I knew barely anything about Lisbon before I arrived. I chose it for exchange because a co-worker recommended it. Over a 30 second water-cooler chat, she told me how her day was going and about the time she travelled all around Europe and how Lisbon was her favourite because the city was beautiful, the night life was cool and the food was delicious. I smiled politely and went back to work. Kinda very generic, but it was good enough for me. And here I am in Lisbon. Ah, Lisbon. Where do I start?
I suppose I’ll start with the weather. Lisbon is one of the sunniest cities in all of Europe. It boasts an average of 2800 happy hours of sun each year compared to London’s sad 1400. That’s almost double. Wait, it is double. Cool!
Complimenting the weather perfectly is Lisbon’s spectacular beaches like Carcavelos and Cascais. The sand is golden and the water crystal clear. It isn’t uncommon for students to go and swim, surf or just lounge around throughout the semester. I know we have great beaches too in Sydney, but we’re talking about Europe where most cities don’t even have one. And even better, actually, is that they’re highly accessible by public transport. It takes only around 30 minutes to get to the closest one from the city-centre.
The cost of living is extremely affordable here. Renting a place in the city-centre starts from ~200 euros a month. In my experience, 350 euros gets you a really good deal. Grocery shopping, transport, eating out and alcohol are all also very cheap, which is great news for students who want to incorporate weekend trips into their experience abroad. And why wouldn’t you, with such magical places like Amsterdam and Sintra so close?
Inside the city, you’ll find an abundance of things to do. There are plenty of viewpoints and nice park areas which are easily reachable (or not, depending how you feel about steep hills) by foot where you can enjoy outdoor hang-times with breathtaking sights of the city and the Tagus river. You can take free walking tours to learn about the city’s history and culture or even the street grafitti. There are also lots of museums and exhibitions which have free entry on the first Sunday of every month. If you’re looking to eat, there are inexpensive and delicious options everywhere**. Seafood is super fresh and cheap. Then there’s Pasteis de Belem, a mouth-watering egg tart pastry that is famous among tourists and locals alike. And finally, what you’ve been scouring the blog for, the night life.
The night life in Lisbon as an exchange student is another thing and deserves its own paragraph. You generally start the night by having a drink or two over dinner at 9pm. Then at 11:30pm you’ll make your way to either a house party or Bairro-alto, a famous tight grid of streets with over 100 different bars. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the buzz of hundreds of people chatting and drinking on the streets. The atmosphere is amazing. You’ll either join the crowds or enter one of the many bars, some of which offer great live music. After more drinking, you’ll think about going to a club at 1:30am where you can drink even more and dance the night away. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s a club for kick ons called Europa Sunrise. The first time I went there to check it out, the staff preparing for the night (or day…) were so genuinely confused:
“What do you mean are we open? We are called Europa Sunrise. The sun hasn’t risen yet.”
And just to top it off, this happens every night of the week except Sunday. Of course it won’t be as busy on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but if you’re up for it, it’s there. I would like to point out that there are definitely less mainstream options available as well such as an indoor basketball court turned hip watering hole called Primeiro Andar.
Well now that I’ve been in Lisbon for a few months, I’ll say that this city is beautiful, the night life is cool and the food is delicious. And it might just be my favourite European city.
**Vegetarians will most likely disagree
Xian Keng Feng, 11305810, FEIT