Lisbon, Portugal: First port of call

March 16th, 2017 – Travel

Lisbon seems to be the western-european mecca for digital nomads at the minute so, to avoid using any brain-power whatsoever, we made it our first stop. It was a good choice.

We left Lisbon the weekend before last after a month there and I’ve finally gotten around to summing up my thoughts. I think the most surprising thing about it is that it felt so comfortable after such a short period of time, like a pair of comfy old shoes. The people are friendly, the food is plain but fresh & delicious and the weather, for February, is a damn sight prettier than back home.

I’ll admit, none of the above sounds like high praise, but Lisbon gives me the impression that it probably doesn’t give a shit. That’s not to say that Lisbon isn’t worthy of high praise though. Far from it; from the Hipster-cool of LX Factory, to the great drinking & eating around Cais do Sodré to the Basilica de Estrella - Lisbon really has some excellent bits. But I found that while the “bits”, the neighbourhoods spread out and nestled in the bosom of Lisbon’s many hills, are excellent, the part I loved was the in-between.

I’m definitely a fan of walking cities and Lisbon had me at hello on that point. On my first day in the city I was wandering down alleys (always down or up Lisbon’s never-flat streets, never along), bumbling through gardens and coming across some of the most excellent of vistas. I think Lisbon mirrors San Francisco a lot (though probably the other way around) and not just with the bridge thing. It has it’s different areas, it has ridiculously steep hills and definitely has the beautiful watery vistas, but it exceeds it in the ability to spend the day following your feet from neighbourhood to neighbourhood drinking in the sites and getting to know the feel of the city. Drinking the excellent wine too, but then that’s a bit of a given.

And neighbourhood isn’t a term to describe a set of blocks, or rough geographical approximation. These are actual neighbourhoods. Locals heading down to their local bakery for a coffee, a snack and a loaf of bread for the day. Family-run restaurants where regulars know they’re getting far tastier food for half the price as long as they don’t mind putting up with a little less fancy of an affair.

In retrospect, i think this is why I came to grips with Lisbon so quickly, or at least I think I did. Each part of the city wears its heart on its sleeve and the character of the place shines through as soon as you plod past it (have I mentioned all the walking, the comfy shoe thing is kinda relevant now huh 😊). So even if parts are a bit touristy (though thankfully I missed most of that in Feb), the feeling is overwhelmingly that of a thoroughly lived in and loved city, that knows and understands the rest of the world, but is pretty happy sticking to the way the Portuguese do things.

I’m pretty happy with that too I find. The food, the wine and the friendliness really make it.