“Dois vinos verdes,” I said. “Você é brasileira?” the waiter asked. “Não,” I replied, in a distinct Brazilian accent.
Enjoying a long weekend in Lisbon, I was excited to finally practice my rusty Portuguese that I learned as a teenager in Rio. It was easier said than done; the Portuguese accent took some getting used to. It’s like listening to a Scottish person speak English—you understand 80 percent of what they say and maybe 50 percent when they speak fast.
As it turns out, I didn’t need to use my Portuguese much, as most of the locals spoke English. Lisbon has become an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years and it shows: the city was filled with foreigners well into October. Perhaps its due to the warm sunny weather that sticks around well into the off season or the abundance of cool hangouts and art galleries or…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Last year, Condé Nast Traveler named Lisbon the most underrated city in Europe. It won’t stay that way for long. Here are six reasons why every 20-something should plan a trip to Lisbon right now.
It has a thriving art scene rivaling many of Europe’s art capitals.
Despite many articles pondering whether Lisbon is the new Berlin, the city’s art scene should be celebrated as being uniquely Lisbon. After a crippling economic crisis in 2010, the government created initiatives to boost the local economy. In the last few years, the city welcomed a large architecture and technology museum, a new art fair, and numerous studios and cultural spaces. Street art lines the city’s buildings, creating an interesting contrast between old and new.
It’s one of the sunniest cities in Europe.
No need to worry about seasonal affective disorder here. You can sunbathe well into fall in the Portuguese capital. A short train ride outside of Lisbon will take you to beautiful beaches—like those in Cascais—with relatively small crowds. With an abundance of vistas and lookout points around the city, you can catch a stunning sunset year-round.
Music to every 20-something’s ears. Head to Bairro Alto for €1 beers or the weekend flea market, Feira da Ladra, for cheap souvenirs and trinkets. From food to drinks to transportation, Lisbon is very affordable for travelers. I still dream about the delicious sushi dinner I had for less than $10.
It’s overflowing with hip hangouts for young people.
Take in Lisbon’s terracotta horizon from a rooftop bar hidden at the top of a parking garage or head to the LX Factory—an alternative hub for local boutiques, restaurants, and galleries—for a view of the city’s San Francisco-esque bridge and waterfront. At night, bar hop at Bairro Alto as crowds of locals spill onto the streets socializing and drinking cheap beer.
It’s easy to explore.
Lisbon’s old town is very walkable, making it easy to explore in a short amount of time. In just a couple of days, you can hit the city’s main squares and attractions. If you have more time, take a train out to smaller towns like the historically rich Belém, charming seaside Cascais, or nature-filled Sintra.
It looks like a dream.
Lisbon is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever been to. Its colorful architecture and tiled buildings made me want to take a picture at every turn. Old yellow trams glide across stone mosaic sidewalks. A slice of the Atlantic Ocean catches your eye between two buildings. Walking up a staircase leads to a park with a sprawling view of the entire city. Let yourself wander aimlessly and the city will work its magic on you.