If you’re a pottery or tile-loving interiors fan then Lisbon is the European, long weekend destination of dreams. Well I think so, anyway!
I spent three days in the Portuguese capital in June, when the weather was balmy in the mid-late twenties. I’m not much of a fan of modern architecture so was happy to find a super air bnb apartment in the old town district of Bairro Alto. It used to be a convent and the owner, Maria, has decorated it beautifully. Look at the tiles!
One of my favourite things to do is wander, so when I go away I tend to pick a few things that I’d like to see or do and then spend the rest of the time getting lost. As an fan of interiors, one of the first things that jumped out at me when reading up on Lisbon was that they have a tile museum. The museum’s collection is displayed in (another) old convent and although I couldn’t understand one bit of the information due to my inability to read or speak portuguese, I could still work out some of the different influences in the design and art on the tiles. Here are some of my favourites:
The museum has a nice café, carries a €5 admission fee and is easily reached from the centre of Lisbon by a 10-15 minute bus journey. Although watch out for feisty old ladies getting into verbal altercations on public transport!
Biarro Alto and its neighbouring district of Alfama are filled with tile-fronted and pastel-coloured buildings and I spent hours walking around, so much so that when I woke up after our first night I could barely straighten my legs and had to limp down the stairs in the apartment!
Food features highly in my life, whether I’m on holiday or not, and as a big seafood fan I made the most of what the Portuguese waters had to offer. The Time Out Market is a huge warehouse filled with pop-up style restaurants selling the most amazing Portuguese food and wine. The name makes it sound like a tourist attraction that will be filled with British food, but it isn’t and if you visit Lisbon you must go for dinner! It’s really busy and a little tricky to grab a seat, but well worth it. And anywhere you can buy a plate of olives and bread for €1 is alright in my book.
The Belém district is home to some of the most famous Lisbon sites, and the delicious pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). Apparently only a handful of people know the original recipe and twenty thousand tarts are sold every day at the most famous bakery, Pastéis de Belém. Cinnamon pastry and creamy custard makes for a real treat and I enjoyed mine in front of the Torre de Belém, while lots of people queued in the heat to go inside it.
Also along the Belém estuary is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument celebrating Portugal’s history of exploring and discovery. The sculptures on the side of the monument that you would see if you’re heading out to sea are empty handed, and the other side filled with treasures and loot. The bridge that connects Lisbon to Almada on the other side of the River Tagus is called the Ponte 25 de Abril (the date of some sort of military coup!) and it looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Google has since reliably informed me that it doesn’t look like the Golden Gate Bridge, it looks like the Bay Bridge but was indeed constructed by the same company. Close. The market at Belém is worth a visit; I bought a small water colour painting and some pottery.
That’s about it for this blog. My top tip for visiting Lisbon is to just eat ALL the custard tarts when you are there, as they are best eaten fresh rather than 6 in one go when you get home.