36 hours in Lisbon

On our 20 minute walk from the railway station to our hotel Renee and I were offered weed twice, both times when we’d stopped so that Renee could consult her phone for directions. During our 36 hours in Lisbon we were also approached by leering males as well as people asking for money in the city, which was noticeably more expensive than Porto.

I always expected to like Lisbon a lot less than Porto, anticipating it would be bigger, busier and more of a ‘city’. The way I feel about Auckland in comparison to Wellington.

I wasn’t wrong.

My thoughts on Lisbon:

It feels familiar

Avenida da Liberdade, looked down on by The Marquess of Pombal monument reminded me of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, then there are the central squares like the Italian piazzas.

It’s still less crowded and undiscovered than other European Capital cities, not as dirty as Athens or Rome and also lacking their graffiti issues.

There is however litter and cigarette butts on the ground despite prominent rubbish bins.

Restauradores Square 36 hours in Lisbon
Restauradores Square
The Rua Augusta Arch Lisbon
The Rua Augusta Arch
Praça da Figueira thoughts on Lisbon
Praça da Figueira

It’s spread out

When we saw the size of the city on a map and how spread out the points of interest were, we opted to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour with Yellow Bus Tours. It started from Praça da Figueira which was close to our hotel. But we should have got up earlier – the queue of tourists for the bus was immense by nearly 11am and there was a lot of waiting around.

It was also really hard to take good photos from the moving bus.

If you want to get around and see all the attractions including the Discoveries Monument, Medieval Museum, 25 de Abril Bridge and Belem Tower, this is a great way to do it.

Discoveries Monument thoughts on Lisbon
Discoveries Monument

Ginjinha is a must-try

Renee and I learnt about the local sour cherry liqueur made by infusing ginja berries from the Yellow Bus Tour audio and immediately googled where to find it using their free wifi.

A Ginjinha is the traditional home of the drink – a historic open fronted bar where you queue to pay €1.40 for a shot to be poured with cherries at the bottom.

A Ginjinha Lisbon

I wish I had a single restaurant to recommend

The day after I left Lisbon I was asked on Twitter whether I had any restaurant recommendations. I was disappointed to realise I had none to offer.

After stuffing our faces at the massive buffet breakfast included in our room rate at Hotel Lis Baixa we were prone to snacking on salads, garlic prawn sandwiches, custard tarts and Port Wine during the day while we were out and about.

So while I will rave about the food in Lisbon and all of the above must be eaten on any trip to Portugal, we didn’t eat anywhere ‘significant’.

You need to see it from heights

Visiting Parque Eduardo VII,  walking up to the São Jorge Castle (note that they are prone to closing the gates earlier than the 9pm advertised), and taking the Santa Justa Lift (iconic to Lisbon) are just three ways to look down on the city which can otherwise be hard to grasp from the pedestrian street ways.

Looking down from above Lisbon
Parque Eduardo VII
Santa Justa Lift thoughts on Lisbon
Santa Justa Lift

 Santa Justa Lift view thoughts on Lisbon Santa Justa Lift thoughts on Lisbon

I wish I’d experienced the Sintra others rave about

We took the train to Sintra for a day and found it to be too overrun with tourists in July to be enjoyable, but it is no doubt pretty.

We toured The National Palace with it’s frescoes and stories, but will have to take it on good authority that the Quinta da Regaleira gardens are absolutely beautiful.

Palace window Sintra Portugal
Palace window Sintra
Sintra palace ceiling thoughts on Lisbon
Sintra palace ceiling

Is this a city you’ve been to? What are your thoughts on Lisbon? I think 36 hours in Lisbon is about right.


  1. Desiree Chance
    July 31, 2017 / 12:02 am

    The photos of Lisbon are really pretty. I’d agree with some of the disappointments when I was in Portugal myself but overall, it’s a beautiful country. And that sour cherry liqueur does sound pretty delicious.. 🙂

    • July 31, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      Yes it was certainly a beautiful country overall, we travelled from Porto to Lisbon by train and so got to see all sorts of scenery outside of the cities as well. The cherry liqueur is honestly so good – seek some out!

  2. Bernie
    July 30, 2017 / 2:13 am

    It’s good to read something so real. We went around town with an ex-pat friend, so I don’t think we got the hassle. Very much agree with the views from on high, which are gorgeous. We went out to Cascais instead of Sintra, and really enjoyed that – Sintra will have to wait until next time, as will the cherries!

    • July 31, 2017 / 11:01 pm

      Cool you got to explore Lisbon with an ex-pat friend Bernie! Cascais will have to wait until next time for me 🙂

  3. The Middle Age Wanderer
    July 29, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    Great photos and great to read about how things actually were on a visit.

  4. July 29, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    THIS, THIS AND THIS! I had SUCH high hopes but I just did not fall in love with Lisbon like many others. We were constantly offered drugs and there was constantly a urine smell. The viewpoints were incredible, but I found myself not really wanting to head into the city (we stayed in Belem) after the first day or so. Sintra is every bit as amazing as everyone says – I hope you make it there next time!

    • July 31, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      One of the cool things about travelling is that we all see and experience things differently but YES it was just hard to fall in love with. Incredible views from above though and I certainly hope to go to Cascais some time, as well as to Sintra when it’s not peak tourist season.

      • Luis
        February 6, 2018 / 3:07 am

        “Hard to fall in love”, maybe you are speaking about a different Lisbon. The Lisbon that I know is nothing less than amazing….

        • sarahkennerley@gmail.com
          February 17, 2018 / 9:11 pm

          I hope I can visit your Lisbon in the very near future Luis!

  5. Meet The Wards
    July 29, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    The photos you took are amazing especially the ones taken from up high. Those are great shots. The sour cherry liquor sounds tasty.

    • July 30, 2017 / 11:39 pm

      Thank you! Photography is something I’ve been making a focus to work on. And a bottle of cherry liqueur took up residence in my hand luggage back to London!