Exploring Lisbon | Day One

Lisbon has been on my wish-list for a while now, overshadowed somewhat by my wanderlust for the Nordic nations but hanging around on the peripheral vision of my rose-tinted view of the world. My recent European jaunt may have been motivated by a desire to visit the Azores (more of that to come in future posts), but it made sense to tie in Lisbon and finally visit this city of hills, tiles and custard pastries as an extending Portuguese adventure.

I don't think I've ever taken so many photographs during a holiday (thanks to my Canon M10 for being much more lightweight and easier to lug around than my DSLR), so I'm splitting my Lisbon photo diary up into separate posts, to be followed by our Azorean adventures. I'm starting here with the first full day of our trip, when we spent most of our time exploring the different districts of the city and catching up with a friend who is currently living over there. Since we had a hectic itinerary for the Azores, we decided to take Lisbon nice and slowly, preferring to stroll the streets occasionally stopping for sangria, rather than rushing around attempting to tick off all of the sights. Thanks to a combination of this mindset, a day of storms and the fact that we only actually had two full days there, we didn't even make it over to Sintra - meaning that there's definitely another trip to Lisbon on the horizon!

LX Factory

Although we didn't have an itinerary for Lisbon, I knew that I wanted to visit LX Factory, an old industrial part of the city nestled beneath the 'Golden Gate bridge' that has been transformed into a bit of a hipster mecca. Re-purposed factory buildings and colourful shipping containers house quirky cafes, independent shops and a staggering array of eateries, providing the perfect place for a slow wander. We popped our heads into a tiny magazine store located inside a vibrant yellow shipping container, a selection of interesting shops (my favourite was one selling traditional Portuguese gifts in beautiful packaging) and the most amazing book store I've ever peeked inside. Rather than suggesting a list of shops to visit, I suggest wandering down the 'street' and simply opting for the ones that catch your eye.

We instantly knew we wanted to eat lunch here - the only question was which restaurant to choose. We made the right decision by selecting Cantina - the baked jack fish that I selected was definitely the best meal to start the holiday as I continued how I began, eating as much fish as possible during our time in Portugal. The interior of the restaurant was just how I like it - I'm never impressed with bling or overt luxury, give me peeling paint and mismatching chairs any day! Most of the tables were canteen style, although we weren't yet clued in on how late the Portuguese tend to eat their meals and subsequently dined alone. For lunch, there was one meat, one fish and one vegetarian choice, all of which were cooked in the huge stone oven in the exposed kitchen and served with potatoes and vegetables. We also enjoyed our first glasses of Portuguese wine here - insanely cheap and delicious!

LX Factory


That afternoon, we hopped on a bus over to the other side of town to meet up with our friend and spend the afternoon wandering the labyrinthine streets of Alfama, the oldest district of the city. This was my favourite area of Lisbon, filled with pastel-hued houses decorated with traditional azulejos (ceramic tiles) and begging to get lost in. Throw away your map, put your phone in your bag and enjoy the smells, sights and tastes of these winding streets, straining your calf muscles as you climb further and further up hill to be awarded with beautiful miradouros (views). 

Alfama represented everything that I quickly grew to love about Lisbon; the fusion of grittiness and beauty with peeling pastel paint, chipped tiles, washing strung high above and tattered decorations from prior festivities left waving in the air. Well considered street art further complemented the aesthetic of the neighbourhood, lending a vibe that I often associate with other favourite cities such as Berlin and Budapest. Tearing myself away from my camera, we enjoyed cool glasses of Sangria and warm custard tarts sat outside tiny tucked away cafes.

That evening, we ate dinner in an unassuming Cape Verdian restaurant while being serenaded by a local musician and treated to local shots, before heading over to Bairro Alto to drink in the views of the city while sipping cocktails in Park Bar, located on the top of a car park.

Wearing TOAST dress