Writing this blog post is the first break I've taking from Lisbon apartment hunting all day. I have fallen in love with plenty of other cities before, but Lisbon is an obsession. This magical ancient city, splayed over 7 sprawling hills, is the capital of Portugal and #1 in my heart. Whenever I travel, I'm kind of test-driving a city to see if it's the place I would like to call home in the future. Well, everyone else go home! Sorry London, I'll never forget you Stockholm - but Lisbon wins. It is the perfect intersection of a modern and ancient world. I think its pretty groovy that one 2 mile walk or ride finds you in either a luxurious shopping oasis or strolling the streets of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe.
We spent 7 full days in Lisbon (though technically 5 because Delta decided to not send my luggage the first or second day and I was deathly ill on my actual birthday), but even with 7 days - there's so much to see and do in Lisbon that you can't get to it all. Which is fine, right? We should all take the pressure out of traveling and feeling like we have to get the best pictures for Instagram or that our trip wasn't worth it because we didn't see the #1 tourist attraction. Paris doesn't start and end with the Eiffel Tower, so they say. Or I just made that up - either way. I spent most of my time in Alfama, because that's what called to me. My travel style is SUPER laid-back. There's no schedule and no mandatory stops and no timetables we must follow. I will always prefer to meander around a city for hours, then take a walking tour with a rag tag group of fanny-pack toting tourist (although Fendi belt bags are accepted). I'll never be a native local, but the goal is to experience each destination like one.
We spent our first two nights in Lisbon at The Lumiares Hotel & Spa, which resides in the heart of Bairro Alto. It's so high up at the tippy-top of a hill that you feel like you can see all of Lisbon when you exit the glamorously retro entryway and find yourself on one of Lisbon's cobblestone streets. Whew, the cobblestone! Here's a warning - anyone versed in traveling through Europe knows you're going to tangle with cobblestone here and there but it's EVERYWHERE in Lisbon. The term "walking shoes" was invented for this city. Trust me, pack your Instagram shoes and be prepared to carry them or invest in some cute sneakers like I did from Lulus! These espadrille sneakers are so comfortable, just get some no-show socks so you're not rubbing your ankle raw like I did since I forgot to pack any.
Since we were so high up in Bairro Alto, we just decided to walk down towards the river we could see in the distance. There's so many cinematic alleyways, amazing shopping, and good places to pop in for a snack in the roughly 2 mile walk, you don't even notice it go by. You could honestly trick yourself into getting into amazing shape in Lisbon - between all the steep hill climbing and walking that couldn't feel less like a chores. For everyone not interested, or with the mobility, to deal with hills and cobblestone streets, Uber is cheap, plentiful, and the drivers were all so kind and professional. I don't take Uber in the US, but swear by it in Lisbon.
Our "let's just walk to the water over there" plan lead us to the beautiful Praça do Comércio square - and then we got rained on immediately. However, that lead to a rainbow right after and if that isn't a sign you're in the right place, I don't know what is. The square is anchored by an archway, which sits directly across from the Rio Tejo - the water we originally spotted (I thought it was the ocean somehow). It's a wonderful place to spend a first day in Lisbon - you knock out some impressive sightseeing and photo opps along they way.
From the top of Bairro Alto, I first spotted Alfama. Well, I spotted what I thought was a castle and some pastel houses with brick orange roofs and of course was like - I need to go there RIGHT NOW. We had to wait a couple of more days (see: no luggage and death's door) but when we finally took the Uber up to the miradouros (terraces all over Lisbon to view the city) in Alfama from our second hotel The Vintage Lisbon, that was the moment it felt like a home. No pictures and no videos can do it justice, but the endless views that are accessible from Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia were the most unreal I have ever seen. I remember I kept thinking...this is just free? No one is charging me to be on this terrace where I can soak up this insane view for as long as I want? Seems fake, but okay! That's what I love about Lisbon, the welcoming vibe. Not only are you wanted there, but the city as literally made it easy for you to see the best of Lisboa.
Even though Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol is a pretty good starting point in Alfama, past the Se Cathedral and higher up than Miradouro de Santa Luzia, you still need to be prepared to CLIMB into the heart of Alfama - whether your after an ancient castle or just charming outdoor cafes where you can get Portuguese pastries and watch cute Portuguese pups chase after pigeons and tourists alike. I'm admittedly not the best at giving out city guides, because we never set out with a plan in mind. Just plop us in a neightborhood, and we decided at every street corner where to turn next. My suggestion for Lisbon if when you see a landmark, make your way to it. When all else fails, just follow a group of people with cameras and maps in hand.
You may think I took all of my pictures in Alfama, but not quite! If the oldest neighboorhood in Lisbon stole my heart, Belém sealed the deal. And not just because someone came up to me and asked if I was an influencer there! Partly that, though. Due to the days we lost, we had to decide between Sintra and Belém. While Sintra looks like a fairytale in our modern world, it also seemed like a bit bothersome to get to and I wasn't in a mood to fight crowds after Mercury in Retrograde had been fighting me all week. So Belem Tower it was and it did not disappoint. In fact, it totally exceeded expectations. You always see pictures of the stoic tower, backlit by a shimmering sunset. What you don't see is the huge park directly opposite from the tower, a marina filled to the brim with yachts, and adorable restaurants dotting the shore. It's not this isolated behemoth, but rather the centerpiece in an area where you could easily spend an entire day relaxing and soaking up the mild March sun.
So anyway, that's why I'm moving to Lisbon. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.