Solo Travel Chronicles: Let's Go to Lisbon!
We travel alone to re-center, to experience a culture at our own pace and to learn more and to continue falling in love with ourselves. Wonderful things can occur on solo trips, whether it be a month long stay in a country or short getaway to a nearby city. Either way, you will leave inspired and rejuvenated with new experiences and memories made. There are several solo-travel friendly cities in the world, but if you’re looking for a weekend getaway filled with exploration, you will not be disappointed by Lisbon. Portugal’s coastal capital city is filled with abundant color, great weather, glorious viewpoints and delicious food and is the perfect destination for your next solo trip.
Get to know the city on a free walking tour
Upon arrival, Lisbon can seem quite overwhelming. With several neighborhoods to visit, the Tagus River in the background and endless streets filled with color and music, there is plenty to do and see.
To get a better feel of the city and learn a little bit about the history and culture, make sure to take one of Lisbon’s free walking day tours. Locals who are not only passionate about their city, but also knowledgeable of the best places to go and tourist traps to avoid lead the tours. As a solo traveler, tours like this are a great introduction to the city, as well as a wonderful way to meet other travelers to explore with later on during your trip. Once you’ve seen the different parts of the city, you can always go back and spend more time in your favorite areas.
Take a day trip to Sintra
If ancient castles and breathtaking views are your thing, Sintra is a must-see during your few days in Lisbon. Although it could take a full day or two to see all of it, visiting one or two castles will suffice and leave you equally enchanted. Sintra is located about 45 minutes away from the center of Lisbon and has several palaces to experience. After exploring the Pena National Palace, the Castle of the Moors and the streets of Sintra, take a bus to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, and watch the beautiful sunset.
Explore the districts of Lisbon
The way a city meshes modern with traditional gives a unique character and feel to it. In Lisbon, many parts of the city look and feel old, each neighborhood has its own character and story to tell.
You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time while exploring the colorfully aged streets of the oldest district in Lisbon. Get lost in Alfama’s artsy streets filled with restaurants, shops and colorful buildings and enjoy lunch in the sun while fado music plays lightly in the background.
Bairro Alto is known for its exciting nightlife, but don’t hesitate to explore the neighborhood during the day. The tiled buildings are filled with several cafes and restaurants to enjoy on a sunny afternoon. Other districts to explore are the Chiado and Baixa, which are both a close walk from Bairro Alto.
Experience the Portuguese cuisine
If you’ve heard of anything about Lisbon cuisine, it was probably their famous pastries or Bacalhau. The portuguese are known for Bacalhau, or salt codfish, because of the millions of ways that they prepare it. A typical dish includes the fish served with onions and potatoes. For lunch, head to Rosa da Rua in the artsy district of Bairro Alto, and enjoy traditional Portuguese dishes with hints of African and Indian influence.
Lisbon is also famous for the delicious egg custard tart, Pastéis de Belém, or Pasteis de Nata. Whether you order this at a local Snack Bar (think local cafes) or at the original Pasteis de Belem café in Belem, neither will disappoint. At snack bars you will find locals enjoying several savory and sweet pastries.
Coffee enthusiasts should try a bica, or traditional Portuguese espresso, at an outdoor café while enjoying the sun and the view of the river in the backdrop. For more third-wave coffee lovers, try Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Bairro Alto for delicious coffees imported from around the world.
Stay at a social hostel
Perhaps the most memorable part of traveling alone is the wonderful people that we meet and the conversations that we have. I find that when I am traveling alone I am more open to interacting with other people. If you’re looking to meet both locals and fellow travelers, staying in one of Lisbon’s many hostels is a great way to do that.
Hostels like Liv’n Lisbon or Home Lisbon Hostel are centered on creating an exciting experience and are perfect for the solo adventurer. On my recent trip to Lisbon I enjoyed continental breakfast every morning with other travelers and the friendly staff of the hostel. The hostel also offered a barbecue and sangria night, for only 4 euros, and dinner every other night for 3 euros. If you don’t feel like exploring alone, there is the option of finding a travel buddy for the day to experience the city with, or even to meet up for a drink in the evening.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone and engaging with other travelers is more than just a way to make friends, it is a way to connect with likeminded individuals from around the world. When traveling alone, there is truly nothing like the euphoria of enjoying a new place and sharing the love of travel with new faces.
Nikki Ndukwe is a twenty-something part time writer + foodie and full time travel enthusiast. Most of her time is spent plotting new adventures and day dreaming about life in Spain. Lover of photography, style, food, culture, languages, and all things Spain, Nikki is currently adventuring in the north of the country.