Travelled and Written by Henry Seth
Known for its checkered town square and red-roofed skyline, Lisbon offers the perfect weekend itinerary for any month of the year. As one of the smaller European capital cities, Lisbon is a manageable size, and certainly not lacking in beauty, culture, and entertainment. When walking through the various parts of the city, it is hard not to feel enamored by the whimsical black and white tiled streets that have been a landmark of the city since the 1800s.
What To Eat
There is no shortage of great food in Lisbon. Famed Portuguese chef José Avillez's restaurant Bairro do Avillez offers a full menu of traditional fresh fish and meat served with a contemporary twist in a tastefully decorated restaurant.
If you are seeking a more intimate experience, Sr. Lisboa, located just off the main shopping area of the city, offers an amazing selection of tapas and shared plates created by one of Lisbon’s newest young chefs. Octopus, a Portuguese delicacy, is surely not to be missed at this quaint restaurant. After dinner, attend a Fado to hear traditional Portuguese music where you can enjoy a glass of vinho verde (green wine) while enjoying this beautiful and soulful experience.
The Alfama District, or “old town” in Lisbon offers quaint windy streets with plenty of local bakeries to stop for a Portuguese classic: Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts).
After a day of being transported back to the lives of Portuguese royalty in Sintra, be sure to stop by the small seaside town of Azenhas do Mar. This romantic white-washed town sits on the Atlantic coast and features dramatic views of the rocky coastline and spanning ocean. If you have built up an appetite, the Azenhas do Mar Restaurant sits dramatically on a cliff, featuring unobstructed views of the sea and serves simply prepared, yet delicious, local seafood.
Where to Stay
Not normally thought of when planning a trip to Portugal is the chance to visit some of the country’s island territories located in the Atlantic Ocean. Only a 1.5-hour flight from Lisbon sits the island of Madeira, located 700km off the coast of Morocco. Known as the “island of eternal spring” this autonomous region is blessed with warm weather all 12 months of the year.
If you are looking for a festive way to ring in the new year, Madeira is renowned for its fireworks show, earning a spot in the 2006 Guinness World Record Book for biggest firework display and consistently ranking as one of the most festive destinations for the holiday season. The historic Belmond Reid Palace hotel offers an equally festive black-tie celebration to ring in the new year with a central viewing point of the firework display in Funchal Bay.
After a fun-filled night dancing to the band, you will surely need some R&R and there is no better place on the island than Reid’s Palace for that. Situated atop a dramatic cliff with direct ocean access, you will not want to leave your lounge chair in the warm Madeiran sun. In addition to the crisp ocean, the property also features two large (heated) pools and a full spa to enjoy.
Reid’s is also known for its elegant High Tea service, so be sure to book a spot on the terrace in advance, as reservations fill quickly.
What to Do
If you are looking for an easy day trip, located only 30 minutes outside of Lisbon is the town of Sintra, a historic royal escape filled with majestic castles and palaces. Located on top Sintra’s hilly terrain is Pena Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national monument. Featuring bright colors, quirky designs, and a magical essence, it is no question why this fairytale castle served as inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle at Disneyland. Other beautiful estates to visit in this region include the National Palace of Sintra and Monserrate Palace, although it is advised to go early as long queues can often form.
If an active vacation is more your speed, thanks to the Madeira’s mountainous terrain and lush environment, the island offers dozens of hiking trails. Each trail offers a unique experience, from walking through small villages to walking along the mountainous edge of the island. Due to the island’s temperate climate all year, there is truly no bad time to visit this beautiful island and enjoy all that is has to offer.
Kelly's Packing List for Portugal
From top row, left to right:
Stella McCartney Trench Coat, $3,150 Matches Fashion; Erdem Mismatched earrings, $485, Matches; Chloe blouse $950, Matches; Corroon navy pony hair clutch $150, Maggie Marilyn crepe halter dress, $525 Moda Operandi, Valentino snake buckle belt, $945 Net a porter; Fabrizio Viti Mary Jane pumps, $740 Matches Fashion, Gucci Sunglasses $276, Net a Porter, Jason Wu trouses, $795, Net a Porter