Fall is definitely felt here in Paris. The days are getting shorter, multicolored leaves decorate the streets, and there’s a definite nip in the air. There’s much to enjoy about the newly brisk weather, but summer has always been my favorite season and I’m sad to see it pass. I’m a firm believer that there’s something about sunshine and warm weather that brings out the best in people.
Eager to hold onto the season as long as I can, I booked a weekend trip to Lisbon, Portugal with my good friend, Ashley. As one of the southernmost capitals in Europe, Lisbon is one of the few places on this continent still experiencing that wonderfully pleasant climate — and our weekend getaway definitely felt like summer.
I landed in the city Friday morning and we got straight to sightseeing. Our first stop was Lisbon’s historic old town. To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect. We planned our excursions around a three-day itinerary we found online, but we were pleasantly surprised by what we discovered. Cobblestone roads, terracotta roofs, and picturesque viewpoints characterize the heart of Lisbon. We spent the day hiking up the city’s many hills, discovering hidden alleys, and marveling at the pastel architecture.
We had an early night on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s day trip to Belem, a neighborhood thirty minutes outside of Lisbon. We started the day at Pasteis de Nata, a bakery famous for its egg custard tarts. The line was long but moved quickly, and before I knew it, I had my hands on two freshly baked tarts. The buttery, flaky crust perfectly accompanied the rich custard filling. Topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon, it was the perfect morning treat.
Belem certainly didn’t disappoint. The highlight of our day was Jerónimos Monastery, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Intricate stone architecture formed its perimeter, while the inner portion was a lush courtyard. The cloistered arches create a shaded arcade that wraps around the square, and the shadows help the column details stand out even more. Visiting places like the monastery always makes me wonder how people built something this beautiful with such limited technology, but I’m glad they found a way.
We rounded off the day with another delicious seafood lunch and a visit to Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sadly, the tower was closed when we arrived, but we were still able to enjoy the banks of the Tagus river. After watching the sunset over the water, we hopped on a tram back to Lisbon.
Sunday was our last full day in Portugal, but also my favorite. We took another trip outside of the city to Sintra, a picturesque town set an hour away from Lisbon. We arrived a bit after noon, and after skipping breakfast to catch the train, Ashley and I were dying for a meal. Our final lunch did not disappoint. We both went for a whole roasted octopus with roasted veggies. Grilled with nothing but a bit of salt and lemon, the subtly meaty flavor of the octopus really stood out. Safe to say, it was very filling and very delicious.
With time against us, we flew through three major attractions in the city. First up was Castelo dos Mouros, a hilltop medieval fortress. The climb was insane — I’ve hiked the Great Wall of China before and this was comparable, but the views were even more incredible. We could see for miles, and even managed to spot a bit of Lisbon from the highest peak. I could’ve stayed up there for days just taking in the scenery, but we had other places to be.
We headed next to the National Palace of Pena. Before arriving, someone mentioned that this sight looked like someone took a child’s rendition of what a castle should look like and made it a reality — their comparison was spot on. The castle’s red, blue, and yellow towers are lined with geometric white trims, making it look like something out of a fairytale. Most European castles are ornate but austere; whoever built Pena Palace actually seemed like they had fun.
Last was Quinta da Regaleira, a gothic 20th century estate. Whereas Pena Palace was colorful and childlike, Quinta da Regaleira was gloomy and imposing. Nevertheless, the grounds were utterly charming. Befitted with grottos, waterfalls, and a myriad of footpaths, it was the perfect place to get lost in for a few hours. We explored the estate’s many hidden gardens until closing time, and after a full day of sightseeing, we eagerly took the next train back home.
Since we were both flying out early the next morning, Ashley and I said our goodbyes that evening. We vowed to meet again during the semester, and I kept up on that promise — I’m visiting her in London in November! But until then, I’ll always reflect fondly on those three perfect days in Lisbon. I was totally blown away by the city’s warm, inviting energy, and I know I’ll be back.
Hannah Xue, Study Abroad Correspondent
Hannah Xue is a senior majoring in communication studies at Boston University. She’s currently studying abroad in Paris, France as part of the Paris Internship Program. When she’s not running for the metro, she enjoys watching YouTube before bed and eating pain au chocolat. Keep up with Hannah on Instagram as she savors her last semester of college – @x.ueh