Year Abroad Destinations:
Semester 1 – Studied at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas in Lisbon, Portugal
Semester 2 -Studied at Universidad San Fransisco de Quito in Cumbayá, Ecuador
For half of my year abroad, I got the amazing opportunity to live and breathe in the charming Portuguese capital. Although at first, four months seemed like a long time, it flew by quicker than I wanted to. Just as I settled into my Portuguese life, I was on my flight back home for Christmas and my time in Lisbon came to a bittersweet end.
It was a wonderful adventure to discover the secret gems and the quirks of a city filled with so much light, history and amazing coffee. The tips and tricks I have to share with you will hopefully help you during your stay in Lisbon, regardless of the length.
Arriving in Lisbon
For a fairly small and generally busy airport, the customs and immigration process is usually extremely quick and simple. Lisbon offers an abundance of options in terms of the transport from the airport to your destination. From the doorstep of the airport, you will be able to use taxi, bus or metro. If you decide to go for taxi, I highly recommend you use uber. Uber drivers will only be able to pick you up from the upstairs section of terminal 1 and charges are considerably cheaper – to my accommodation taxi rates were €35 and above whereas uber ranged between €20-25. (Get money off your first trip with uber with the following code: shaneeno2ue)
Lisbon will have you spoilt with options through its large variety of coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants for every budget and taste buds. If you want some help to distinguish the best throughout the city, then Zomato is the app for you (available for both Android and iPhone users). It includes reviews, photos and directions. Some of my favourite places include:
- The illegal Chinese Restaurant near Martim Moniz metro Station. The food is delicious, very budget friendly and the servings are very generous. The waiters and the cooks are Chinese and speak very little Portuguese or English, however they are very friendly, welcoming and with a few gestures they will provide you with the best Chinese food you will find in Lisbon. The décor is outdated, and the restaurant is located in the floor below the owner’s home, however after your first visit, you will be returning for more.
- Portugal is known for its pastéis de nata and you will find the best in Manteigaria, a bakery that specialises and sells the best pastel de nata you will find in Lisbon. There is always a queue that goes out of the shop, but the wait is worth it. They close at midnight and they are located in central Lisbon by Baixa-Chiado metro station.
- If you are a chocaholic, O Melhor Bolo De Chococalte do Mundo (the best chocolate cake in the world) is a small and award-winning bakery that provides coffee and a unique and delicious chocolate cake. The original bakery can be found by Mercado de Campo de Ourique, with it’s nearest metro station being Rato. However, they do have resellers across the city, with one of them being El Corte Inglés.
- If you are in the mood for a drink while you take in the beautiful views of the city, Park Bar is a modern rooftop bar with a chilled vibe and good music in the evening. The views are breath-taking and as you would expect in a rooftop bar, the prices are moderate. Entrance is through the lifts in the car park below it.
Lisbon has so many options when it comes to public transport, that it can get a little confusing.
The city offers “zapping”, which is somewhat similar to the Oyster card in London. Each paper card costs €0.50 and you can top it up from €3 upwards. With this you will be able to travel wherever you want and in whichever mode of transport you chose (tram, buses, metro and all train companies). This option is far more budget friendly than buying single or return tickets as these will not work with all the companies, especially if any money is left over in the cards. Zapping tariffs may be found here.
Alternatively, if your stay in Lisbon is a little bit more long term and you will be using public transport regularly, it may save you some money to get a Viva Card for the passes. Each card costs €7 and will be delivered to you in 10 business days. Otherwise, the urgent request is €12, and it takes one working day. You can top these up like the zapping cards or purchase the monthly passes.
Whatever your interests and hobbies, Lisbon has it all. With a rich history, artistic soul and a passion all things beautiful, this humble city will sweep you off your feet with its landmarks and landscapes. Below you will find some of my favourite spots:
- Miradouro do Arco da Rua Augusta in the Praça do Comercio – For only €2.50 you can go up to the viewpoint above the iconic arch and take in the views of Lisbon. Since the first time I set foot in Praça do Comercio, I fell in love with its cheerful and elegant architecture, but the views that Arco da Rua Augusta offers, is unmatched to any other.
- Parque das Nações – Right by the Tagus River, this is a very modern and attractive part of Lisbon with contemporary buildings such as the glass-roofed Vasco da Gama shopping centre, the Ocenarium and the cable cars that offer breath-taking views of this side of the city and the Vasco da Gama bridge.
- Castelo de São Jorge – Built in the 11th Century, the castle oversees the entire city. It’s a fantastic experience that allows to see the remains of what once was one of the biggest empires in the world.
- Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner – Named after the famous Portuguese poet and writer, this is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset and relax after the uphill walk that is required to get there. Although a little tiring, totally worth it.
- Parque Eduardo VII – Located in the centre of the city, this scenic public park is beautiful and perfect for a relaxing afternoon walk.
- LX Factory – Possibly one of the trendiest areas of Lisbon filled with chic cafés, unique restaurants, bars, music venues, vintage shops and art spaces. LX Factory is a must-visit to art lovers of all kinds.
A good night out in Lisbon can be very budget friendly since alcohol is very cheap. The nightlife neighbourhood is Bairro Alto. Most bars and clubs don’t close until 6am so you can party the night away until sunrise. Some of the spots I highly recommend are:
- Rua da Bica – I loved starting the night here in a small Brazilian bar (by the tram) as the cocktails and beers are cheap. A selection of smalls bars can be found on this road and every night of the week it is buzzing with locals, students and tourists. It is a chilled environment and some nights local Brazilian residents will play live music on the street.
- Pink Street on Rua Nova do Carvalho – this street is the heart of the nightlife in Lisbon with a large variety or bars and clubs for every music taste and budget.
- Páginas Tantas – Cosy and relaxed jazz bar with amazing cocktails and live music in the weekends.
Studying in Lisbon
If you are studying in Lisbon, whether you are part of an Erasmus programme or not, I suggest you look into ESN Lisboa and Erasmus Life Lisboa as these companies focus on providing students in Lisbon with advice, discounts, offers and even fun events.
"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." - Anonymous