I don't see a lot of travel articles about Lisbon, and for many this city isn't on a short list of destinations to see. Portugal was never on my radar either, but a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit for a week. My parents were ending a transatlantic cruise in Lisbon and so a friend and I joined them when they arrived. What a fantastic decision that was.
Lisbon is a most wonderful city - beautiful, gracious, fascinating all around. Charming neighborhoods to explore, full of culture and history. Diverse, from modern displays at the 1998 World Expo site to castles, buildings and monuments dating back to the 1700's and earlier.
The surrounding area offers easy day trips, including Sintra, with its gorgeous castles, and Cabo Da Roca, Europe's most western point. It isn't every day that one can climb the steps of a Moors castle built in the 8th and 9th centuries. And the trip to Cabo Da Roca was quite the adventure. The local bus winds through small towns that dot the countryside, with streets so narrow it seemed like we could grab the meat off the butcher's counter, we were that close!
We all hopped on the Metro, trains and buses to get around. We found the transportation quite comfortable and easy to use, though crowded at times. Portuguese isn't exactly the easiest of languages, and thus we did a fair job of mispronouncing just about everything. After a chuckle or two, people came to our rescue, not only pointing us in the right direction but helping us pronounce words and destinations correctly.
We found many locals genuinely wanting to help (and wanting to practice speaking English). I also think they were curious about us. Many Europeans vacation in Portugal, but not many Americans, thus the novelty.
Yes, explore the neighborhoods, visit the top tourist attractions and sample the wide variety of Portuguese cuisine. But my best advice: take a break at a local café, grab a coffee, a local beer or glass of wine and start a conversation with a few locals. Truly authentic travel.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder