For the past three weeks of working as a bartender in Lisbon, I have heard two people bring up Oasis Hostels and tell me how great they are, so as soon as Jo landed on Portuguese soil, we took it upon ourselves to find out why. After our three-day stay, we now understand why Oasis Hostel has this reputation; they know what’s up.
1. Views on views on views
As they put it on their website, “a hostel should be cheap and in the best location of the city, within walking distance of everything worth seeing” and like, word to that, because Oasis is literally one minute down the hill (Lisbon’s got seven of them!) from Miradouro Santa Catarina, a viewpoint overlooking the laidback, bohemian Cais do Sodré and Tagus River. The Miradouro is partly great for views, but mostly great for sitting back with locals with a 1L bottle of Sagres or vinho verde (green wine). Yes, I said “green wine.”
But then if you’re talking about the views back at the hostel, Jo and I were placed in Room 1, a four-bed dorm overlooking a stereotypical Lisbon street, where we secretly spied on a Portuguese grandma cooking dinner for the three nights we stayed. The woman was always preparing something in her tiny little oven, and often spending an oddly lengthy amount of time sharpening her butcher knife. Let’s just say we were happy to be witnessing all this from across the alley in our safe house called Oasis Hostel.
2. “Lisbon in your mouth”
The good thing about waking up every morning at Oasis Hostel is that instead of complimentary dollar store cereal, they offer three €3.50 breakfast options, either tostas mixtas, muesli yogurt, or an egg and chorizo omelet.
As an eight-year vegetarian, I’ve probably cooked toast and eggs a thousand times for myself, but somehow the Portuguese chef put his own Portuguese spin on it with olive oil and herbs. So easy, yet so not something I have ever done. Jo has been telling me for years to cook with spices, but when I saw it put into action like this, it was basically a done deal; my first stop when I get back to the States: a spice shop.
The second morning I opted in for the second of three breakfast choices they offer: the muesli, fruit, and yogurt. Thinly sliced apples and pears over bananas over cereal flakes and muesli over plain yogurt. If ever you wondered how many layers are too many, your answer is infinity.
3. Lisbon’s oldest…department store?
Truth is, if you spend a day or two in Lisbon, you’ll most likely start circling and lapping a few of the city’s tourist attractions. Lisbon is quite a small big city, but some of the coolest things we found are places we would have never looked. Enter: Katie from the front desk. After spending our first day purposely getting lost in Alfama, shopping throughout Chiado, and ahem, sippin’ on sangria in some Bairro Alto bars, we asked for something super quirky and off the beaten path. Not even ten seconds later we had the names of the most random department store for buying everything you would never need. May I introduce you to Pollux.
Pollux, a nine-floor department store in the bustling Chiado district with the most bizarre things you can imagine. She explained how the ninth floor is dedicated to nothing but fake flowers, and oh, a panoramic view of Lisbon (and a café), directly in front of the touristy viewpoint from Elevador Santa Justa that tourists fork up €5 for.
So to recap: €1.20 gets you a meia de leite, a similar view as Elevador Santa Justa, and a quirky experience from the ninth-floor of a Portuguese department store. Thank God for Katie.
4. See Lisbon or Die
The tour company of Oasis Hostels is always out and about in the hostel convincing you to go on their latest pub crawl – and somehow they always manage to talk you into it. Our last Saturday in Lisbon was originally planned to be spent indoors relaxing, but look at what ended up happening instead:
Our relaxation plan was still on track until 9:30pm when Vinny, the hostel manager, came around charmingly sweet-talking all the hostel guests and doing it so well that by the time the pub crawl left, we were only two of about 20 people about to have our most fun night of our trip thus far.
We were led by a few of the hostel staff to the first bar in the lively Bairro Alto district for an hour of unlimited beer and sangria, and shots of different colors. As we walked in, the bar opened up a special VIP corner just for the hostel crowd, where our DJ was actually one of the hostel staff. Then it got even better; their first song? Missy Elliot. This, alone, gave me so much respect for the company whose quote is “where tourists rarely step and guidebooks fear” because for the past three weeks, I could not find a bar that played hip hop music for the life of me.
The night continued, mainly as a feel-good blur, but what we do recall was cutting the line to go into Music Box, one of Lisbon’s trendy clubs on Pink Street in Cais do Sodré. Needless to say, we spent the night dancing to club banger electro music with our hostel roomies, and even one of the hostel chefs.
5. O carinho da casa
Until someone broke the news to us over some homemade Bacalhau and spinach quiche during one night’s dinner, we were under the impression the hostel only had four rooms – perfectly explaining why we felt like we knew over 50% of the hostel guests. Wrong! The hostel’s main building is where you can find the common areas, as well as four rooms upstairs, but there are also two other buildings next door. Nonetheless, there’s always a decent mix of guests mingling in the living room, as well as the hostel’s outdoor terrace, which explains why it felt less like a chain hostel and more like a Portuguese family mansion.
Continuing with the Portuguese family mansion theme, remember Katie from the front desk? She stroke again when we were eating breakfast on our last day. She ran into the living room and said, “Guys! You have to come see this!” We all ran to the kitchen window as she explained why a man with a bike was squeaking a horn while strolling down the street. When Portuguese families hear his horn, they can come outside to have their knives sharpened. We would have never guessed.
Our last night was spent over a three-course dinner, where the twelve of us all (impressively) kept up conversation in one mélange of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and French (talk about language practice). We chatted about exes with a Parisian and a Mexican, about South Africa with our German roommate, and about Toulouse with six French girls. Our three day stay wrapped up as every hostel stay should: bonding with our fellow hostel guests and even hostel staff. Obrigado to everyone we met during our stay!
Rua de Santa Catarina, 24
1200-402 – Lisbon