Unless you’re extremely lucky or happen to have a private jet, airport delays are inevitable. Having been stuck waiting for a flight at more airports than I care to count, I wanted to write a post about Lisbon airport – in case you are ever stuck there yourself.
I first noticed some changes to the airport a few years ago. Before, I had to walk a mere 30 seconds to get to passport control; suddenly, I had to walk five minutes. FIVE. “Why?! What have they done? I want to get home!” Catarina was not a happy traveler. Now, every time I go through the airport, it’s a little bit different. I wasn’t thrilled when they got rid of Hussel (my favorite chain of candy stores in Portugal) because I rely on sugar and E numbers to get me through a dull flight. But I started noticing some positive changes too…
After passing the security checks, you now cross a large duty-free area (still partly under construction) where you can find all the standard airport duty-free goods. All the way at the end of that, is an area dedicated to Portuguese wines and cheeses. This is your first opportunity to buy those wines that you forgot to get for your friends back home. The shop assistants are very helpful if you, like me, are fairly unfamiliar with Portuguese grape varieties and need advice. This is also where you can pick up a bottle of chestnut liqueur, which I do every time.
After duty-free, you’ll see all the usual suspects: Sunglass Hut, Burberry, Tumi, Swarovski, etc. This is also where it gets exciting: there are four stores (although the fourth is out towards gates 41-47) where you can buy some fabulous Portuguese goods before you leave.
Even though I rave about Portuguese things all the time, I’m actually quite critical of the quality of products. I hate tacky things! I love quality goods. Many of the products you’ll find at the airport are in fact good (or even the best) brands Portugal has to offer: Vista Alegre dinnerware, Aloma custard tarts, Cubanas shoes, Minerva sardines, ovos moles from Aveiro, Santa Catarina tuna, etc. If you didn’t get a chance to try the travesseiros or queijadas in Sintra, for example, you can still do so at the airport! Didn’t have time to go to that winery in the Alentejo? Buy a bottle to try at home and let it tempt you into coming back again. I advise all visitors to Portugal to take their time at the airport. You can easily spend an hour just looking at food and non-perishable items to take back as souvenirs.
Shopping not really your thing? No problem. The relatively small food court is actually pretty cool. Ignore a few of the fast food chains and head over to the Parisian-inspired Versailles (the younger sibling of the original Versailles patisserie in central Lisbon) or 1940s inspired vintage Cockpit restaurant for a cocktail and a meal.
At O Mercado you can enjoy a hot meal and even pick up a salted cod to take home (customs-permitting). Aloma’s custard tarts at the airport aren’t the cheapest in Lisbon, but they’re award-winning and – let’s face it – your last chance to enjoy one before you head back.
A word of caution for first-time travelers: once you’re in the shopping/food section, don’t get too relaxed with the time it takes you to get to your gate. There’s an additional security barrier where you have to present your passports again. At peak times, the lines to pass through these gates can take an hour or so! Make sure you check it out the line before you get too comfortable…
So yes, being stuck at an airport waiting for a delayed flight is not fun. But if it has to happen, let’s hope it’s in Lisbon!