Love Lisbon: Solo travel guide

For the last few years Lisbon has been on my radar. I feel as though there was a period when everyone was heading there, and I kind of missed that bandwagon (thankfully). I figured a trip this summer was well overdue, so I booked a few days in early July. I can tell you with certainty that ever since returning, I’ve had major holiday blues. Let me explain…

If you’ve seen photos of the Portuguese capital, or even heard stories, then you’ll know just how pretty it is. Every inch is covered in intricate detail; colourful buildings laced in patterned tiles, sun-kissed balconies and cobbled streets that make a city hike up rolling hills oh so worth it. Typically, I found myself in an airbnb staying with with an artist in Principe Real (yes, holiday goals indeed). She was amazing, and so was her home. I won’t share detailed photos here, but when a host leaves you cheese, a bottle of red and fresh fruit as a welcome gift you know you’ve found a good’un.

Here’s a quick and honest rundown of some of the best places I visited, and where I recommend you go too.

Getting around

The simple answer is by foot. Not only will you see more of the city this way, but you’ll want to walk around just to get a feel for the place. There’s always something to take a photo of or a side street to meander down, but those legs WILL be tired come evening. On a few ocassions I got the bus up to LX Factory and Belém, which is kind of essential being a fair distance away. Also, a tram ride from Baixa-Chiado is a fun way to do some hop-on hop-off sightseeing around the inner city.

Shopping

Possibly half the reason I came here. Lisbon is so cheap compared to other european cities, and you will not be disappointed with it’s array of designer and vintage boutiques, speciality food shops, independent stores and high street chains. One of my favourites was Embaixada, the Portuguese concept department store in Principe Real. Outdoor creative island LX Factory is home to agencies and professionals, plus a trendy mix of food outlets, fine art, fashion designers, world-famous chocolate cake-makers Landeau, and the rather special bookstore Livraria Ler Devagar. Head to Baixa-Chiado for the main shopping district, that will eventually lead you down to Lisbon Square where you can quite literally dip your toes in the river Tagus.

Eating + drinking

If brunch is your jam, make your first morning stop at Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013, these guys are onto a winner and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Staff are well-versed, and the vibe is very east London coffee-house. All white interior, communal seating, fresh-baked goods (cinnamon rolls are insane), and a neo-soul playlist to rival my own. The breakfast deal here is a winner for around 6 euro, and the speciality coffee is good and strong. Similarly, The Mill is perfect for avo on toast, eggs your way, great service and an eclectic crowd – but it gets busy. Just opposite here is a tiny little juice bar called YAO Pressed Juicery and it’s WONDERFUL.

Lunch on the go is the perfect excuse to head to the Time Out Market – an old fishing market near Cais do Sodre. It’s a buzing food hall, with around 35 vendors plus a couple of bars and a gift store. The made-to-order pad thai at Asian Lab and traditional pastéis de nata at Manteigaria (sister to the Chiado branch) were worth the trip alone. If you fancy a quiter spot for food or cocktails, Lost In blends Bohemian decor and nature with uninterupted rooftop views.

If like me you eat a vegetarian or plant-based diet, Lisbon won’t fail you for dinner. There’s plenty of seafood and meat floating arond the city’s restaurant scene, but look hard enough and you’ll find some amazing vegetarian gems suitable for attending alone, too. Jardim dos Sentidos is in a beautiful garden setting where you can eat a full three-course meal for under 20 euro, and you’ll find the BEST stonebaked organic pizza at In Bocca al Lupo – a cosy and friendly joint along the most unassuming side street. On my second visit they knew my order!

And to relax?

I found myself lazing around Jardín del Príncipe Real in the evening warmth – a neighbourhood garden filled with beautiful flowers and a conservatory-style restaurant. You’ll find these gardens dotted around Lisbon districts. If you enjoy being by the river, when in Cais do Sodre take a walk along the seafront; there’s a nice buzz around there. Equally, when in Belém, a walk along the prominade of this slow-paced town is a nice way to wind down with great views of 25 de Abril Bridge. For sunrise and sunset views, head to the infamous Portas do Sol (The Gates of the Sun) for panoramic views over the rainbow-coloured houses of Alfama.

 

 

 

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Stockholm travel diary: Hotel Hellsten

For the last year, Sweden has been on my hit-list of countries to visit, so when my other half booked us a trip there this July for my birthday, I was ecstatic. We headed to the capital, Stockholm, for four incredible days and it certainly lived up to my expectations. The city has such a cool and attractive aesthetic; from the building designs, to the high street fashion, cafe culture and street style. Although it’s built of many islands and surrounded by water (which is pretty breathtaking!) amongst the lush greenery I noticed there were many similarities to big cities like London, New York, Paris and Berlin which carried a nice sense of familiarity, yet there were many elements that set Stockholm apart. I couldn’t wait to explore!

We stayed in the Vasastan area of Stockholm, close to neighboring areas Norrmalm and Ostermalm, and our hotel was about a 15 minute walk from Central Station (or two stops on the underground) on Luntmakargatan 68. Like my Prague travel diary, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the hotel itself. Hotel Hellsten is a boutique hotel housed in a 19th century building with a relatively compact, homely feel. There was a mix of antique and modern furniture dotted around. Initially, the staff were so attentive and a speedy check in meant no time wasted. The communal areas off the reception included a ‘living room’ seating area with unlimited free fresh coffee and tea (this seemed to be the done thing in Stockholm!), an eclectic cocktail bar and a small glass-enclosed breakfast room to the back of the property where there was also a courtyard with seating. What I loved most was the unusual nooks and crannies that gave the hotel so much character.

We stayed on the top 5th floor in a ‘Single Lit Room’ which is essentially a small double room. But what a room! They have a range of others, including superior rooms and suites, but this was perfect for our needs. Everything matched the hotel theme perfectly. Exposed brick walls, floor length curtains, high ceilings, real wood flooring and an incredible distressed wooden bed frame. It was all quite romantic. The bathroom was neat with a walk in shower and grey slate tiles – dreamy! Luckily for us, our room had the ideal spot to see the glowing sunset and rooftops each night, too.

Of our three nights there, I had no complaints. There was no noise from other guests, housekeeping was faultless and the room also had free wifi. The little touches throughout the hotel also made it special, from the piano in the Hellsten Earth Bar to the candlelit candelabra in the living room and old fashioned bookshelf. The breakfast spread was sufficient although some things weren’t to my to taste. We spent every day and evening out so we’d have lunch and dinner around the city, which is how we usually spend our holidays. I would definitely stay here again and recommend it to city travellers; it’s convenient, clean and unique in style. And if you’re anything like me and enjoy a good photo opp, then it’s very photogenic!

Prague travel diary: A weekened in photos

A visual collation of my weekend in the beautiful city of Prague. I rarely put my camera down over those two days, so here are some of my favourite snap shots – from exploring the Old and New Town, National Galleries and museums, to shopping in quaint side streets, trying Czech delicacies, wandering over Charles Bridge and getting lost in the grounds of Prague Castle. All photos taken using my canon 700d.

Prague travel diary: angelo Hotel

In-between those long Summer holidays, an overseas city break is always well received, especially at this time of year when things are just starting to warm up in the UK with lighter evenings pushing through, but not quite enough to leave those Winter coats indoors! A few days away does me the world of good to both inspire and recharge my batteries, so travelling is one element of my lifestyle I wouldn’t change for anything.

One place on my bucket list was Prague, so my partner and I took a cheeky trip to the capital of the Czech Republic for a late anniversary treat at the weekend, and we certainly enjoyed this chocolate box city. Although it’s still the Spring season there, it’s slightly warmer than London and we enjoyed some beautiful March sunshine and dreamy sunsets for two days. If you’re anything like me and love a good photo opportunity, then you’ll soon fall in love too  – everything is just so incredibly picturesque!

So, this is the first of two travel diary type entries about our weekend. This post will focus on our location and choice of accommodation.

We stayed at the incredibly sleek and eccentric four star angelo Hotel, Prague 5. It was perfectly situated in Andel, a neighbourhood within the entertainment district and close the metro line B with a convenient 5-10 minute journey into (central) Prague 1. There are three metro lines: A, B and C, so not too confusing to get around, which was a huge plus. Oh, and a 24 hour travel ticket for the bus, tram and metro was next to nothing!

The hotel had a vibrant aesthetic, colour-blocking red and yellow with monochrome here and there. The interior was clean-cut with immaculate tiled and dark wooden flooring, panelled floor-length glass walls, a secluded courtyard, and comfortable sofas throughout the reception. Check in was so efficient and we even had a free welcome drink from the jazz bar – another tick from me.

The best part for me was the theme of music and art throughout the hotel – black and white framed images, montages and prints of famous afro-american soul and rock n’ roll musicians/artists/bands from the 60s era, as well as vintage photographs of the city. It was certainly unique.

We stayed in an executive room, which had it’s own 6th floor location. Very classy. The room was like everything else, faultless. The running theme of colour blocking and monochrome was evident with a textured black feature wall that I was lusting over. Underfloor bathroom heating, black out blinds and a bed big enough for four were just some highlights. You can read all about our expeditions in Prague in part two of my travel diary on Sunday.

We ate out in the evenings to make the most of our time, so moving onto breakfast on our second morning. If you like a buffet style spread then this place ticks every box. I’m a vegetarian and had no issues – from offering soya milk, to having gluten free pastries and cakes, tofu and vegetables for ‘made to order’ stir fries, fresh eggs and all the fruits, cheeses and breads you could imagine – I’d say I was spoilt for choice.

I’d definitely recommend angelo Hotel, whether it’s a business trip or a leisurely break for a few days, you won’t want to leave in a hurry. It was the little touches like chilled music playing in the reception, speedy wifi, comfy bathrobes and slippers, and no rush to leave after check out that made it extra special.