Cliché title? Probably! I nearly went down the route of “Discovering myself in Lisbon!” but that would of been unforgivable right? All jokes aside, Lisbon was incredible. Wow. An experience and a half! Lisbon was officially my first solo trip (after having a bad experience in Vienna, I’m writing it off completely!) So, would it be another cliché to state that Lisbon changed my life? Possibly. But here is what I got up to while there, all by myself.
A Trip of Many Firsts
I decided before I head off that I would do my best to live the real “traveller life”. No cheating and grabbing an Uber from the airport, it must be a local bus. I would also be staying in a hostel. I did compromise with myself first though; it was going to be a private room and bathroom. Besides from group tours, I have never stayed in a hostel before, so I was really going “all out” at this point.
I grabbed the city bus from straight outside the airport. As you come out of the terminal, there is a blue and yellow stall for Aerobus, where a lady sold me a ticket for 4€. (Please note: prices may have increased for 2020) Alternatively, there are ticket machines dotted about. The bus journey takes around 45 minutes, but the views are so lovely. So sit back and enjoy the ride!
After jumping off the bus, I made my way to City Destination Hostel first so I could drop my backpack off and explore. I was greeted with all the bathroom necessities, a frame which showed all the tours, free snacks, water and wine too! This was an incredibly lovely surprise!
The hostel itself was really lovely. I didn’t really sit in the common areas (hello, my introverted self!). I didn’t want to do the whole travel chat and get myself sad that I was leaving in 3 days’ time, while others were living their best lives. One night I did have an inconsiderable neighbour though. They were screaming, jumping on the bed, and having some loud… intimate moments… at 3am on a Wednesday. But hey, best lives right? At this point though, I just went downstairs and asked the night staff for ear plugs.
Lesson learnt: Bring ear plugs, even if you’re staying in a private room.
I later found out there is a sister site to this hostel, which has a beach view and a rooftop garden, so I recommend checking that version out first! I later visited it myself as part of a tour stop and regretted my booking in my current hostel. That one was seriously so nice. Sigh.
Exploring the city
By this point (about 3 hours in) it really sunk in that I could do whatever the hell I wanted without consequences to anyone else. I guess this is the feeling that solo travellers get addicted to! Eating a little too much, I listened to some live music on the shore line and walked up a lot of hills. I feel like I could justify the food I ate due to the amount of walking I did.
So what exactly did I get up to besides exploring the streets?
Here is a rough guide I’ve put together, if you ever visit Lisbon.
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
Lisbons Highest Viewing Point.
I noticed the sunset was pretty intense, so I did a quick research on where I could watch it and came across this hill! Doing my best impression of a walk/run hybrid, I walked that steep hill. Being the highest viewing point in the city, I was surprised how empty it was. This is also a place where you can grab a photo of one of Lisbon’s famous trams (right hand side!) Unfortunately there is a fence covering most of the view point, but this is for your safety so try not to be too bitter, because it’s worth it! You can still see the view at least. At the top there is also a café, it wasn’t open when I arrived but I imagine this would be really nice in the summer after climbing that hill.
A real Insta VS reality moment. I took the above landscape shot through the fence.
The Time Out Market
Noted as one of the top places to visit, the Time Out Market was an eclectic collection of local food businesses. Everything that you would want to eat or drink here, you can. There were also a lot of locals inside too! (That is when you know it’s good!). The tables are set out as large benches, so do not be surprised if you have strangers crammed in next to you. It’s all part of the atmosphere though and I really enjoyed it. I opted for a vegan cheese burger and rosemary salt chips from one of the stalls on the right hand side. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten! I’ve not got the establishment’s name, but I believe it’s one of the very few burger joints inside. You are given a buzzer after you pay, and this will light up when your food is ready. This is also a hub for those custard pastries (Pastéis de Nata) that you’re probably craving by that point too.
I found this tour on AirB&B experiences. It was also my first time trying out AirB&B experiences and it was a positive experience! The tour was called “This Is Sintra! A Day to Remember!” (link here!) and they definitely lived up to their name. The tour group now take up to 16 people, but when I went there were only 8 of us. We managed to fit in one minivan! Due to the small size of the group, this tour felt more like I was adventuring with friends all day and was a 10/10.
This tour took me through Regaleira Palace (that spiral staircase you see on Instagram), Small local villages, A traditional lunch in a remote village, Adraga Beach, Cabo da Roca (beautiful view point), Their countryside house in the woods (with a view), where you can also meet a giant dog called Balu and finally, ending with a drive back and a free sweet treat! They do not stop off at the Sintra Palace, but that’s okay (for me) I wasn’t big on visiting anyway.
I also learnt a valuable lesson on this day trip, do not trust others to take good photos of you. Haha!
When I arrived back in Lisbon, I was super tired from the whole day so I nipped into a McDonalds (yes, I try it in every country I visit! – does anyone else?) And helped a Grandma navigate the self-service machine.
Belem Walking Tour
When I woke up on the 3rd and final day, I realised that I hadn’t seen that much of the city, so today was going to change that! My flight wasn’t until the evening so I decided to take a free walking tour with the hostel. Luckily, I made a few temporary friends here, who helped me take photos of myself! (I did bring a tripod, but felt too shy to use it) and explored the historical side of Belem. I didn’t really enjoy this tour to be honest. There was an incredible amount of talking and not enough exploring, so I often stood back from the group, researched myself and explored at my own pace. I wrote a walking tour of Belem myself, based on my own experiences. You can check that out > here <. My version is all bite size history and definitely not overwhelming. I tipped the guy regardless of my experience.
Riding In A Yellow Tram
After making my way back to Lisbon, and coming out of the Metro, I saw a yellow tram and a long queue and took a leap of faith. Luckily, because I was by myself, I got on before a lot of tour groups and got a seat at the very back of one. You will have to queue for this, but if you head straight to the starting point of Tram 28, you will get on. Eventually.
I didn’t have much time left, so I purchased a single ticket and just went with it. The experience itself was really cool! I didn’t actually know where it was heading when I jumped on, but I checked out Google Maps and realised we were heading for the Alfama District, so I jumped off half way up the hill and walked the rest.
One of the most memorable parts of Lisbon for me! The streets were dotted with blossom and colourful houses. Making my way to a courtyard with a view, I sat and people watched before enjoying another view nearby. I did not have very long to explore everything this district had to offer, by this point I only had 45 minutes to grab something to eat and explore before I really had to call an Uber to the airport. (I had left it so late that I decided the Uber on the way back was 100% worth it!). Just as I arrived, I managed to grab a table with a view and explain to the waitresses that I only had 20 minutes.
This was a really pivotal moment for me surprisingly, when I sat down to eat and munched on the salad I’d ordered. It was a moment of realisation that I had done this. I was eating, to an incredible view, sun shining on my face, in a country by myself, where I had an incredible time. Most of all, I was proud of myself and my achievements.
I guess that is also another moment travellers get addicted to.
Have you ever been to Lisbon? Let me know in the comments.
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