One way of recharging the mind, body and soul (which increases your productivity!) is to take a break from your “regular life” and visit a place that’s completely different from your norm. That place for us in June of 2018 was Lisbon, Portugal.
Arrival in Lisbon was a piece of cake. We simply looked for the big AeroBus sign at the airport to catch a ride into Lisbon’s city center. (Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away from Route #1.) The bus ride takes the same amount of time as the metro, but the bus provided us a chance to begin our visual orientation of the city without having to worry about a transfer.
Our top Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal include:
Visit Castelo de S. Jorge
St. George Castle offers beautiful city views, as you can see from the photo above. The castle itself is mainly ruins, but you can still walk the battlements and try to imagine fending off the enemy.
Visit Sao Jeronimo Cathedral
This cathedral has so many characteristics to experience – sculpture, architecture, gold leafing, statuary, art-filled altar, ornate coffins…. The sculpted details along the walls and columns are wonderfully intricate. Allow yourself a couple of hours here so you’re not rushed. After your visit, walk a few blocks down to Pasteis de Belem for their famous pastry of the same name. Or maybe you should eat there first, then walk it off at the cathedral. Either way, enjoy! This is the same pastry that you’ll see around Portugal with different names, like Pasteis de Nata. While all of them are delicious (you know I tried them all!), to me, Belem wins the taste contest.
Attend a Fado Performance
What is fado? I thought it was a noodle dish. I was wrong. A little farther north in Coimbra, fado is sung by male university students who are trying to win the heart of their favorite young lady. In Lisbon, fado is performed by female singers. It sounds like opera with the heart of blues and a dash of flamenco. I didn’t understand what they were singing in Portuguese, but both versions of fado were beautiful.
Ride a Tuk Tuk
It’s part rickshaw and part giant three-wheeler. Definitely buckle your seatbelt because you risk flying out the side when your driver takes the turns and curves just a little too quickly. There were six of us in ours, so we whooped it up during our wild ride. I asked our driver if these ever flipped over. He answered, “No, they can’t. They have a solid suspension and weigh almost 2,000 pounds.” I smiled, but I didn’t believe him. I wanted to. Maybe it is true. Whether it is or not, you’ll feel like you’re risking your life, but you’ve got to try this at least once.
Walk in the Alfama Neighborhood
Modern life has crept in, and soon you’ll no longer see old men walking in their bathrobes down the street to use the community bath. On various buildings, you’ll see photos of senior citizens who have lived in the neighborhood their entire lives. It’s sad to see many of this neighborhood’s traditions fading away, but I suppose that we all need to change in the name of progress. Or do we?
This liquor tastes like cherry Robitussin cough syrup, but if you’re able to get it served in a chocolate cup instead of a shot glass, the chocolate helps take the edge off the medicine-y-ness. Two Lisbon ginjinha shops claim to be the oldest purveyors of this beverage in the city. Not wanting one to feel left out, we consumed a shot at each shop, then said a prayer at nearby Sao Domingos, which is one of the last churches in Lisbon to use real candles. Ginjinha was created in a small town in Obidos, Portugal, so if you have the chance to go there, make sure you taste some samples in that town as well.
Sintra is a coastal town that is a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon. A day trip should be plenty of time to catch the major sites, or you can take your time and spend the night. Castelo Dos Mouros provided us with beautiful valley views, and it was pretty amazing to realize we were walking the walls of a thousand-year-old Moorish Castle. Pena Palace is a brightly colored compound with architecture provided by its different conquerors. While I love spending time in historical buildings and learning about the past, my favorite stop in Sintra was a tiny wine shop called Binhoteca. We settled in for a wine tasting paired with sausage, cheese, bread and olives. The food and wine were delicious, but the hosts are what made the place special. Our visit overlapped a shift change, so our original host wound up being replaced by a second host. Both were fun, friendly and full of information. It was an enjoyable two hours, and probably the most fun we’ve ever had waiting out the rain.
Smell Basil the Correct Way
The Portuguese believe that if you stick your nose near a basil plant to smell it, the plant will wither and die. And that’s bad luck! Instead, the proper protocol is to ask the owner if you may touch the plant. When permission is granted, you softly wave your hand over the leaves, just barely touching them. You then smell the aroma of basil on your fingers.
Celebrate Santo Antonio
Lisbon’s patron saint is Saint Anthony or Santo Antonio. His feast day is on June 13, which means the big celebrations occur during the afternoon, evening and late night of June 12. Expect the city to begin shutting down after 12 noon, and don’t expect anyone to wake up too early on the 13th. Festas Lisboa is like the family-friendly version of Carnival and New Year’s Eve all mixed into one. Entire neighborhoods take out their barbecue pits and grill all afternoon. There’s a dance, beer booths and roasted pigs on spits in every park. The main parade lights up the night along Av. da Liberdade. Beer companies give out free hats in the metro stations near the parade route. I do not care for crowds, but I enjoyed every minute walking around in this festive atmosphere.
Watch Portugal Play Futbol
If you happen to be in Portugal during the World Cup or European Cup, be sure to spend at least a few minutes watching the game on a big screen in a square. There’s so much energy and hope, and it’s exciting to watch the home team being cheered on. If you don’t like crowds, stay on the edge. If you don’t like the edge, find a small bar and watch there.
Where to Stay
Check Trip Advisor to see which top-rated hotel accommodations fit your budget and style. Or you can check out the hotel where we stayed, Hotel Lisboa Plaza. It’s close to a metro station and yet quiet because it sits one short block behind the main boulevard, Av. da Liberdade. Complimentary herb-infused water is available in the lobby for guests 24/7. The desk staff is very helpful. The breakfast buffet is excellent. The fifth floor hospitality deck gives you a peek at the Santo Antonio parade if you’d like to enjoy BYO sips and snacks from a non-crowded vantage point.
If you are planning to go to Portugal, I highly recommend that you make Lisbon one of your stops. My list of things to do in Lisbon, Portugal, is only a springboard for what the city offers. Have fun adventuring!
If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “Why all of these travel-related blogs in a time management blog?”, the answer is simple. Getting away from it all allows our bodies and brains to take a break. Going on a vacation – no matter how long and no matter where – will do wonders for your productivity. But sometimes properly planning for the type of vacation that will lower your stress levels (and doesn’t add to it) can take a lot of time. To save you time and stress, I’m sharing my travel tips with you.