Whenever I start researching flights I always look for the ones with long layovers, taking routes that I’ve never flown before. It’s like buy one get one free, at the start of my most recent trip to Italy was no different. I found a flight from Boston to Rome, stopping in Lisbon for a good price and since I’ve never been to Portugal it’s the perfect place for a long stop.
Plane tickets with long layovers or multiple stops tend to be less expensive, and essentially for the cost of public transport or a taxi ride you get a whole day in a new country. Just don’t forget to make sure your layover is during the day time. A long overnight layover isn’t really worth the trouble.
Take a Free Walking Tour
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to try navigating the city by yourself, try a free walking tour. Even if you’re not on a budget it’s a really good way to get out of the airport for a while. A couple of companies offer them, but the one that I decided on was with Sandemans New Europe Tours. I chose a 10:30a tour that would leave me more than enough time to get back to the airport and get through customs, etc. The tour was a little over three hours and took us around the city center past major sites like the Santa Justa Lift and into the Praca do Comercio or commercial square, explained the monuments dedicated to the lives of influential writers like Luis Camoes and Fernando Perssoa and an overall the history of the city.
The central street of R. Augusta from Praca Dom Pedro IV is lined with shops, restaurants, cafes, pastelerias, hostels and leads you straight to the Augusta Arch at the edge of Praca do Comercio. We walked down this stunning pedestrian only street and to the arch, which was built to commemorate the reconstruction of the city after the 1755 earthquake.
Ride the Santa Justa Lift
Lisbon is a very hilly city and access between the lower parts of the city or Baixa and the higher Carmo Square, engineer Roberto Arménio designed a beautiful solution that helped to facilitate the movement between the two. Completed in 1902, this is truly one of the most beautiful structures I’ve seen. A free standing elevator is really a rare sight, now and then. Most of the similar structures were really just funicular railways as opposed to a straight vertical lift as we know it today.
Eat Pasteis de Nata (Pastel de Nata)
A trip to Lisbon is not complete without trying Pasteis de nata or Pastel de nata. It’s a small creamy egg custard treat with a light flaky crust that pairs well with a cup of coffee or just by itself. The best place in Lisbon to taste this national treat is Chique de Belem, but you can get them in any bakery in the city.
Just a Small Sample
A bite sized taste of the country is the goal of choosing a long layover. Airlines now offer days in a city as an option, but that costs you extra and is added on the price of your ticket. Of course, this is also an option, but if you’re not sure you want to do that, choosing the longest (day time) layover is the best option. For me that’s the whole point of a long layover, to get a feel for the city and see if it’s someplace that I’d want to return for a longer stay.