The first thing I noticed when we arrived in Lisbon was the sun. After many years living in Scotland, I think I can be forgiven for momentarily forgetting what real sunshine felt like and Lisbon was more than happy to remind me. It was roasting, and even this tough Australian got a little bit of heat stroke under the blaring heat of the Portuguese sun. I wore shorts for the first time in years and had to get over the embarrassment of having the most pasty white legs the city of Lisbon had ever seen.
My boyfriend's idea of holiday is one where every day is an unplanned surprise of wandering the streets and seeing what we find. My idea of a holiday is in-depth research involving web searches, guide books and tripadvisor reviews all condensed down into my very own 'To Do List' for the city. Lisbon suits the laid back holiday style better. The whole atmosphere of the city is relaxed and you get the impression that no one is in a hurry to do anything.
Our days were spent strolling the streets with no real direction apart from stepping out of the hotel and deciding to turn left or right. Most of the streets are paved with mosaic tiles, something that Lisbon is well known for, and the buildings are a interesting mix of old and new. Regardless of your holiday style I would recommend stumbling across the following Lisbon landmarks:
Belem Tower (Torre de Belem)
This was my favourite spot in Lisbon. It's perched on the side of the River Tagus and looks distinctly like a tiny chess piece. It's small, quirky and strangely fascinating. The lines are usually massive to get into it but there's no real need to go in, you can enjoy it just as much if not more from the outside. Close by you can also see the Discoveries Monument which is an impressively large building with sculptures of some of Lisbon's most famous adventurers on the outside. You can also get a great view of the 25th of April Bridge, and Lisbon's miniature version of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue.
Cable Car at Parque Das Nacoes (Park of Nations)
Take the underground out to Gare do Oriente and take a ride along the waterfront on Lisbon's Cable Car. The river look pretty amazing from up here, and you also get a birds eye view of the newest part of Lisbon. The cable car ride ends at the Oceanarium which is a great place to escape the Lisbon heat and view some interesting marine life.
TOP TIP: Don't try and walk back to the city centre from here, it might not look that far on the map but it is and it's mostly industrial car parks along the way.
Marques de Pombal Square
Depending on where you are staying in town, this huge park and french looking square in the north of Lisbon is pretty easy to get to. At the top of the hill you can see views all the way down to the waterfront. It has a majestic feel to it and is one of Lisbon's many green patches. Perfect for city sunbathing.
No trip to Lisbon would be complete without visiting these two beach side holidays spots. I hadn't been to the beach in nearly four years, so to go here and feel the sand between my toes was amazing. Estoril and Cascais can be easily reached from Lisbon city centre- 30 minutes on a train and you can be stepping in to a pasty-white-expat-in-desperate-need-of-sunshine's paradise. Estoril has a better beach, but Cascais has more shops, cafes and bars.
I've been to a lot of European destinations in the past few years, but few have had the impact on me that Lisbon did. It is the kind of beautiful that you can't quite put into words and you can't really explain why you love it so much- you just do. It's the kind of place where you wish you could spend forever wandering its streets, sipping coffee, eating custard tarts and lounging on the beach. It's the kind of place where locals tell you that afternoons are for drinking and dancing only. It's the kind of destination perfect for celebrating anniversaries, because as much as your boyfriend tries to avoid it, there's no denying it's completely romantic.
If you're thinking of going to Lisbon, I highly recommend the travel site Go Lisbon www.golisbon.com for a full list of things to see and do.
Travel Park Hotel Lisbon was the perfect place to stay for our trip. It's metres away from a metro stop (Anjos), has an all you can eat sushi buffet nearby and is 15 minutes walk into town.