by Sagal Abdulle
A few months ago in early March, my close friend and I decided to get away from England. We escaped to Lisbon, Portugal for a quick weekend break. It was towards the end of my dissertation season and I needed a change of scenery from the library that I got too used to sitting in. We hadn’t planned much of anything other than our flights and our Airbnb. We decided to see what we could manage to get up to without an actual itinerary. We arrived on a sunny Friday afternoon and were instantly enamoured. Just the ride from the airport to the Airbnb we were staying in was incredibly picturesque and the stress of university deadlines were soon forgotten.
The city has beautiful cobblestone streets, pretty little cafes in almost every street, pastel colored tiled buildings and charming cable cars that make you feel as if you’re in another world entirely. The people are relaxed and friendly and there is a laid back atmosphere that seems almost alien if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of a city like London. Our three and a half days there were exactly what we needed to de-stress.
We arrived in our beautiful Airbnb just off Rossio Square and immediately after freshening up we went outside and just explored the streets around the square. We had some seafood and then we decided to walk just a few minutes up the road to explore Arco da Rua Augusta, a triumphal arc with stunning views over the city. After we had our fill of the fresh breeze from the sea and the gorgeous cityscapes, we went back home for a short nap before getting ready for the evening.
We decided to visit the famous Time Out Market Lisboa for the night, which is a food hall with various different cuisines in the Mercado da Ribeira at Cais do Sodre. After settling on some jerk chicken for dinner, we sat near the center of the market and watched some of the visitors salsa on the dancefloor, after which we called it a night.
We woke up early and took a train to nearby Sintra for the day to explore the castles and the beaches in that area. It took us around thirty minutes to get there and the town was stunning. Palaces atop hills and exotic garden with mountains and forests nestled between them, Sintra is everything a nature obsessed photographer like myself would want to see on holiday. We visited Pena castle and explored the grounds. We also walked through the town and took in the sights in the city centre. Then, we took a cab for a ten-minute ride to Praia da Adraga, a gorgeous beach in near Sintra with pretty cliffs, golden sand and huge rock formations that had the ocean waves hitting against them. We managed to catch the sunset there before going back to Lisbon for the evening.
We spent the day visiting LX Factory which is an old industrial complex that now locates art shops, galleries, book stores, restaurants and vintage clothing stores. It's very similar to Shoreditch in London. Then we explored Alfama, which is the oldest district of Lisbon, with gorgeous narrow streets and beautiful cafes and small shops in every corner. The sound of Fado could be heard whilst walking through the neighborhood. We also visited Castle Sao Jorge while in the neighbourhood and took in the stunning views of the city and the coast. A random side note - the castle had all sorts of pretty cats and majestic looking peacocks just running around to their hearts content. It was definitely my favourite part of the trip.
We were flying out around 5pm so we didn’t have too much time to explore on this day. However, we wanted to go to the district of Belem and visit the original bakery where some of the first Pasteis de Nata’s in Portugal were made following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. We spent the entire weekend consuming these yummy custard treats so it only made sense to visit the bakery where it all began. It was so worth the trip! No pasteis since has compared to the ones from Pasteis de Belem. Finally, a few minutes away from the bakery is the Tagus River and the Monument of Discoveries. We spent the last few moments of our day just sitting by the river bank and taking in the city before heading back to London.