It’s happened; we’ve put the clocks back. The days are shorter, we have fewer hours of daylight and it’s officially winter. It also feels as though someone’s put the temperature back along with the clocks. As the mercury heads towards zero we inevitably start thinking about sunnier shores; who can blame us? Still, not everyone wants the long-haul. So where should we go for a little blue sky? How about the sunniest capital in Europe? Yep, Lisbon. Here are 13 reasons to visit Lisbon in November.
It’s the sunniest capital city in Europe
Let’s get this out of the way; Lisbon is Europe’s sunniest capital enjoying a staggering 2,799 hours of sunshine per year. This number of sunny hours beats all other capital cities on the continent. It also means you’re likely to catch some rays later in the year.
Low cost flights
There are a number of operators offering low cost flights to Lisbon from most UK airports. Depending on the time of year online travel operators offer deals from as little as £44 from London to Lisbon one-way.
Short flight time
With an average flight time of around two and a half hours trading off comfort for a no-frills journey won’t matter. You’ll arrive in less time than it takes to cross London during rush hour. Put your headphones on, get comfortable and enjoy the short journey.
Public transport is convenient and inexpensive
Lisbon airport is only seven kilometers from the city centre. Wherever you choose to stay the journey time is unlikely to be more than 25 minutes by Metro. Trains leave every few minutes but you may need to change lines.
Buy a Viva Viagem card which costs €0.50 from the ticket machines and top it up. Your single journey from the airport to the city centre costs just €1.40. Given that this is also quicker than taking a taxi it’s an easy decision to make. If you plan to use public transport for the rest of your stay a daily pass is just €6.30. It allows you to make unlimited journeys for 24 hours on all public transport including ferries, tram, funiculars and buses as well as the Metro.
Lisbon’s trams are quite spectacular. I’ll never forget my first tram; think Laura Dern in Jurassic Park (2013) when she sees a dinosaur for the first time. Bear in mind that there are also modern trams in the city. The classic Remodelados are mainly yellow and rattle and screech through the winding cobbled streets of Lisbon. Route E28 which crosses the Alfama district is the most scenic and a wonderful way to see Lisbon. The trams run from 6am to 10.30pm hourly. Latest time tables can be found here to Campo Ourique and here to Martim Moniz.
Whilst Lisbon’s trams are icons of the city its funiculars are less well known. Lisbon was built on seven hills and the funiculars were introduced in the late 19th century to make them a little more manageable. There are three funiculars and one lift: Ascensor da Bica, Ascensor da Glória, Ascensor do Lavra and Elevador de Santa Justa.
For great views of the city, against the backdrop of River Tagus, Ascensor da Bica is considered the most picturesque ride. It climbs one of the steepest hills and crosses the quaint area of Bica district. Best of all, funiculars are part of the public transport network so the Viva Viagem card is accepted on them.
One of the world’s oldest cities
I was surprised to learn that Lisbon predates ancient cities like Rome, London and Paris by centuries. You can feel history seeping out of the cobbles when you walk on them; dramatic but true. Alfama is the oldest district first inhabited by fishermen and the poor. The Moorish Castle of São Jorge is found here as is Lisbon Cathedral. Take a walk amongst the old houses and new restaurants in Alfama and listen to the familiar sounds of the Fado filling up the evening.
Pastéis de nata
The Guardian ranked pastéis of Belém the 15th tastiest delicacy in the world. The 18th century Monastery of JeróNimos in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém is where it all began. A revolution in 1820 caused religious orders to be gradually shut down. In Belém, some monks started to sell pastéis at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in an income. When that monastery too was forced to close, in 1837, the recipe was sold to the refinery. They duly opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in the same year. Their descendants still own the business. You really don’t want to miss this one. Lisbon bakes 10,000 pastéis a day.
We’ve established that this is the sunniest capital in Europe. So it would follow that al fresco dining is popular. From coffee shops serving Portuguese coffee to bakeries filled with every sin imaginable, Lisbon loves cafe life. Doors wide open to busy streets send the aroma of the sweetest treats wafting out. Lisbon’s streets are lined with cafes. You’ll be spoilt for choice with places to eat and drink whilst sight-seeing.
If cafe culture doesn’t suit you’ll be pleased to know that the city has a growing reputation for fine dining. Suba restaurant at Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel, headed by Chef Bruno Carvalho, is a real gem. With an express Executive Menu for lunch time diners and a more extensive a la carte menu for the evening it’s a credit to Lisbon. Expect innovative cuisine such as cauliflower cappuccino mixed with traditional dishes such as goat stew all presented with Michelin-worthy flair.
It’s remarkable how the city has embraced its street art and artists. Trams, funiculars, walls and shop fronts are often covered in artistic graffiti. However, instead of painting over, as most city authorities would, Lisbon has embraced its street art making it a unique meeting of past and present. It’s not uncommon to find residential streets with historic buildings adorned with colourful street art.
Sleep in a palace
Lisbon has made a swift move from being a low-cost European city break to one of unparalleled luxury. Hotel Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, for example, has swept the board this year with luxury accolades ranging from inclusion in the Condé Naste Traveller Hot List, a nomination for the World Luxury Hotel Award and making the shortlist of Wallpaper magazine’s Urban Hotels awards. Visit in November and you’re more likely to get a chance at booking their Royal Suite which is an ethereal dream.
Rooftop bars with views
Given that this is a city built on seven hills the rooftops of Lisbon offer spectacular views over the city. Most hotels take advantage of this and offer rooftop bars to rival each other. Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel has the highest point with 360 degree views in the neighbourhood of Santa Catarina. Their Happy Hour on Thursdays and Fridays are legendary and attracts Lisbon’s hippest crowd. Never fear dipping temperatures as the bar here has a roof and outdoor heating.
I was a guest of Verride Palácio Hotel located at: Rua de Santa Catarina nº 1, 1200-401 Lisboa.