The Weekly Getaway: tiles, sardines and pasteis de nata in Lisbon
There are very few places in the world that make you feel like you're in a movie. Lisbon is definitely one of them...the colors, the architecture, the streets, the food. It is Europe's westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast.
My honest opinion is that you should definitely try to visit Lisbon either in Spring, Summer or early Fall. The city overall is not very big and distances are small so you will really enjoy it if the weather is good and sunny, which will give you the opportunity to walk around. If you are into architecture and history then this is your city, as it is full of monuments, museums and architectural buildings.
For all the foodies out there, when you're planning for this trip make sure you have enough days to taste most (why not all?!) of the restaurants we've put together for you, as Portuguese gastronomy and its chefs have definitely found a way to keep their customers satisfied, no matter their preferences.
Alfama is the oldest district of the city located on the southeastern slope of the hill, something like a small village. If you love taking pictures of places or architecture in general then you should definitely walk around its medieval alleys and enjoy the views. Visit the Lisbon Cathedral church, then grab a tuk tuk and go visit the Miradouro de Sonhora do Monte which will offer you spectacular views of the city and the castle.
You should also try to visit a Fado music venue, most of which are in Alfama, where they play the famous traditional Portuguese music genre called Fado. In most places you would enjoy your dinner along with a singer and a guitarist taking you on a musical trip of the Portuguese culture.
Campo de Ourique and Belem
The 28-Prazeres tram is the most famous tram line in Lisbon running across famous sites (Castelo de Saint Jorge, Portas do Sol etc) all the way to Campo de Ourique, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city that remained intact after the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and fire in 1755. Primarily a residential area, Campo de Ourique is referred to as a city within a city because its residents, mainly upper-middle class families, have everything they need there without having to step out into downtown Lisbon. Apart from the famous Campo de Ourique market and the best chocolate of the world right nextdoor, this area offers multiple foodie options you'll thank us for: Pigmeu for the crackling pig and Moules for steamed mussels to name a couple!
Talking of local food, you haven't really visited Lisbon unless you've tried the famous Pasteis de Belem located in the picturesque district of Belem. The line is usually long but it shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to get a taste of these egg-cream rich tarts topped with your choice of ground cinnamon and/or powdered sugar. If you're interested in some Portuguese history while you're in Belem, don't forget to visit the Jeronimos Monastery.
One of the most central area of the city, Chiado is a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, mostly located at the Carmo and Garrett streets. Rubbing shoulders with Bairro Alto and Paixa Pombalina, all of these neighbourhoods present a high proportion of gentrification with hip shops and food establishments. If you're looking for Lisbon souvenirs you can try This & That, a small cute shop appealing to adults and kids alike, or have a bohemian drink at one of the city's old brothels, Pensao Amor.
Spend one of your days visiting the beautiful town of Sintra surrounded by the majestic Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Only about 40 minutes away from the city of Lisbon, you'll find yourself lost in this small town full of historical buildings, exquisite palaces and traditional cafes and restaurants. You should definitely walk around the narrow streets of the town, visit the Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena and the gothic styled Sintra National Palace. If you really wanna go all the way, you can catch the scenic route there along the coastline with great views to the sea.
- Jeronimos Monastery - visit the 500 year old impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discovery
- Mae de Agua Lisbon Aqueduct and Water Museum - catch a glimpse of Lisbon's first water distribution system, as well as a nice panoramic view of the city
- Miradouro de Sonhora do Monte - one of the city's seven hills where you can catch a panoramic view of both the old and the new city. Best to get a tuk tuk up there!
- Castelo de Saint Jorge - although the castle itself is not that unique, the view is spectacular, especially if you can pair it with a relaxing glass of wine
- Alfama - the old historic district of Lisbon where the early habitants used to live. This place is literarily taken out of a movie set. Great to stroll during the day, especially if the weather is sunny as the light creates a unique background
- Sintra - located almost an hour outside of Lisbon, this area is a great option for a same-day tour especially if you love the countryside. The scenic route along the coastline is also nice and you also have a chance to visit a few royal historic establishments
- Brown's Central - great value for money boutique hotel in the most central location (especially if you love walking around the city centre). By far the best of the 3 establishments run by the same company in the same area
- Hotel da Estrela - one of the few SLH hotels in Lisbon, located in a residential district with an authentic and hip character; a bit more pricey than the average hotel in the area
- Mini Bar Teatro - Amazing food with lots of creativity from one of the best Portuguese Chefs Jose Avillez. Top choice for Lisbon, read our experts review to get a better taste!
- Taberna da Rua das Flores - traditional, authentic and hip at the same time! Great for lunch if you can catch one of the few tables in this very cosy and honest place. Try the mackerel tartare with seaweed, onion, ginger, peppers and sesame seeds!
- Sea Me - seems like an overvalued-sushi place in Mykonos at first sight. But the food is really good and fish/sushi super fresh. Make sure you get a table at the back to catch all the action
- Campo de Ourique market - located in the connoisseur district of Lisbon, this nice market features fish, vegetables and some meat counters; also a nice stop for a quick bite
- Time Out Market Lisbon - another food market with many good options for a quick lunch, albeit a bit touristy; safest bet is "Henrique Sa Pessoa"
- Tartine - fine bakery that also features a tasty breakfast/brunch place at the back. Get a feel of what's on menu from our experts review
- Nicolau Lisboa - very cute small cafe in the heart of the city. You should visit on a Saturday for brunch (the place is closed on Sundays)
- Pasteis de Belem - touristic and crowded but still very nice for the authentic recipe of pastel de nata. Take a look at our experts review to work an appetite
- Bolo de chocolate - claimed to be the best chocolate cake in the world; you'll find it in many restaurants/shops across Lisbon (but also globally); here is the original bakery where it all started for Carlos
- Confeitaria Nacional - traditional pastry shop dating back in 1829, with cream-colored walls trimmed in gold and overlooked by a mirrored ceiling, located in a stately corner building on the Praça da Figueira square. Still run by descendants of the founder.
- Manteigaria Fabrica de Pasteis - pastel de nata again but more modern and centrally located
- Park Bar - very difficult to find but the view is really nice if you can find your way up there, especially during the summer