72 hours in Lisbon: I defy anyone not to fall in love with Lisbon. The Portuguese capital is steeped in history and is second only to Athens as one of Europe’s oldest metropolis.
Today, it is vibrant, where hispster cool meets fabulous shopping, all with a stunning backdrop of its heritage, from the Roman ruins to gothic architecture and more than a hint of camp Baroque.
Lisbon is a little hushed at the moment, slightly dazed from the pandemic impact. It still has a 10.30pm curfew, and that means a sudden shutting up of bars and restaurants as the police are on the case, even in your hotel, and there’s no room service alcohol but you can get food.
But, as we did back in Blighty when we had the curfew, people have adjusted, so it’s lazy long lunches and early dinners to make the most of the diverse hospitality offer.
We travelled just in the nick of time for it to turn from a UK green list country to amber and the atmosphere instantly turned from one of hesitant re-opening to despair and frustration for the Portuguese. Read our top tips for travelling abroad during COVID-19 pandemic for assurances.
It was heartbreaking to witness as they had put so much into welcoming back the Brits only for it to last a fleeting three weeks.
But, if you decide to travel and are going to take the amber risk (recent research shows 80% of holidaymakers are sticking two fingers up and taking their holidays to amber destinations, probably because they are in that horrible government fudge where they can’t get their money back because it’s not red and they won’t be insured because it’s not green), then I can’t recommend Lisbon enough.
Trams are wise for 72 hours in Lisbon .@Shutterstock.
I’d been to the Algarve decades ago, which is perfect coastal family fun, but Lisbon took my breath away. We chose a hotel with a pool and I’d recommend this, because you are in the heart of a city so if you want some chill and sun worship time, it’s the perfect answer. There’s lots available and we chose the Iberostar Selection Lisbon which was a real find.
It’s a skip a hop away from the bustling centre, and a lovely stroll through tree-lined boulevards for shopping and restaurants.
Costing just short of £300 for three nights it was an absolute bargain with huge, air-conditioned rooms, gorgeous bathrooms (the walk in shower is a delight) and comfy King bed that’s divided if you’re going with a mate rather than a lover.
We added breakfast for an additional 25 Euros and it was worth it, to set yourself up for the day with a proper holiday buffet! It’s been an age since we’ve seen one of those.
It’s great quality and you can do a full English with a choice of eggs or go continental with gorgeous pastries (including Pastéis de Nata, the lovely tarts Portugal is famed for), cheeses, hams and healthy fruits, yogs, with vegan, vegetrain and gluten free options.
It’s a perfect way to wile an hour or two overlooking the pool and waiting for the sun as this time of year it’s chilly first thing and at night, but ovenly hot in the day, with that bathing heat that does your bones good.
We lounged by the pool for a good few hours most days making the most of our brief vacay and lunch at the hotel is classic beach bar fodder of club sandwiches, salads, while a cocktail bar served our favourites outside from 11am. It is instant chill and everything you want.
Lisbon isn’t fully open. Like the UK many restaurants and bars are subsidized and were closed including the famous Time Out. But there’s still plenty to do.
We visited the Sky Bar which I’d highly recommend. It’s easy to get in and full of people dressed to the nine, with stupendous views of Lisbon. It’s not too expensive with classic cocktails starting from a bargain 10 Euros but you can go wild with an enviable cocktail and champers list and if you want to impress a date, its ideal. We grazed on a superb croquettes there and if that’s what all the dishes are like, then making a meal of it is a good idea. There’s live music and DJs all giving a Hed Kandi vibe.
Then it’s a short hop in a cab to COYO Taco which had been recommended. This place is great and wouldn’t be out of place in Ancoats or Hoxton. It’s latin and Mexican tacos of every hue and I adored the guac and corn chips which was huge and basically could have done me and also a gorgeous steak taco. The walls are lined with tequila to get you in the spirit and my huge margarita was a gift from the gods, salty and lime drenched, whilst shots off the tequila menu go down too quickly. Nicely buzzed, when we left there were queues lining up to go in and you can see why. You can book to avoid those and the prices are unreal value, think around Taco Bell.
One way to see the city from a different angle is one of the many boat cruises. We took a sunset catamaran, but it was one of the windiest nights ever. That didn’t spoil our fun though as they provided blankets and it was exciting as the cat hit high speeds around the port.
Ours cost 45 Euros each and there are drinks to buy onboard. Top tip is to have some cash on you as some places only take cash and you can get this easily from the many ATM if you haven’t brought Euros with you.
The catamaran was the perfect way to see many of the best known landmarks. I loved zipping underneath the impressive Vasco da Gama Bridge, which is like the little brother of the San Fran one. It’s frankly thrilling to zip underneath and hear the roars of cars above.
Our water vantage also gave panoramic views of the hilly capital and the gorgeous pastel shaded villas that stud the cobbled streets and the impressive ‘The Rossio’ which is the local name for the King Pedro IV Square, which has been one of its main squares since the Middle Ages.
Poolside at Iberostar - 72 hours in Lisbon.
There’s loads to take in while you sip a beer or two including the Sanctuary of Christ monument inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.
Poignantly the giant statue in cement was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II.
We waited for the sunset which lit up the water like a ruddy beacon and then had a mad dash for food before the 1030 curfew discovering the best tapas bar ever, by mistake.
This is the fabulous Tapas ‘N’ Friends, and you must go if you’re in Lisbon. It’s on a beautiful cosy square, all glittery lights, cobbles and charming chat.
Our highlights on this food odyssey was a prawn tortilla, melted cheese and serrano ham, but everything was good, including the fizz and bottle of red. It came to just 90 Euros for two, including two bottes of wine (they gave us the reminder to take home in plastic cups when curfew hit) but you could do it justice for much cheaper. We tipped 20 Euros too and were almost embarrassed by their gratitude. Do try and tip what you can as hospitality is on its knees as we know.
Tapas & Friends - 72 hours in Lisbon.
We had planned to go to Cascais for another three nights but well Grant put a stop to that and we had heard that the stunning resort wasn’t quite open so had been debating staying in Lisbon longer if the mad scramble to get home hadn’t happened.
Our last day was chilled and perfect as we got a late check out, with pool and a pizza in the café opposite, before the hell that was the trip home.