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My mother has been hinting about seeing Andre Rieu for years (you know, that handsome conductor that gets his audience waltzing up and down the aisles). So for her
70th birthday, 21st birthday I treated her to a three day trip to Lisbon, Portugal as Andre Rieu was performing there.
Of course, I tried to find a concert in the UK but had no luck. But then I spotted a couple of seats in the Altice Arena in Lisboa which was perfect because Mum’s family all come from Portugal. It felt it was meant to be.
Quick brag – my mum’s cousin is Aníbal António Cavaco Silva (not that I’ve ever met him!) who was President of Portugal. Although got the distinct feeling from taxi drivers he was not popular!
We went in November, and even though it’s winter, I was really hoping for lovely weather – but my heart sunk when weather apps kept saying there was going to be torrential rain the whole time.
BUT – ever the optimist – I had this gut feeling it was going to be OK, and so luckily – we had three days of sunshine. Phew! You always think you’ll make it work, but it’s nicer to not have to, you know?
My mum isn’t as spritely as she used to be, so we needed to take a wheelchair along. I was told Lisbon had a load of hills, so there was no way I was pushing her up there, so brought dad and my boyfriend along to do all the heavy lifting!
On the subject of hills in Lisbon. That place is taking the mick! They’re ridiculously steep, and every single pavement is horribly cobbled, all jagged and pointy. I could feel the street stabbing me through my boots.
Normally, I wouldn’t really care, but we had mum in a pretty cheap wheelchair (we wanted it light and small) and it was a nightmare. You couldn’t push it properly, without the wheels buckling and nearly shoving mum out of the chair.
Long story short, Lisbon is pretty terrible when it comes to accessibility – so bear that in mind if you have mobility issues.
It got pretty frustrating because we couldn’t move anywhere. Then luckily, some brilliant person on Twitter told me that they got Ubers everywhere which were super easy and cheap in Lisbon.
She was not wrong. You could get from one tourist attraction in Lisbon to the other for around €3. They were an absolute life-saver.
What to do in Lisbon
Lucky enough to spend some time in Lisbon. Here are some things you really need to try and see too.
- TimeOut Market – This market is incredible, with loads of booths with local food. A main course was around €12.
- Lisbon Old Town – Get stretching, because Lisbon Old Town is a load of old streets, packed full of restaurants, little shops and bars running up a big hill to the castle.
- Lisbon Castle – The Castelo de Sao Jorge is where you’ll find the best views in Lisbon. It’s a bit of a trek, but it really is beautiful with peacocks walking around. Entry is €10 for adults, while it’s free for children under 10 years old.
- Praca do Comercio – This is the main square, with a big street on it with lots of shops and bars. Don’t actually eat in the square as it’s a bit of a tourist trap. You’re better off walking five minutes up the road and eating in one of the backstreets. It does look absolutely beautiful at night though.
- Santa Justa Lift – This looks slightly terrifying, but you do have to try and take a ride on this list that was built in 1902. Not only do you get amazing views of the city, but it also is the quickest way to get from Baixa to Bairro Alto. The price of the Santa Justa Lift costs €5, but it is also included in a 24-hour ticket for the Metro, which includes unlimited rides on the metro, trams and buses for 24 hours, which costs €6.
Flights were really cheap to Lisbon from London and Bristol (we met there) – around £70 return.
Check out my guide on how to always find a really cheap flight.
Lisbon Hotels – Corpo Santo Hotel
It was really important that I picked a hotel in the middle of everything, so we could walk to a restaurant or bar.
Lisbon seems to have a ton of AirBnbs and private homes to rent via hotels.com/Booking.com etc. I was really tempted to book one of these, as they were so cheap and looked beautiful, but they all seemed to be on second or third floors with no lifts. Not accessible enough for us.
My mum said to book somewhere cheap and cheerful, but it was her 70th birthday present – so wanted to do something special.
The amount of research I put into looking for hotels is a little ridiculous really, but kept coming back to the Corpo Santo Hotel as the one for us.
It’s a boutique 5-star hotel in the most perfect location in Lisbon. It’s a five-minute walk to the sea, to the TimeOut Market and the Praca do Comercio square.
We could get to loads of places in no time at all. We nearly booked a lovely hotel right by the castle, and I’m SO glad we didn’t now, would have been an absolute nightmare to get to.
Price-wise, yep, still a bargain hunter. Because we booked out of season, I managed to bag two rooms, for three nights for a really reasonable rate (I don’t want to say because my mum will read this, and it’s her birthday present – but feel free to look it up). PLUS got 10% cashback and used a 10% off on Hotels.com.
Put it this way, I’ve paid around the same/more for a Marriot. It’s do-able, especially for a 5* hotel and worth every penny if you can do it.
A couple of days before arriving, I got an email from guest services asking if we were coming for a special occasion and if there was anything they should know.
I let them know we were coming to see Andre Rieu for mum’s birthday, and that she would be bringing a wheelchair along.
When we got there, we found that mum and dad were given this massive suite, with a handwritten note, and a gift of an Andre Rieu from guest services to remember the experience.
It was such a lovely touch, and made the experience really special.
Let me go through some of the *freebies* you get when staying at the Corpo Santo Hotel Lisbon:
- Cake, Portuguese food left in the room
- A Cake of the day in the foyer
- Pick n mix sweets in the foyer
- Fruit and nuts
- Cheese and honey station
- Bottled water
- Free Ice-cream every day from the ice-cream shop next door
- Wine tasting and tapas in the evening
- Free Coffee/hot drink vouchers for the bar
- Popcorn/candyfloss in the evening
Yep – it was amazing!
The Corpo Santo Hotel in Lisbon has ancient walls underneath the modern rooms which are incredible to go and nose around.
Oh, the shower – I need to tell you about the best shower in the world. Got in, was just a very lovely shower… but… there were some buttons on the side. Pressed them, and there was an all-singing (literally) and dancing light show.
Breakfast in the Corpo Santo hotel was brilliant. We got some fizz (if you can’t do it on holiday, when can you?!), which we made the most of.
It’s a buffet-style breakfast, and really lovely. Available from 7 am – 11 am.
There is an English breakfast station with sausages, eggs, bacon and beans etc
But also really amazing breads, cheese, meats and salads which I was obsessed with.
Oh and cakes! I ate a lot of custard tarts (Natas) for breakfast.
I can’t say enough good things about this hotel. They made such an effort for my mum – the staff were absolutely incredible, and the rooms were beautiful and comfortable.
I’ve stayed in fancy hotels around the world which cost 6x that price a night and didn’t compare.
If you can afford it, I 100% recommend you stay there.
Food in Lisbon
Oh Lisbon. The food was the absolute best.
Lisbon TimeOut Market
We were just a few minutes walk from the TimeOut Market which we went to on our first night – then went back the next day it was so good.
It has a party atmosphere, with a load of restaurants with local food – all pretty decent value.
Pork belly above, while below was one of my many bacalhau snacks of the holiday.
If you’re in Lisbon, you have to try it. It’s a salt cod, potato cake and it’s really good. It reminds me a lot of my grandmother – so will definitely try and make these now I’m back in the UK.
Booze in Lisbon is so cheap too. I don’t know if it’s because I’m used to London prices but cocktails at €5, and pints at €3, were a lovely surprise!
OK – the desserts! I wandered around the market picking up everything that looked tasty for dessert and *chefs kiss* MWAH! Just stunning.
On the last night, we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. I find that restaurants in Lisbon tend to have people outside them trying to get you to come in.
I don’t love that, it stresses me out, but it’s like that – especially in the touristy areas.
We walked down a street with a ton of restaurants and saw Restaurante Portas which had fresh fish on ice in the window and locals eating there – so thought you couldn’t go too wrong.
I also did a sneaky check on TripAdvisor to make sure it was good – and reviews were overall decent. We really did enjoy it.
It was all really cheap, fresh and tasty. I got a load of seafood in rice (huge portions) and with our giant beers and cake for dessert, came to €100 for the four of us.
About 30 mins on the train from Rossio train station in the centre of Lisbon you’ll get to Sintra which is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
You could spend days here, but we pretty much only had an afternoon so caught an Uber to Castelo dos Mouros (The Moors Castle).
My mum wouldn’t have been able to walk up to the castle, so as my mum and dad had made friends with the taxi driver – they left us to explore while they went up to the Pena Palace which is exactly like a real-life Disneyland.
It’s a beauty – make sure you have a visit if you’re in Sintra (but get a taxi or rickshaw whatever you do – that walk is STEEP!)
Again, like everywhere on this Lisbon trip, there was a lot of hills and uneven flooring and my thighs hurt the next day – but totally worth it.
My mother’s family come from Cascais, so had to visit. Again, only 30 minutes on the train and this journey had lovely views of the seaside, passing memorials and historical buildings.
Return tickets were about €8 and leave every 20 mins or so.
Beaches in Lisbon
So Cascais is the fancy part where wealthy people come to live by the sea. There are pretty beaches and a ton of restaurants and shops.
We wandered along the beach, then up to the Cidadela art district which is a big fort on the marina.
Shopping in Lisbon
To be honest, because we found it hard to get around Lisbon itself, we didn’t do a huge amount of shopping.
I love a boutique shop but found most of them sold the same cork bags, keyrings and teatowels.
It’s probably not a fair representation of the shopping in Lisbon – so if you can recommend areas to go shopping, let me know in the comments.
I tell you what though – they love a tin of sardines over there! The shops are super elaborate too.
Now time for the main event. Andre Rieu.
We got a taxi over there (my mum becomes best friends with every taxi driver – anyone else’s mum do that?) it cost around €10.
I tell you what, an audience is Lisbon is so different to audiences I’ve experienced in London. Maybe they’re really laid back (or we’re really stuffy!)
Lots of people turned up really late – still piling in, an hour into the show.
At one point Andre Rieu commented on it, and said that they came all the way from Holland and got there on time – so why couldn’t they?!
I also found that people were happy chatting and recording the show. I took a quick video which I wouldn’t DARE do in London because honestly, people were filming the whole show. Probably a cultural thing.
But anyway, the show itself was really fun and the orchestra brilliant. In fact, the Soprano in the show was probably the best I’ve ever heard – she was spectacular.
Tickets were around €80 each. I’m glad my mum, who is an Andre Rieu mega-fan (I didn’t realise there were Facebook groups dedicated to him) – enjoyed it!
It was an amazing trip. Long story short – visit Lisbon!