Layover in Lisbon: Charming, Historic, Exciting!
Amahle A. is a Flight Attendant with a South African Airways
Country Airport Place
Portugal LIS Lisbon

One layover in Lisbon is never enough. You can’t do Lisbon right in just one go; it can take a whole lifetime to experience the city truly. Even though you’d find museums and historic sites lurking at every corner, Lisbon is also a hub of delicious Portuguese cuisine and never-ending nightlife. Also, if you’re a day-trip lover like me, the city is in close proximity to innumerable tourist spots, making it a deserving day-trip hotbed

Age of Discovery Relics, Tile Art, Selfie Murals & Tram Rides

I am not much of a history person, so I was surprised when I couldn’t hold myself from visiting so many of Lisbon’s historic sites. The moment I stepped foot in the city, on my first layover in Lisbon, I was blown away. Its iconic structures lured me and fired my curiosity about building in town. Lisbon should be renamed ‘Selfie Town,’ in my opinion, because the sites are absolutely jaw-dropping. My favorites include:

  • Portugal’s Maritime Adventures: Torre de Belém, Jerónimos Monastery, Padrão dos Descobrimentos

    Starting with the signature going-to-Lisbon site, Torre de Belém is simply awe-inspiring, situated on an island amidst the Tagus River. Its pitch white limestone exterior, the vast bastion to fit 17 cannons, and the unparalleled architectural amalgamation are worth a million visits. You can even climb up the spiral staircase to catch the most beautiful bird’s-eye view of sailing yachts.

    Just next to the tower, catch a glimpse of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos or the Discovery Monument, recounting Portugal’s glory days as a mighty maritime nation. The monument, shaped like a sailing ship, depicts Dom Henrique and his crew, set to make their next discovery.

    Another Age of Discovery relic, just a walking distance, is the Jerónimos Monastery. An impressive symbol of Portugal’s wealth, from here only Vasco da Gama left on his voyage to India and also where his tomb lies. The entire architecture alludes to voyages with carvings of sea monsters and corals. The place immediately makes you want to go sailing.

  • Lisbon’s Old Secrets: Tram Rides, Blue Tiles, Gigantic Murals, and Much More

Even commuting in Lisbon is exciting; trams connect almost all of Lisbon and funiculars provide beautiful views from the top. Tram 28 and Funicular Lavra take you through the oldest parts with the richest stories, such as the Alfama District, full of narrow lanes, cobbled streets, colored houses, and yellow flowers.

Walking through this district, smelling sardines, and listening to Fado is a truly surreal experience. Also, as you walk by, you will find so many giant murals and graffiti to click selfies with that your social media will be bombarded with appreciation for a whole year.

While the whole city is an open-air museum, you must check out the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, dedicated to tile art dating back to the 15th century and a continuing part of Portugal’s culture. These tiles recount Portugal’s history through painted story-telling artwork, a unique art form that will leave you flabbergasted

Delightful Flavors, Scrumptious Desserts, & Vibrant Nightlife

The rule to sampling Lisbon’s delicious delights is “Never sit down and eat!” Grab a to-go delicacy as you walk around Lisbon, explore every nook and corner, and taste every single delicious treat from obscure hidden gem cafes, guaranteeing you flavors you can’t even imagine!

But wait, that is not the climax; combine food with nightlife, and the whole city will transform into a fiesta for you! Let me tell you how to do that right:

  • Coffee, Breakfast, and Santini Ice Cream

    Start your day by paying a visit to the oldest restaurant in Lisbon, Café Restaurant Martinho da Arcada, where poet Fernando Pessoa did some of his best work at his favorite table, sipping his favorite coffee. The place also prides itself in his bronze statue right outside – a terrific selfie spot.

    Taste the traditional Portuguese recipes passed down over generations. I love it for breakfast, especially their Smoked Asparagus with Ham and Shrimp Omelette. And to go with my meal, I have their delicious, authentic cappuccino; I can vouch for it; it’s the best coffee in the world!

    Wondering what can top a meal like that? I know just the thing! A cone of artisan-style ice cream from Gelados Santini! Creamy beyond imagination, made from fresh fruits, without artificial color, and yet beyond delicious! The caramelized red-fruit Gelato is always my post-breakfast to-go dessert as I walk around Lisbon, checking out its infinite attractions.

  • Burger and Creamy Tarts for Lunch

On your visit to Torre de Belém, your lunch should be at no place other than Ground Burger. My favorite here is obviously the signature Ground Burger with 100% Black Angus meat, queijo cheddar, and fries. My mouth is salivating even as I am thinking about it. This is the best burger in the whole of Lisbon.

They even have doughnuts, but why settle for doughnuts when Pastéis de Belém is just around the corner if you are a sweet tooth like me?

The famous, one-of-a-kind cream tart made from Mosteiro dos Jerónimo’s secret recipe dating back to 1837 can’t be explained in words! Just go, grab the tart, put it in your mouth, and feel it melt. The feeling is absolutely divine.

Need I say more than both these places should be on your itinerary?

  • Dance, Live Music, & Roof-Top River-View

    While the days are full of scrumptious delights, the nights in Lisbon are vibrant to the T, literally. So, while we are there, we love to let our guards down and just flow with the city vibes.

    Lux, Lisbon’s best club, has two dance floors and a roof terrace overlooking the river to top that! The view, the world-renowned DJs, doing what they do the best, and all-night partying – you just can’t help but groove. So when we have a longer layover in Lisbon, we ensure we spend the first night here.

    On shorter layovers, the crew and I love listening to some live Fado at Mesa de Frades. The place was originally a chapel, so it still has the same tiles and murals on the walls. And live Fado is an ultimate Lisbon experience, so that’s unparalleled. But the best part is that it is not overcrowded; it’s soothing and intimate.

An Enchanting Fairy Tale Town and Beach hopping near Lisbon

While a layover in Lisbon itself is full of enticing attractions, there is even much to explore everywhere around. So, after a few explores of the city, the crew and I even love taking a few trips to nearby places.

  • Get enchanted by Sintra

    “Did you go to Sintra?” is a common question if you tell anyone you have been to Lisbon. The reason is that it is just 30-minutes away and is a magical land altogether. With whimsical palaces, regal gardens, and Moorish hill-top castles, Sintra is just like entering into a fairy tale. The place offers innumerable selfie points and is a social media lover’s paradise.

  • Go beach hopping

    Portugal is blessed with ample coastline on the west, so beach-hopping options around Lisbon are abundant. Each beach destination has something special to offer. If you love authentic seafood, head to Península de Troia, with 60km of pristine beaches and a casino too. So, you can bask during the day and gamble at night.

    For surfing lovers, Caxias Beach is the place to be. First of all, it is just 15 minutes away from Lisbon center, but you can’t just surf all the time, all the right conditions need to be met for waves to break and that’s just 5 days a year, so if you get the rare chance to surf here, grab it with both hands because it is totally awesome!

    Finally, if you literally want to go beach hopping, then head to Costa da Caparica. There are beach areas here for you to choose from, and they have the Transparia train to take you from Nova Praia beach to Fonte da Telha beach. Just the thought of the vast sandy shorelines, the quaint fishermen’s houses, and the beautiful sunset melts my heart.

Até mais Lisbon: I’ll be back soon!

A layover in Lisbon guarantees a novel experience every time with the city’s never-ending list of incredible places at your disposal. I am charmed by it no matter how many times I revisit because I know I will stumble upon something lovely in each encounter. And every time I leave, I carry bags full of souvenirs for my entire family from the Feira da Ladra, something to remember this gem of a city.

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