us chowing down all year round. We loved cycling along the Thames or through unknown neighborhoods, finding cute independent shops, pubs and street art.

London Camden High StreetThe accommodation options are endless, too, ranging from cheap hostels to five-star hotels, free couchsurfing options to affordable hotels in London. At times, you could easily feel as if you are in the center of the pop culture universe  – art exhibitions at London’s free museums, blockbuster movie premieres on Leicester Square and the concerts…never in our lives have we been to so many shows as the time we spent in London.

Despite the city’s fascinating cultural diversity, international cuisine and constant stream of new things to discover, there is a major drawback to London life  – a serious vitamin D deficiency. The gloomy winters and frequent rain keep us from laying down permanent roots here for now, but we would definitely spend a summer in London again soon.

London market coffee house

Barcelona

We spent less than a week here, but Barcelona is easy to love – from the fabulous Gaudi buildings to the hip hop dancers on Las Ramblas, the city and its people ooze a kind of creativity that we immediately connected with – passionate, yet practical, anti-establishment but success-driven. In Barcelona, we walked the beach and discovered the former Olympic area, devoured fresh gelato, undertook the task of infinite tapas tasting, discovered retro bars and modern art galleries and never once did we get bored.

Barcelona gaudi park guellWe also both feel very comfortable speaking Spanish and would be excited to learn to converse in Catalan. Whether or not Barcelona could be forever remains to be seen, but we would most certainly attempt an extended stay.

Barcelona beach at sunset

Paris

We love Paris! Before you get to any oh-so-typical eye-rolling, we couldn’t believe it either. After our first few hours in the French capital, however, we were both hooked, and after several subsequent trips over from London to Paris on the Eurostar express train, there just isn’t much about Paris not to love. We pick up a baguette  for under a buck, some gruyere or brie or camembert, a good, cheap bottle of Merlot or Beaujolais and head to Parc de la Villette or Jardin du Luxembourg or along the river Seine for a picnic.

Paris sweetsWe munch  on macaroons, eclairs, croissants as we explore the streets of Le Marais or the Latin Quarter and sneak up to Montmartre, the artists quarter, in the morning before the tourists arrive. We could spend countless afternoons strolling through the extravagant cemeteries like the Pere Lachaise and evenings watching French couples dance tango on the shore of the Seine as the sun sets. For all the flowery fine art, there is just as much angst-inspired contemporary urban work, and there are as many hang-out spots for intellectuals and artists as punks and fashion icons.

Paris Je t'aimeHowever, our French is fairly basic (but we could learn), and Paris can be expensive, so while the dream exists to spend a glorious life in the City of Lights, it might be more logical to consider a month, maybe two, housesitting in a French apartment, eating, drinking and exploring Paris.

Lisbon

It was a risky last-minute, on-the-fly decision to spend nearly the entire month of June in Lisbon. The decision turned out to be the best we’ve made in a long time. Neither of us had ever been to Lisbon, we knew almost nothing about it and when we arrived, it took us a few days to fall for the city.

View over LisbonOnce we got out and explored, however, we discovered narrow city streets filled with tiled houses, countless neighborhood pastelerias (bakeries), seven hills with unbeatable views of the ocean and the Tagus river, nearby golden beaches and the Ponte de 25 April bridge, which looks like an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We found the trendy area of Bairro Alto teeming with creative concept bars and countless Indian restaurants. There are galleries, markets, sun and sand, and a cosmopolitan composition rivaled only by London.

Lisboa street art graffiti lisbonBest of all, Lisbon is easily the most affordable capital city in Europe – food, drink, transportation and accommodation are fairly priced and manageable. The people are laid-back, friendly, and we picked up enough Portuguese to get by. Of all the cities in all of Europe, we could not be happier to have discovered Lisbon, and the city is now our top choice to live in Europe.

Lisbon tramWhat European city could you see yourself living in? Let us know in the comments!

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Polaroid of the week: Beautiful Lisbon, Portugal

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polaroid of the week portugal lisbon

We just spent a little over three weeks in Portugal’s capital, and this city became one of our favorite in Europe. We took our time to explore all the diverse neighborhoods, climbed up to the top of the city’s seven hills, sampled dozens of the famous ‘Pasteles de nata’, Lisbon’s trademark pastries and enjoyed lazy days at the nearby beaches. We loved the typical tiled houses, the classic yellow trams that continue to climb up and down the steep hills, the countless mom-n-pop restaurants (and lack of chains), and narrow alleyways in the Alfama neighborhood. We could have easily spent another three weeks in Lisbon and can’t wait to get back to what we consider Europe’s most laid-back and beautiful capital.

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