Lisbon - Hidden In Plain Sight
Lisbon is appealing at any time of the year, but in the winter months there’s a special something. The light seems softer somehow, fountains, gardens, and 18th century cafes; like the Café Nicola, seem to be waiting just for you. There’s not a queue or coach tour in sight, and sumptuous Neoclassical monuments such as The Palace of Ajuda, draw you in while whispering they haven’t seen a soul all day. In the milder winter climes, you’re more inclined to spend hours dawdling in cities and rambling through Lisbon’s rural idylls. While you’ve done away with your winter woollens, the locals find the winter temperatures positively chilly, and warm up with hearty servings of traditional Portuguese cuisine. For truly authentic dining, head to Sr. Fado, treat yourself to their Seafood Cataplana, it’s overflowing with sea bream; mussels and shrimp. When you’ve had your fill, lean back in your chair and listen to the melancholy sound of the traditional Fado music. If it’s a winter thrill you seek, the waves brought in by Portugal’s Atlantic coastline are always impressive, but winter brings the monster waves, just the ticket if you’re into surfing. Conditions for kayaking, canoeing and rafting are all best during the winter months, the rapids are faster and the rivers swollen. The best surf in Portugal can be found at Peniche Beach, where they hold the ‘Rip Curl Pro’ event, and in the extreme south-west between Sagres and Comporta. Temperatures December through to February can reach lows of 10°C, and highs of 16°C, and of course there’s more rainfall, so though you won’t need your winter coat; do pack a Gilet.
Kayaking and canoeing aside, don’t forget you are in one of Europe’s best capitals. Lisbon’s city centre beholds a vast array of coffee shops and restaurants, and unlike most capital cities, you don’t feel like you’re being ripped off. There’s no edge to the locals, they’re all here to enjoy life, not to upsell you on 3 courses for €12.
Lisbon is one of the world’s oldest cities, predating the likes of London, Paris and even Rome by dating back to around 1200 BC. You can feel its antiquity clinging to every corner, especially its unmistakable São Jorge Castle, where human occupation of the hill dates back to at least 800 BC. Be aware, the walk looks a lot easier than it actually is, but there’s plenty of cosy eateries along the way that provide great excuses for a break. Once at the top, the castle has been well regenerated, and the views overlooking the city are quite spectacular, you really do get a chance to see how compact Lisbon is.
Most will associate Lisbon with a summer city break but don’t rule it out over these coming winter months because you’ll find the weather surprisingly warmer than anticipated and it won’t be plagued with tourists, enjoy!