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6 Things Guide Books Don’t Tell You About…Lisbon

An underrated city which should be number one on your list of must-visits, Lisbon not only has jaw-dropping architecture and sloping hills, but it is also one of the most stunning, and most affordable, European cities I have ever visited. Here are 6 things that guide books don’t tell you about this wonderfully historical city.

 

Lisbon is one of Europe’s cheapest cities.

Before heading to Portugal I had an idea it was going to be cheap, but in a time where the value of the pound is at an all-time low, I never could have imagined just how far my money would go. The average cost of a meal in a good restaurant ranges from 7-10 euros per head, and the average cost of a beer is anything from 2-3 euros. The most noticeable bargains, however, are those that come when you least expect it. We headed to the Hot Club- one of Europe’s best jazz bars- and with a claim as renowned as that, I never could have expected that an unmeasured glass of wine would be €2.50! Visit Lisbon now while flights are as little as €60 return with Ryanair from London Stansted, and while £150 can still give you a fantastic weeks holiday.

 

The Cristo Rei in Almada is a must-see.

This iconic landmark towers above the city from across the water, but not many tourists actually visit the statue due to the ‘difficulty’ of getting to it. It takes a local ferry from the southern metro station of Cais De Sodre, and then a local 101 bus from the Almada side of the city to get to the top; all costing a mere €3.75. While many guide books mention the more well-known sites in the city, what many forget to mention is that this monument is actually one of the most impressive landmarks in all of the city with its incomparable views from the top. The 28 metre statue was completed in 1959, but was originally a plea to God in 1934 to release Portugal from entering World War II, just 3 years after the inauguration of Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

 

Lisboans are the kindest and most caring people (probably ever).

My boyfriend and I were following the usual tourist advice of taking the number 28 tram, which takes you from the dizzying heights of Barrio Alto all the way through Lisbon’s most famous districts. This tram is always busy, but Lisboans also use this train for their daily commute. We managed to position ourselves in the cramped section at the back of the carriage, but next to the window to see the spectacular views as we slowly crept past, with locals and tourists alike jumping on and off at every available opportunity. One man in particular kept asking us if we were ok, to ensure we had enough space, we were comfortable, and generally making us feel so welcome and looked after- what a guy! The courtesy didn’t stop there; with locals physically walking us up and down the city hills and going out of their way to help us find certain places we were searching for- totally unexpected and something you don’t often come across in a city.

 

Take a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

This is definitely one of the things that guide books don’t tell you about Lisbon- the city best explored on foot. Although public transport is extremely reliable and reasonably priced, being below ground or on a cramped bus will hide the breathtaking surroundings & architecture such as Jeronimos monastery & Sao Jorge Castle. Lisbon is a hilly, coastal capital that is best explored with a destination unknown, and spoils visitors with its viewpoints made up of sun-filled terraces and secluded courtyards; a view of its seven hills visible from various parts of this magnificent Portuguese city.

 

Pastelaria’s are the best places eat.

If you prefer a slice of local life whilst travelling the world, pastelaria’s are the best way to do this in Portugal. A word that loosely translates as ‘pastry shop’, you can taste the traditional Portuguese ‘Pastel De Nata’ or simply point at a delightful looking pastry or cake that is sure to taste mouth-wateringly delicious. Locals drinking an espresso watching life go by and families having an afternoon snack after school are both sights to be seen in and outside of pastelaria’s; a nucleus for the laid-back Portuguese lifestyle.

 

Portuguese sounds nothing like Spanish.

As someone who has lived and worked in Spain for over 2 years of my life, I have a conversational knowledge of the Spanish language; something I feel quite happy about, particularly if I’m watching a hispanic TV show, I can normally pick up what’s going on. Portuguese, however, is another story. When looking at street signs or reading a menu or newspaper, one can generally understand what is going on. When listening to someone speaking, it is another matter entirely- the language has a different phonology, with sounds I am unsure how to make, and doesn’t resemble Spanish when spoken at all! Although Spanish & Portuguese are closely related sister languages, the grammar and lexicon is really very different making it almost impossible to understand for many non-native Spanish speakers; something which guide books definitely don’t tell you about!

 

For further information visit The Lisbon Guide

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