A recent visit to the city of Lisbon left us happy and refreshed and facing winter with a new spring in our step.
It’s that time of year, when the leaves are falling; it’s cold, wet and miserable and the winter rot is setting in. We haven’t been on a European city-break for over 3 years and our yearnings got us browsing the web looking for inspiration.
Where will it be? Paris? Prague? Barcelona? Rome (again)? Hmmm! Then an idea… Let’s try Lisbon. I’d been to Lisbon on long-haul stopovers years ago and remember being impressed with its relaxed and easy-going feel back then, so we agreed to give it a go.
Deciding on a place to stay is always a bit of a marathon nowadays, what with there being so much information available from your Tripadvisors, your Lonely-Planets, your various booking engines, but we managed to agree on a lovely and very well reviewed hotel in the Rato/Bairro Alto part of town called the Vintage House Hotel.
Don’t take the name in a literal sense though. Despite being called ‘Vintage House’, this hotel is contemporary and chic, with an elegant feel. The room was clean, roomy and well-appointed, yet keeping a feel of a bygone era – in keeping with the environment of the region of Lisbon it sits in. It has a Spa and Swimming pool, a street-level restaurant and bar plus a great rooftop bar overlooking the city and the castle.
We were so lucky in that the week we went there happened to coincide with one of Lisbon’s ‘Little Summers’ with beautiful warm bright sunshine in what had been an otherwise wet, windy and horrible November. We couldn’t have hoped for better; temperatures in the mid-20s, clear blue skies and a refreshing cool breeze blowing off the River Tagus. It made wandering around this fascinating city all the more enjoyable.
There’s no shortage of things to see and do in this great city. Simply wandering the old hilly, colourful streets with their cobbles and tramlines is a pleasure, but with Lisbon’s fantastic public transportation system, getting anywhere within the environs of the city is a piece of cake. Our ‘Viva Viagem’ card, bought at the airport on arrival could be used on all the city’s Metro, bus and tram routes. It’s so nice to be able to sit at a cafe in Bairro Alto, looking down over the Chiado/Rossio whilst sipping on a cold beer or a cocktail in the sunshine.
On our second day we hopped on a No15 Tram to Belem, an old suburb of the city with some fascinating monuments and buildings and lovely waterside walks. A traditional Portuguese lunch while sitting at a pavement table near Belem park topped it all off nicely.
We ate out on a couple of occasions in Lisbon, experiencing the renowned ‘Fado’, where you eat your meal while being serenaded by singers performing traditional Portuguese laments. It was ‘interesting’, but I don’t think it was Mrs C’s cup of tea.
We also found a real gem of a steak restaurant called Atalho Real, where we had the most delicious steaks, cooked to perfection in a friendly and obviously very popular place. It was unpretentious and fantastic value for money. Our meal, consisting of 2 steak dinners, 2 desserts and drinks coming in at under €50.
As city breaks go, this was up there with the best! It was enjoyable, educational and didn’t break the bank either. There’s a fantastic choice everywhere and it has something to suit everyone.
We stayed at the Vintage House Hotel and flew from Heathrow with TAP Portugal who even managed to get us home half an hour early.
As we’d booked a Meet & Greet with Holiday Extras, our car was there waiting for us and we were on the road in no time at all, refreshed and very much rejuvenated after our Lisbon City Break.
TAP Portugal flies directly from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon 60 times a week, return fares starting at £121 including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call 0345 601 0932.
It’s that time of year, when th…