LISBON, PORTUGAL – TRAVELLING WHILE BLACK AND FEMALE

My sister and I spent four days and four nights in Portugal’s beautiful capital city, Lisbon (Lisboa). We had the best time and I have gone on to christen this little getaway my best trip yet!

Photo: Unsplash
Lisbon is a nice sized city so you can walk about it very comfortably but also have a lot to explore. That being said, I would strongly advise you to wear flat shoes and trainers because Lisbon is very very hilly.
It has great transport links that were very simple to use, especially for tourists. Everything, including the ticket machines, came with English instructions and animations so we weren’t completely lost considering we can’t speak a word of Portuguese! I would definitely recommend however, that you don’t be like us and actually learn a few phrases in Portuguese – if not for anything, out of common curtesy! But just in case you don’t, don’t be too worried, most people also spoke English.
My sister and I stayed in an Airbnb apartment. You can click here to get money off your first Airbnb stay using my link! I would definitely recommend staying in an Airbnb in Lisbon as you are more likely to have a more authentic experience of Lisbon this way! I know sometimes Airbnbs have bad reputations, especially if you are staying alone (and are female!) but I was told Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. My sister and I are two young, black (because that definitely adds another dimension to it) females and yet we felt so comfortable and safe in Lisbon.
Everyone is very friendly. Sometimes a bit too friendly. I did have to give a few men some very dirty looks to stop them staring and trying to talk to us. But overall, I would say that Lisbon would be a great solo trip destination.
Now on to my favourite pastime ever! (And yes it is a pastime, don’t even try and fight me on this!) Food.
Lisbon has an amazingly diverse range of cuisines. It is a foodie’s idea of heaven for sure. There are so many streets just dedicated to authentic food. This trip was supposed to be a cheap getaway for my sister and I so we did not eat out as much as we would have liked to and actually opted for cooking for ourselves to save money instead. We literally spent €30 on groceries on the first day and managed to have breakfasts, lunches and dinners sorted for our whole time there.
Our first day in Lisbon was a Sunday which meant lots of the small cafes and restaurants near where we were staying in weren’t open. By the time we found a nice cafe we were ravenous. I recognised burger on the menu (which was in Portuguese- a language, in case you forgot, I do not speak a word of) and immediately ordered it. When our meal arrived, we realised that the burgers came with sweet potato crisps and not chips (fries) so that was interesting. They tasted fab, in case you wondered.
When in Lisbon, make sure to get one of the nation’s delicacies: Pastel de Nata – a Portuguese custard tart. Literally every single cafe or restaurant we saw sold them for €1 a piece, some of the ice cream/gelato places even had them as an ice-cream flavour! Super tasty.
Travelling while being black women is always an interesting experience, even just within the UK where my sister and I live. We grew up in London, in one of the most diverse parts, so are used to seeing lots of different people. Even now that I don’t live in London anymore and reside further north in Sheffield, which isn’t as diverse but is still pretty fab, I have some interesting experiences. I’ve always heard that traveling in mainland Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal etc) while being a black women means people stopping to take pictures with you and calling you Beyoncé, Serena, Michelle or basically any famous black women they know. I thought this was an exaggeration. I was wrong.
When I went to Italy for a long weekend last year, I definitely had random white men stopping me in the street to tell me I’m beautiful. It was very awkward, especially as I was with my mum and my Aunty. Lisbon was similar, in the sense that my sister and I had men literally stopping in the street trying to start conversations with us lol. And because most of them could speak English, we couldn’t even hide behind the fact that we couldn’t understand them! We were very careful to make sure we weren’t being followed anywhere we went, especially when walking back to our apartment. And when we thought we were, we took a different road and ducked into a cafe. Better safe than sorry!
Other than white men, we had black men who were from different African countries, staring into our souls everywhere we turned. We were living in the historic/cultural centre of Lisbon which meant it wasn’t as tourist as the city centre. Our neighbours were people who lived and worked in Lisbon, a lot of them being ethnic minorities. And without meaning to sound insensitive, we were very careful not to speak too loudly incase anyone heard our accents and noticed we were from the UK. If you know what I mean.
At one of the tourist hotspots called Sintra (which you can see clips of in my vlog of the trip here) we had Chinese tourists stop up, tell us how beautiful we are and proceed to take pictures of and with us. It was a very interesting experience – I felt like a celebrity. Let me be honest: this happened multiple times that day and at one point I started getting annoyed and was tempted to start charging them money per photo. After all, we don’t know what they’re going to do with pictures of us! Imagine coming to a beautiful palace and leaving with pictures of two random black girls instead!
Overall, Lisbon is a beautiful city! I absolutely loved it and would love to go back and explore some more. Since the trip, I have been recommending Lisbon to anyone who would listen 🙂

Peace&Love.

Paula Melissa xx

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