By: Luigi Guerrera, BVT Operations & Vendor Relations
In November 2017 I took my first flight to Lisbon and surrounding area. I have always thought about Portugal as a calm and pleasant place to live, where nature and people go together hand-in-hand and when you visit places around Lisbon such as Sintra or Cascais you can really feel that vibe. There, just talking with people you can feel the respect they have for their land and culture; they are a very proud country.
Lisbon is a vibrant city in day time and night time. The first evening I took a walk on the main street Avenida Liberdade which is full of little kiosks where you can have a snack or a drink been outside enjoying the architecture and watching people walking. In one of this little kiosks there was live music playing, so I decide to stop there having a little aperitivo listening good live music and relaxing. A great way to start my adventure!
In Lisbon, in fact Portugal in general, food is a very important part of life and culture. You can find a good, fresh ingredients in just about all your dishes such as fish, meat, eggs, bread and vegetable - all very well mix together. They have many ways to cook cod (the national fish if you will!). I personally tried few of them and they were all delicious. Wine is also a big part of the Portuguese culture and are finally becoming world known as well. Excellent reds and wines, but the most typical wine is the Vinho Verde, which is a very light kind of white wine perfect on warm summer days.
Dessert are remarkable too. The most famous are Pastel de Belem (or Nata outside of the Belem region of Lisbon) and delectable Travesseiros (pillow cake) from nearby Sintra. Both of them are made with a base of filo pastry with egg cream on top all covered by cinnamon powder.
The most important landmark for food in Lisbon is for sure the Time Out Market, which is the place where you can go shopping for every day groceries with the best selections of fresh food in the city, but also you can find a large variety of little food stands with every kind of food from all over the world as well as specialties of the city. This section of the market is separate from the fresh food market, here you will find a very big space with large tables an benches in the middle surrounded by stands where you can choose the kind of food you prefer.
While I was there with my family we had the chance to visit Sintra, a charming medieval village just 40 minutes outside Lisbon. Its main attraction is the very popular Pena Palace which we visited and really enjoy it. From the outside it look like a(n almost fake) fairy-tale castle, and inside. there are enormous, well-maintained rooms and decoration. From the entire castle you can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view from mountains to the sea.
From Sintra we drove to Cascais and had lunch in a very cool restaurant overlooking the Atlantic ocean. the coast line was very dramatic and windy. You can tell that the land has been shaped by the strong wind from its pointy/blade-like form. We were also able to stand in the most western point of Europe, where we could barely stand due to the strong winds and we had to be careful to not fly away (especially our 5 years old son!) The beaches below are majestic and on a “good day” you can actual enjoy a day there.
Portugal also has many family friendly destinations. A great activity for families was a fun and interesting Lisbon for Kids Tour. It was a very nice way to see the city with children. We did the newer side of the city: Praça do Commercio, City Hall, the riverfront to the Central Station, the (very cool) Time-out Market, then took a tram ride up to Bica, Barrio Alto, Chiado then down to Rossio. We even did a little treasure hunt on our own for about 1/2 hour which was a creative way to learn about the city (you meet up with your guide afterward and she rewards you with a Pastel de Nata, yum!).
To conclude I will say that Lisbon is a pleasant city where you can enjoy nature, food, culture, architecture, history and free time all in one, I absolutely recommend few days of vacation in this proud place!