Go to Lisbon. Now is the time. It is one of the European cities that is the closest to the US, it is really affordable, the exchange rate is the best it has been in years, and it is absolutely beautiful.
Somehow Lisbon seemed like a mix between Spain, Italy, and Greece. The buildings are decorated with colorful patterned tiles, and the cuisine is centered around fish, cheese, sausages, and wine. It feels Mediterranean, even though the city is on the Atlantic.
I went at the end of March, which is a low season in Europe. Of course, I managed to perfectly time my visit with some of the coldest weather that they get in Lisbon, but I still loved it.
Lisbon is an easy introduction to Europe. It feels small and easy to manage, but still has lots of museums, shopping, and landmarks to explore. It isn’t as small as Florence, or as big as Rome. I used Lisbon as a jumping off point to explore castles in Sintra and the seaside in Cascais, and as a place to chill out.
I loved wandering through the city’s long winding streets, discovering restaurants, and trying local wines.
I really loved the food in Lisbon. The concierge at Hotel Portugal recommended the restaurant Taberna Da Baixa, and it was a darling little place specializing in traditional Portuguese food. I have never really loved sausage, but it turns out that I LOVE Portuguese sausage. The wine and cheese was equally amazing.
My friend Maya had recommended the Time Out Market, a food market featuring mini versions of some of Lisbon’s best restaurants. I was blown away. I had intended to try a few different restaurants, but loved Felicidade (an offshoot of Pharmacia) so much that I just kept ordering more and more food.
I started off by ordering their Portuguese Steak, which didn’t look like much, but it was so tender I could almost cut it with a fork and it had a wonderfully flavorful sauce made with a bit of brandy. It came with sweet potatoes and a fried egg.
Next I had rosemary and goat cheese toast topped with a healthy drizzle of honey. And to finish the meal I a had honey ice cream with a red berry sauce.
I stayed at two different hotels while I was in Lisbon. First, I stayed at Hotel Portugal and loved the location. It’s about a block from the Rossio train station, and a very short walk to the city’s main square. The room was a decent size, with a nice desk, and a modern bathroom. The room was only $124 a night including a wonderful breakfast each morning. I definitely recommend it.
When I returned to Lisbon after going to Morocco, I stayed at the H10 Duque de Loulè, and it was one of my favorite hotels ever. I liked Hotel Portugal, but wanted to stay in another part of town to have a different jumping off point. H10 is up on a hill further into the city, and the views are AMAZING.
On top of the views, my room was incredible. It had painted tiles on the wall, a big window with the best view, a great bathroom, a desk, and lots of space. The room was under $200, but if felt like a more expensive hotel.
From Lisbon, I had to go to Charleston for a conference, and I truly believe that a week in Lisbon might be less expensive than a week in Charleston. Seriously. I stayed in a lovely hotel for just $120 a night including WiFi and a big breakfast. In Charleston. you are lucky to find a hotel for under $300 a night. Meals and wine are far cheaper in Lisbon too! While domestic flights tend to be a bit less expensive, the hotels and meals are far less pricey in Lisbon!
Oh and I should let you know that Portugal’s major airline, TAP Portugal, has a layover deal. You can make a free stopover in Portugal and then continue on to another European city. This would be a great way to break up your travel time if you are coming from the U.S.
Have you been to Portugal? Did you love it as much as I did? Tell me all about it in the comments! You can read all of my Portugal posts here.