Beth watching the sunset

Thirteen may be unlucky for some, but it’s a good number today as it’s the number of essential ingredients I believe are needed for a great city break with good girlfriends. Feel free to use this as a checklist to get a city break planned with your friends or family.

1. Good girls.

Beth & Cat

I have many good girlfriends but my most recent city break trip was with my two oldest friends. They are girls I’ve known since I was thirteen and so I guess that’s another reason why I don’t consider that to be an unlucky number!

One of my friends on this trip actually mentioned how as a trio we are all naturally introverts who need time on our own to “recharge” our batteries, and yet our company was also very effective at boosting our energy so I feel very lucky to have these ladies as my friends. It sounds obvious but the best company can make for the best travel experiences.

2. A good city.

Lisbon Castle

Where you go very much depends on your budget, how you plan on spending together and how easy it is to get there. This is all obvious. But don’t discount what you WANT to do. For us, relaxing was as important as having plenty to do so going to a city with easy access to beaches seemed a great idea.

Beth by the beach

Lisbon Beach

Lisbon promised this plus plenty of accommodation choices and eating (and drinking!) out was also relatively cheap. I’d already been to Lisbon myself before, whereas it was a first for the girls. In many ways, this helped because I was able to get our bearings quickly and also know a good place to stay.

Lisbon Trams

View of Lisbon from Porto do Sol

LIsbon Streets

3. A place to crash… and talk, and eat, and drink, and talk, and get ready together, and talk and sleep.

Breakfast in Lisbon Apartment

I know it’s nothing new, but staying in an apartment rather than a hotel really does have so many benefits. As much as I love the luxury of hotels, I appreciate the space, flexibility and freedom of a self-catering so much more when I’m away with the girls. It also means we have more room to  throw our clothes and shoes around and we can make as much tea as we want. And we did.


We went with HomeAway to book our apartment in Lisbon and much to our surprise it was CONSIDERABLY cheaper than booking a hotel in the city. We also got to choose exactly where we wanted to be and we went with a  third floor apartment right in the heart of Bairro Alto, the “nightlife district” of Lisbon. While this meant noisy nights (but nothing earplugs couldn’t solve) it meant we were literally on top of more bars than we could drink in and we were walking distance from the centre of town and other key sights. Perfect for four days.

Bairro Alto


4. A WhatsApp  group to share over-excited messages.

Because spending four months getting excited before the trip is half of the pleasure of travelling, isn’t it?

5. A common(ish) outlook on travel.

Be clear on what you all want to get out of the weekend. Is it all about partying? Is it all about culture? Are you all craving adventure? For us, our weekend in Lisbon was about relaxing and catching up as we no longer live in the same country but we’re all quite naturally interested in history and in just exploring a city by foot.

Visiting Belem

Oh and food. We made sure to cross a lot of food spots off our list including the food market at Mercado da Riberia and of course, a visit to Pasteis de Belem.

Food in Lisbon

As for going out, we were keen to experience Fado, which we did in a great restaurant called Patio do Bairro, and we also found ourselves craving vinho verde at any given opportunity, and yet we were quite happy to call it a night at one or two in the morning. Having roughly the same expectations of a weekend away will help set the tone for what you’re going to do. And if there’s something you really want to do in a place, do yourself and your girls a favour and tell them so you’re not disappointed.

Drinks in Lisbon

6. Time to just sit in silence and relax together.

Finding a coffee that didn’t make my eyes water was one of our missions in Lisbon (I’m very sensitive to caffeine, and yes, you can laugh at that!) and it meant lots of hours spent in cafes under parasols, simply watching the world go by.

Lisboa Postcard

And I did indeed find it; it’s called a galão.

7. Open-mindedness for the unexpected.

Girls in Lisbon

One of the best bits about travelling with friends is the laughs you have. These come from the most unexpected places and so always have your eyes and mind open.

In Lisbon our biggest laughs came in the form of:

a. Our waiter in Patio do Bairro arriving with a box of stain remover products when I accidentally splashed my friend with sangria. He then proceeded to attend to my friends stains with more care and attention than I’d ever seen. It was amusing because the stains weren’t in the… ahem… most private of places. But he really was a true gentleman about it, and my friend was a great sport playing along as most of the restaurant turned to watch the waiter “at work”.

b. Getting sprayed by the giant water fountain in the gardens by Jerónimos Monastery.

Jeronimo Fountains Beth and Cat

c. Seeing the world’s grumpiest accordion player perform.

d. Going to a seemingly popular Italian restaurant that only served one dish (sausage sandwiches!?!?!) and yet they had the best red wine of our trip, so we stayed.

e. Ordering water at another restaurant and getting …port. When in Portugal…

8. At least one evening watching the sunset.

Sunset in Lisbon

Sunsets are NOT just for lovers. We took a bottle of vinho verde, a family packet of crisps (or chips to my North American friends) and one of my friends even made guacamole and we watched the sunset change Lisbon’s light from Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. We reminisced about our school days, previous holidays, previous (bad!) boyfriends and our future hopes and dreams. I will remember that evening for a long time… and not just because the Supermoon popped out to say hello, totally unexpected.

Supermoon in Lisbon

9. A “Kitty” Purse!

Bundle your money together and pay for everything from that. It’s a much easier way to keep things fair.

10. A “job” for everyone.

Chief Photographer

Admittedly, this may seem a little over-organised but we were quick to delegate one of us as chief photographer, one chief “coffee-shop-gelateria-nice-restaurant-or-bar-spotter” and perhaps most importantly, and at least one person who knows how to use a map so that all three of us weren’t “worrying” about the same thing.

11. Plenty to talk about.

This was pretty easy for us as we hadn’t all three been together for eighteen months, but I definitely recommend going on a communication-fast with people you’re about to travel with so you have plenty to catch up on.

Walking in Belem

12. A list of other places you want to go next time.

We’re already planning next year’s trip to Italy. I’m thinking Bologna? Or maybe the Lakes? Any other recommendations?

Frankie & Cat

13. Enough jokes, photos and funny memories to keep the post-holiday blues at bay…

I think I’ve looked at our photos from Lisbon at least twenty times since we got back. If that isn’t the sign of a good girls weekend away, I don’t know what is.


And if you need some help, here are 30 more ways to beat the post-holiday blues.


This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.