Whenever I wanted to go to Porto from Casablanca I needed to do a layover. There’s no direct flight, so either I’ll switch planes in Madrid or Lisbon depending on the company (Iberia for Madrid, Tap Portugal for Lisbon). I usually stopped in Madrid because the tickets were cheaper if I bought them ahead of time, and the schedule for flights more convenient. Although I always ran like crazy from end to end in Barajas, I was surrounded by equally rushed people so I didn’t feel weird in my race against the clock. Two hours is definitely not enough for a connecting flight in that airport, I mean except if you like the adrenaline rush of probably missing your flight, then you’ll definitely have a blast. I kinda miss the running to be honest. Anyway, the end of my Erasmus exchange was approaching and I realized that the most I’ve seen from Lisbon was from a window up in the sky. So I decided to take a longer layover in the city and spend the night there, and in this article I’ll show you how to make the most of 24 hours in Lisbon !
I arrived in Lisbon around 8pm, had an easy checkout since I sent all my stuff directly to Porto, only took a backpack with a change of clothes, toiletries and my papers. If there’s one thing I love about Portuguese airports is that the wifi is top notch. I never had issues with it; unlike the wifi in Barajas who could drive me nuts at time (the airport’s just so big so I get it), it gave me enough time to pass passport control and order up an Uber to get me to my place in town. It’s the cheapest Uber ride I’ve had in my life, it cost me 6 euros from the airport to the city center. Granted, Humberto Delgado is not that far, but still, that’s insanely low for an airport ride. I quickly arrived to my Airbnb stay in Rua dos Cavaleiros.
I love Airbnb for many reasons; easy process, relevant filters and most of all, the fact that you can choose the place that’s most like you. I mean I wish I could decorate my house every other month to live in every setting I dream of, and since I’m not gonna do that for a multitude of reasons, Airbnb makes me feel like I could go to places with different interior designs based on my taste and whatever I fancy myself living in at the time. That and the fact that some hosts have become great friends. It’s always nice to have someone waiting for you, even if you’re traveling alone you never truly are. I found Arthur’s place who’s one of the most amazing Airbnb hosts I’ve met so far. He was so warm and welcoming, and went out of his way to show me around the city when I came. He didn’t have to but did anyway, and thanks to him I visited most of the city and went to places I couldn’t have found on my own. I would’ve probably just slept and waited till the morning to start wandering. But from 9 to midnight he played the guide and showed me Lisbon like I wouldn’t have seen it myself.
I didn’t have any kind of bias when I first moved to Portugal, the only thing I cared about when choosing my exchange was the kind of landscapes I wanted to see, to live in, I wanted to be in a beautiful country, some place I’ve never been before. But the thing that touched me the most, besides the amazing scenery and nature, was the people’s warmth. I didn’t expect to feel that welcome, to see that people genuinely wanted to help out, and that’s something I’ve felt a lot during my stay.
So yeah, back to Lisbon, I was in the Alfama district; the old town, so obviously as usual in Portugal : very steep hills. Honestly you don’t need to take transportation, except if you’re planning long trips outside the city, but to discover the charm of the little streets, rather stroll around by feet.
Hotel Mundial Rooftop Bar
Our first stop was this cool rooftop bar that has an amazing view over the city, it was in a hotel near by praça Martim Moniz, wood furniture so you know I’m instantly sold, and Lisbon spreading out before our eyes. If you don’t visit this particular rooftop there’s tons of others to admire the city.
Portuguese train stations are designed to wow you, illuminated by night, estaçao Rossio looks like a castle or just a very beautiful five star hotel entrance. Along with Sao Bento station in Porto, these are the most beautiful train stations I’ve ever stood before.
We decided to walk alongside the tram instead of getting on it, just to appreciate the graffitis on the beast, tight little cabin going up and down what we would consider a hill, but Portuguese people deem as a regular degular street. Ended up on a fair, on top of the Alfama district, where we had yet another stunning view over the city. Lisbon’s just views on views to be honest. I had an historical lesson by Art along our way, he’s a university teacher so that’s what he does best, but all I can tell you is that they were a lot of kings and fights and castles and stuff. Very cool history lesson.
We ended up at the coolest place I’ve seen in my whole tiny life, an old brothel turned into an amazing live bar, erotic library, sex shop and a taro reading parlor. Why be one thing when you can be a million right ? The place was very crowded for a Wednesday night, but summertime was here and Portuguese people are outdoorsy, so it kinda figures.
This Chiado Bertrand Bookstore is the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Portugal. Launched in 1732, the library stayed open and has won the Guiness World Record for being the oldest active bookshop in the world. See ? I sometimes follow history lessons.
After our little (long, very long) stroll, Art dropped me off at home while he went on to meet up with some friends. I wanted to get enough rest to be able to visit the city in the morning. Otherwise I’d sleep it off and wake up just in time to catch my flight, which would be missing the whole point of my coming. So the next day I woke up bright and early and ready to take on Lisbon !
The historical center of the city where I had the chance to spend the night, a modest neighborhood where you felt generations of people living and the core history of Lisbon. Multicultural, humble, alive, festive and popping, this district had a lot to offer with its sinuous streets and never-ending stairs that would lead to the Castelo de Sao Jorge with his gorgeous overview of the city’s orange roofs.
Rossio : Lisbon Square
The most colorful and vibrant place in Lisbon, the Rossio square in Baixa Pombalina is filled with shops and little boutiques, international retailers and boutique hotels. It’s alive and continuously moving, and you can spend hours here without feeling time fleeting. Which I had to because I had a flight to catch and complex feelings to resolve (me not wanting to catch that flight). The place feels lavish, an architecture that gives a hint of wealth, leads you to easily imagine what it was like a couple of centuries ago.
Bairro Alto & Chiado
Walking down from Rossio square to the river allowed me to discover Bairro Alto & Chiado, two adjacent neighborhoods with straight streets leading to the river and an unbelievable amount of shops and bars and yummy pastries. You can’t go to Portugal without trying Pasteis de Nata, a typical portuguese pastry with a flan like top and a flaky crust and the little sardine boxes you find at various shops are more interesting for their designs than to for actual feeding purposes.
Praça do Comércio
Situated just in front of the Tagus River, this praça gives off vibes of ancient luxury, given the fact that it’s where the King’s Palace was located. After the establishment of the new republic, it’s nowadays filled with government bureaux mostly for customs and port activities. It’s one of the most open spaces in Lisbon, and gives a complete openness to the entirety of the river. Fresh air and beautiful moulding, a winning combination. It felt like most of my stroll was leading me here, that no matter where I started from I would end up at the Terreiro do Paço, a vast central place, that combines yesterday’s greatness with today’s hope. A noble symbol for the country.
Ponte 25 de abril
The whole reason why I wanted to stop in Lisbon was to see the replica of the SF Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never been to San Fran and I’ve always dreamed of it, and the view did not disappoint. After walking from Rua dos Cavaleiros and stopping multiple times to stare at the beautifulness that is Lisbon, arriving at my final point was exhilarating. We always make plans and sometimes they fall through, so whenever I want to do something in advance and I finally get to, it gives me a sense of achievement, of things well done. It might not resonate with a lot but that’s what it does to me, a feeling of completion. I came and I did what I was supposed to do, with no trouble along the way.
After a quick shower and lunch I was ready to leave what was my home for a night. I left with stars in my eyes and the earnest desire to come back with my love. I’ll leave you with more pictures of the colorful Lisbon, I hope you guys liked this article. See you soon with a new one !