By: Gilad Berenstein, Founder & CEO of Utrip.
I recently set off on an adventure to explore Portugal and southern Spain. When I arrived at London’s Heathrow I was greeted by an all-too-familiar sight: dozens of canceled flights due to (if you’ve been to Europe you’ve probably guessed it) a strike in France. When I finally arrived in Lisbon—four hours late—I found that no taxi was willing to take me into Lisbon’s old center of Alfama where my family had rented an apartment for our stay. Tired and confused, I took the metro into the heart of the city.
When I arrived, I immediately realized that it was no ordinary Lisboan night; Alfama was filled with the unmistakable smell of fresh and barbecued sardines. Beginning the windy climb up one of Lisbon’s countless hills, I ran across my first (of oh so many) neighborhood parties where neighbors young and old gathered over beer, Portuguese wine, crusty bread, and sardines. Families, neighbors, and total strangers from across Portugal gathered together to celebrate life and their beloved first city.
Joining the festivities was easy. Lisboans are friendly, kind, pretty good at English, and love to show off their hometown.
While in Portugal, we also visited the lovely town of Sintra, a perfect daytrip or overnighter from Lisbon. With towering palaces and castles on every hilltop, there is much to do for any history buff, nature-lover, and cultural creative.
On our final night in Portugal we visited a tremendous local establishment to enjoy some non-sardine local cuisine and to watch the musical art of Fado. This place, largely filled with Lisboans, boasted a total of eight tables, a tiny menu, and lots of Portuguese wine. At ten o’clock, the band arrived: one mandolin, one guitar, and two breathtaking singers whose voices filled the room to the brim.
Lisbon, which gets almost 90% of its tourism from Europeans on holiday, should be added to the top of every traveler’s list. If you like music, history, wine, sun and sea, and ancient castles mixed with modern-day life, a stopover in Lisbon is a must.