Have you been to Portugal? Of course, I would declare … many, many times. I’ve been to Faro, Vilamoura, Albufeira, Carvoeiro, Vale Do Lobo, Praia da Luz, Quinta do Lago …. I know Portugal very well! Where haven’t I been?
Portugal until recently was a place I thought I had experienced but was limited to the Algarve. I relished a chance to discover Porto at inVOYAGE 2017 – a quaint city oozing fascinating appeal. The experience whetted my appetite, beyond sardines and custard tarts, to experience more of Portugal.
Historically, Lisbon, with excellent air access, would often rank high as a city destination but widely perceived as a more conference biased destination. The lack of significant brand hotels and limited education on event possibilities, Lisbon was a gateway to the resort and coastal offerings of Cascais and many repeated proposals to Penha Longa!
Undoubtedly, Lisbon is enjoying great press as a very fashionable destination – last year, it won the World’s Leading City Break Destination at the World Travel Awards. Yet reportedly, it is one of the least visited capital cities? Intrigued if this is marketing spin or a reality, I selected Lisbon to include in a client shortlist for a celebration event, and the proposal won over other destinations.
I tasked my DMC partner to give me a 24-hour blitz to help me discover the classic essentials of Lisbon but with a focus on what’s new and hot for both my client event and future eveology projects. I only scratched the surface but here’s some personal highlights…
HIP OR CLASSIC HOTELS
From waters edge cool at Design Hotels Altis Belem Hotel & Spa to big brand Four Seasons Lisboa, I whizzed around in my tuk-tuk (or was it the Beetle?) to discover as many excellent hotel options I could cram in. With many hotels undergoing renovation, and whispers of big brands coming, Lisbon is playing catch up I sensed on the hotel front, but I unearthed some gems mostly suited for the smaller groups. Whatever size, location is always crucial, especially as you want to be as near to the action and district which suits your event profile.
With a roof and view, bars and hotels are capitalising on premium space to create spectacular settings with views of the city to the Tagus. One top area is the on the ninth floor of the 1930s five-star Hotel Tivoli on the glamorous Avenida da Liberdade. With breath taking views of downtown and towards the river with DJs, live music and regular themed parties.
While marvelling at the stunning sights from my Beetle (or was it a tuk-tuk?) in Lisbon’s cultural district of Belem, I had one secret mission … to scoff the finest ‘pastel de nata’ AKA custard tart! Born in 1837 in Belem, this delicious Portuguese pastry is soo good; it’s on every tourist’s mission. Seeing the big queues, I hid my disappointment as we passed. But then, on the water’s edge in the shadows of Belem Tower, fresh warm tarts magically appeared!! Oh – and don’t miss the sightseeing too if you get there but I stayed put for another pastel de nata!
TAKE TIME OUT TO MARKET
A vibrant spot in Lisbon with 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops and a high-end music venue, all with the very best offerings (the best steak, the best hamburger, the best sushi and the best live performances, amongst others); plus home to some of the city’s best known (and longest-running) market vendors of meat, fish, fruit and flowers. The creation of the market and its immediate surroundings and the whole Cais do Sodré neighbourhood into a huge attraction for visitors, day and night.
The city is light and bright! Whether the sun is lighting up the scattered urban artwork, the colours of the city and River Tagus or a cocktail or two high above the roofs on a terrace, Lisbon is cool. So cool, they even make their garbage bins into art! A great city and a big thanks to my local team and DMC partner Events by TLC.