It's such a big city - much bigger than I was expecting - but with an old school guidebook in hand I headed straight for the iconic Tram 28, which is apparently the best way to explore the winding streets for the first time. And what a ride it was! Twisting and turning through the vibrantly coloured streets and past pretty tile-clad houses of historic Alfama, then through to impressive churches or more residential areas. It was such a wonderful way to orientate and introduce myself to the city before heading out on foot.
Whilst do-able by foot, it's certainly hilly! Don't worry though, as public transport (and private if you wish) is abundant for those who prefer to relax. I explored the more touristy areas like Bairro Alto, the streets around the famous Santa Justa Lift which offered amazing views from the top of the hill and Rossio station. Before taking the train out to Belem, I took some time to meander down to Time Out market and explore the array of dining options.
Once I had arrived in Belem, I decided to visit to the historic Torre de Belem and Mosteiro dos Jeronimo which were both right on the waterfront. As the sun set, I walked along the shores of the Tagus River, dotted with plenty of inviting bars and restaurants, perfect for a sundowner and one of Lisbon's famous Pastelaria. You'll find so many bakeries in this area, each selling the simply sublime custard tarts that are a delicacy of Belem, so it's only right I treated myself before heading back to my hotel!
The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz
has wonderfully welcoming atmosphere; just the place to relax and replenish before heading out to one of the many dining options of the city. With everything from fine dining to tiny trattorias where Fado music drifts out into the cobbled streets well into the night, you are spoilt for choice. The city felt so vibrant and full of life, whilst being steeped in history, and its residents are rightly proud of this diverse and eclectic place.
The next day I headed just 30 minutes out of the city to the wonderfully wistful town of Sintra. Resplendent in its fairytale Pena Palace and whimsical Quinta da Regaleria, this quiet escape was filled with otherworldly sights. The highlight of which was discovering the world-heritage-recognised Initiation Well, an inverted tower which descends in a spellbinding spiral staircase. A welcome respite from city life, the whole town was a joy to explore, and I spent a whole morning just in the gardens.
I most definitely will return here as I feel like Lisbon is my little secret treasure now. It has the whole package but still feels relatively undiscovered. Everyone should sample it's delights soon!