If you’ve never been to Lisbon this guide will help you prepare for your trip. If you’re a regular Euros goer check if you’ve missed anything cool and let me know if I have!
Flights and Accommodation
IBJJF European Championships always take place in January, which is far from the high season in Lisbon. Unless you’re travelling from another continent the trip is very affordable. Booking your flights one month in advance will get you return tickets at around £100 from London Heathrow or up to 50% less than that from smaller London airports.
Airbnb is usually the best accommodation option in Lisbon. It’s much cheaper than hotels, you get access to the kitchen, which can lower food costs and is crucial when watching weight. Lots of places can be found all over the city.
There is just one thing you have to remember when booking an Airbnb in Lisbon – heating. Make sure the place has it and when the owner lets you in make sure that it works too. Many buildings in Lisbon don’t have central heating and while the Portuguese winter is mild, 10 degrees inside the flat is far from pleasant.
Pricewise, in Jan 2020 a private double room in a fully equipped flat near Roma metro station cost £155 for 6 days. This is a decent price, but you can find even better bargains.
Where to Stay
Lisbon has a very good tube system. Generally, staying near one of the stations will allow you to get everywhere you need to go, which is useful if you want to minimise costs as much as possible. A single ticket is only € 1.50 regardless of your destination. You will also need to buy a rechargeable card for € 0.50 on which the tickets are stored.
If you want to stay in an area, which will let you enjoy Lisbon the most and guarantee easy access to the venue check out the map below. Bairro Alto is the most popular and touristy one. It’s close to many attractions and full of cool bars, restaurants and shops, but you need to be prepared to walk up and down numerous stairs. A bit further North there is the Roma area, which I stayed in this year. It’s halfway between the venue and the centre. It’s quieter than Bairro Alto, but there are still plenty of great food places and services available.
The Euros venue is now in the same hall in Odivelas every year. If you’re only flying out for a day or two to compete yourself you may want to stay next to the venue. If you’re staying any longer than that, choose somewhere closer to the centre as there is absolutely nothing else in Odivelas.
Travelling to the Venue and Getting Around
If you’re a commuting Londoner, you likely already have Citymapper on your phone. For those who don’t use it, it is a public transport app that’s more accurate that Google maps (it shows you which end of the train to get on, which side of the street to walk on and has a much more responsive gyroscope). It is great for figuring out your route and it’s very precise with public transport times. It works very well in London, Lisbon, Stockholm and it saved me in LA!
The easiest way of getting to the venue by public transport is to go to Senhor Roubado station and then walk for about 10 min. You might be tempted to take a bus from the metro tube station, but bear in mind that they don’t run very often.
Uber is a good option too. Depending on demand it costs around € 10 to get there from most areas close to the city centre.
Things to Do
I won’t go into the details of the biggest attractions, because this post describes all of them better than I ever could. A true no-bullshit guide to Lisbon’s landmarks.
I will say though, that if you end up having a free day it’s worth it taking the tram 15E from the centre to Belém (the first area described in the blog post above).
Belém is where the most famous custard tart place, Pasteis de Belem, is located. The first time I went to Lisbon, I was very skeptical of travelling somewhere to stand in a famously long line just to eat the original egg tart. This time around I gave it a try and definitely didn’t regret it.
When you get off in Belém do start your exploring by trying the original pastel de nata. But! There is nothing special about the cafe itself, so feel free to join the takeaway line, which moves very quickly and you’ll be supplied with your pastries, cinammon and sugar to have them with in under 7 min. We decided to enjoy them in one of the stunning parks nearby, which is what I’d recommend. Once you’re done with your pastries, the Monument of Discoveries and the Belém Tower are just a short walk away.
What to Eat
There are lots of amazing food places in Lisbon, so instead of trying to list any specific ones let me tell you about the types of local food worth seeking out!
- Pastel de Nata – they can be bought all over Lisbon, but make sure to get them from a bakery for the full experience of the soft crunchiness that melts in your mouth. The cold ones are lovely too, but it’s not quite the same.
- Churrascaria – aka the Portuguese barbecue, where the waiters walk from table to table carrying around freshly grilled pieces of various meats, which they carve straight onto your plate. They are all-you-can eat places, so be prepared for a big meal and prebook your table to avoid waiting.
- Grilled octopus with potatoes – if you like seafood, this is to die for.
- Pastel de Bacalhau – these are cod cakes filled with warm goats cheese. You can also find similarly shaped cakes filled with meat and cheese, which are even better.
Other Useful Tips
Locals don’t do anything in a rush, so make sure that you have enough time for everything.
There are many luggage lockers in the city, which are handy if you can’t leave your luggage at the Airbnb after checkout. These ones are particularly well-priced, but avoid making my mistake of not bringing coins.
Coffee sizes in Lisbon are 1/3 of what you’d expect in the UK. If you can’t live without normal sized cups (I like to enjoy my coffee for longer than just 2 min) check out places like Dear Breakfast or if desperate, seek out a Starbucks.
What is your favourite thing to do/eat in Lisbon?