We’ve just got back from a fantastic Easter weekend break in Lisbon and I absolutely loved it! There were a few things that I was not expecting and which surprised me…
There is no time difference from the U.K
Although Lisbon is a two and a half hour flight from London, there is no time difference as they are on Greenwich Mean Time. I had absolutely no idea until the pilot mentioned it and I was delighted as it meant we landed an hour earlier than I thought we would. BONUS.
This meant more time to explore and have some local delicacies, such as pastel de bacalhau – a codfish cake with Sierra da Estrela cheese. The weather was amazing too so an extra hour of sunshine was a dream.
Portuguese wine is fabulous
I feel a bit embarrassed but I honestly had no idea Portugal produced their own wine (apart from Port, obviously) – and it’s really good! As prosecco lovers, we were delighted that Portugal has a wide variety of sparkling wine or espumante and we tried a fair few bottles. I have no idea why I did not know this as, according to Visit Portugal, Portuguese wine is recognised around the world and has won awards and distinctions. I think a wine region tour is definitely in order next time we visit. I clearly need to be educated!
Transportation is cheap
Lisbon has several modes of public transport: a metro system, trams, buses, trains, tuk-tuks and taxis and all are fairly cheap (well, compared to the U.K). You can buy a three-day travel card for only €15 and it gives you unlimited access to the metro, buses, trams and trains. The tuk-tuks can be used as taxis but mainly they offer guided tours. We took one in Sintra and it was great.
The metro has only four lines, which covers 46kms, and the last train is at around 1am. An unlimited day ticket is €6 or it’s €1.40 for a single trip. The red line takes you to the airport, which is a bargain ride for €1.40! It’s more economical to buy a day or three-day pass as trams are €2.85 per single ride, or if you purchase a Viva Viagem re-loadable card (like a U.K Oyster card) for 0.50€ then a tram ride is €1.40. You can either top the card up and use it as a ‘pay as you go’ or load it with day tickets.
The trams and funiculars are not JUST a novelty
Whilst trams and funiculars are such a novelty to those of us who live in countries where they don’t exist, the trams and funiculars in Lisbon serve a real purpose. Lisbon is built on seven hills and funiculars (also known as an Elevador) can take you up very steep hills in mere minutes. Trams are able to navigate the steep and winding roads and due to the city’s typography, some sections can only be crossed by trams. If you want to find out the best tram routes to explore Lisbon, here’s a great guide.
The pavement tiles made me seasick
As much as I LOVE tiles, I found that some of the floor tile designs in Lisbon made me feel a bit seasick! They are like three-dimensional and almost move like waves when you walk. They are called Portuguese Pavement or calcada portuguesa and it’s difficult to track down their origins. They are really pretty but can be slippery and some designs seemed to move – I’d love to know if that was intentional when they were designed. Perhaps with Portugal’s history of explorers, like Vasco da Gama, maybe they are meant to represent the ocean?
The tiles on buildings have a purpose
All over Lisbon there are buildings covered in pretty tiles. The tiles are called Azulejo and are painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles. The word Azulejo is derived from an Arabic word which means ‘polished tile’. The decorative tiles aren’t just for art but actually help with temperature control – they help keep homes cool when it’s very hot (and it gets hot!). The designs have changed throughout centuries so you can tell how old a building is by the decoration of the tiles.
Lisbon is a wonderful city and I can’t wait to go back and explore more!