A TEMPERATURE of 25°C and warm sunny weather in October is an unusual occurrence even for Portugal. Yet, those were the conditions this October and it made our trip all the more pleasant. Even if the first stop, the colourful capital of Lisbon, or Lisboa as Portuguese call it, is a landlocked city without an access to the sea.
Lisbon is the twin city of San Francisco – just as hilly, with trams serving as the main form of public transportation and bearing an almost identical replica of the famous red bridge of the Californian city. It is also the city of custard tarts (pasteis de nata), the best and the original place to get them is the Pasteis de Belem bakery, electric tuk-tuks taking tourists around and up and down the city, and of buildings with bright colours of facade or covered with a myriad of differently patterned tiles, called azulejos, demonstrating the country’s Arabic influences dating back to the 13th century. Not to mention the buzzing nightlife where parties take place on the street and houses’ basements are turned into bars and open onto the street.
Tivoli Lisboa’s rooftop Sky Bar
The perfect place to stay during your visit, which reflects the fun-loving city but also provides all the comfort one can ask for, is Tivoli Lisboa hotel. Located on the luxury boutique-filled tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade, the luxury hotel is right next to the city centre and boasts one of Lisbon’s prime nightlife destinations, its rooftop Sky Bar with a magnificent view over the city, where in the morning exotic cocktails are swapped for freshly squeezed orange juice as the breakfast is served under the sun for the hotel guests.
One of Tivoli Lisboa’s Collection rooms
To sample some of the local delicacies, try the codfish cakes covered in breadcrumbs and filled with a mashed mixture of potatoes, cilantro and salt-cured codfish, which funnily enough is not a Portuguese catch and originates either from Norway or Iceland. To enjoy some more merriment on your travels, have a shot of the Lisbon-originating liqueur, ginjinha, in a shop selling exclusively this drink in the city centre, made from sour ginja cherries mixed with sugar, cinnamon and a high percentage of alcohol. And for the real foodies, there is the Time Out market with all the Portuguese specialities and more on offer, including a restaurant Pap’Açorda where you can taste a traditional dish, açorda, a stew with bread, garlic, olive oil, coriander and shrimp or fish.
For a more special occasion meal, head to restaurant Olivier only steps away from Tivoli Lisboa. Opulent décor, artworks and dimmed lights create an intimate yet vibrant ambiance which the owner Olivier has a special talent for. Definitely don’t miss out on the delicious octopus carpaccio accompanied by Portugal’s famous wine, Port.
For a sight of the sea, one doesn’t have to travel far either. Only about 30 minute-drive away from Lisbon lies a fishermen village Cascais with sandy beaches. However, except for Portugal’s southern region of Algarve popular for summer holidays with its own microclimate keeping it and its sea warm, most of Portugal’s sea is too cold for swimming. So instead of dipping in the sea, enjoy the sight of it and try the local fish restaurant, Porto De Santa Maria, right on the beach seemingly in the middle of the nowhere offering daily catch.
A view of the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais in Sintra
Appetisers being served in Tivoli Palácio de Seteais’s restaurant on a mirror table
To move away from the big city for longer, we recommend to visit the fairy-tale town of Sintra with a castle and a palace, Castillo de Mourros and Palais Pena, towering over the town on top of a hill, looking especially stunning in the moonlight surrounded by a floating fog. Explore the last royal palace built in 1853 with colourful Arabic exotic influences and a different story being told on every corner, gate and gargoyle.
There is no better way to get there than by a horse carriage. Staying in a palace yourself makes it for a full out-of-this-world experience, we recommend the picturesque and romantic Tivoli Palácio de Seteais with restored original frescos gracing the walls, ornamented furnishings fit for Marie Antoinette and a restaurant with live music being played every evening, either on a piano or a harp.
One of Tivoli Palácio de Seteais’s common rooms with opulent furnishings and original frescos
by Sara Hesikova
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights to Lisbon from Birmingham, London Gatwick and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £41 one way (£73 return).