As I am starting to plan my travels for 2017, I look back on our most memorable trip of 2016 to Portugal. To tell you the truth, I went with low expectations, but at the end of the day, I ended up falling in love with the beautiful country, its people, food, and crafts. Compared to a lot of other European countries, Portugal is still very affordable, so if you are looking for a new place to visit this year, I suggest you add Portugal to your itinerary. Today’s post is about beautiful Lisbon and some of the places you can visit while there. A post about my Algarve faves is coming soon.
Lisbon’s foodie scene was definitely a pleasant surprise. Nearly every single meal we had during our trip was a smash hit. There’s a plethora of delicious options at the admittedly touristy Time Out Market; the Piri Piri chicken from the Miguel Laffan stall was my personal favourite, but other restaurants were great too according to my friends and fellow travellers (just watch out for aggressive table stealers).
For a fresh take on ceviche, A Cevicheria is a must-visit. You won’t be impressed with the quantity of food at this tiny resto, but you will certainly love every bite.
For creative sushi, make sure to stop by Sushic (original or at Palacio Chiado). We ate there twice, trying various chef’s platters, gorging on buttery tuna tataki, and other delicious seafood. Just make sure to avoid the Tom Yum soup – it’s overpriced and totally not worth it. There are other options to try at Palacio Chiado (more hit and miss), but I’d recommend it for a quick casual lunchtime stop.
Fabulas is another great lunch spot with a charming patio, and a menu full of freshly-prepared Portuguese specialties like the super delicate codfish cakes. Despite its central location, this place is definitely not a tourist trap. Also, once they run out of a certain dish, they won’t make more, so go early.
As much as we wanted to make it to Pasteis de Belem to try their iconic pastries, we weren’t able to make it there this time, but we did make up for it at Manteigaria. Obviously, we can’t compare the two, but out of all the pasteis de nata that we’ve tried on this trip, the flaky, freshly baked custard tarts from Manteigaria were by far the yummiest.
If you’re craving a sweet cold treat, whatever you do, do not go to Amorino – it’s just not worth the calories. Go to Mu or Santini instead – their gelato is so much better! Also, paletas from PizPireto are incredible! We randomly found their amazing paletas at a gourmet store near A Cevicheria, but apparently they also have a shop just outside of central Lisbon.
For traditional Portuguese steak and chips, a couple of locals highly recommended Solar Dos Presuntos. And while I loved my steak, this place got mixed reviews from the rest of our group (they found it too pricey and not particularly memorable), so read other reviews before you go. Honestly though, I don’t think we had a bad food experience in Lisbon (apart from terrible gelato at Amorino and mediocre pastries at A Padaria Portuguesa).
More after the jump!
2. Enjoy the view
Strap on some comfy shoes and get moving, Lisbon, after all, is a city of seven hills, which means there are breathtaking views around (nearly) every corner. One of the best views of Lisbon can be found from the São Jorge Castle. Get your tickets online to avoid lining up, and enjoy the view of the city from the castle grounds. If you’d rather not pay for a view, Miradouro da Graca offers some of the best sights free of charge. Bring a sandwich, grab a bench, and enjoy a leisurely lunch with a stunning view of Lisbon. If you’re after a luxurious setting, Silk night club is supposed to be one of the best vantage points to see Lisbon at night. Just make sure to dress the part, as this club has a fairly strict dress code (we found out the hard way).
Shopping in Lisbon is plentiful and very affordable. Skip the useless souvenirs, and instead stock up on delicious Portuguese specialties like gourmet tinned fish, sweet Ginja, and the delicious Portuguese-made preserves and honeys. Portuguese ceramics and fragrant soaps are also amazing keepsakes to bring back with you. Make sure you’re not buying the Made in China products by shopping at stores that sell the locally-crafted ceramics (and other goodies) – Lisbon Shop, A Vida Portuguesa, and Embaixada are a few of my faves. Embaixada deserves a special mention for its beautiful setting. Even if you’re not planning on shopping, stop by this concept store to admire its architecture (and maybe take a break on Atalho Real’s patio complete with bean bag chairs and plenty of shade).
If you’re looking for luxury brands, then Avenida Liberdade should be on your itinerary. The local flea market that runs along this street on weekends is also worth exploring (every second weekend of each month May-October). For fast-fashion and brands that you can’t find in Canada (Oysho, Bershka, Stradivarius, Uterque, Bimba y Lola to name a few) visit Baixa-Chiado neighbourhood and Amoreiras Mall (a quick Uber ride from downtown).
4. Visit Sintra
Depending on how many days you have in Lisbon, a day trip to Sintra may be worth your while. It’s super easy to get to by train (about an hour one way), and has plenty of cultural things to do and see. One thing I would highly recommend is to grab a taxi or a bus from the train station instead of walking to the top. We ended up hiking all the way up, which was both stupid and way too ambitious on a hot summer day. By the time we got to Castelo dos Mouros, half of the group was pissed off, and all of us were sunburned and drenched in sweat. If you really like hiking, going down on foot (instead of up) might be a better option. Despite our hiking fiasco, I really enjoyed Sintra and loved Quinta da Regaleira and its beautiful grounds (and plentiful cats). Wish we had more time (and energy) to visit Palácio Nacional de Pena, but hopefully another time.
Lisbon is a lively, beautiful city with a ton of things to do and plenty of landmarks to visit. Admiring the many tiled buildings was probably my favourite thing, which is why I’m so sad that we missed out on a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (aka the Tile Museum). I hear it’s a gem, so check it out if you get a chance.
It was too hot for us to ride the infamous Tram 28, but hanging out along its route to take photos of the passing trams was just as fun.
Last but not least, I highly recommend a visit to the Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira. This beautiful palace is a private residence of the Marquis of Fronteira and his family and is only open to visitors for only a couple of hours each day (Monday-Saturday). You can take a guided tour of the palace, or skip it and go straight to the stunning garden. If you plan on doing both, get there early, so you have plenty of time to explore the grounds. Watch out for the mean black swan that guards the fountain – don’t get too close, he bites. Getting there is a bit challenging, so I would highly recommend grabbing an Uber (we ended up splitting one with another couple on our way back to central Lisbon). This palace is a true gem with some of the most interesting tile work I’ve seen in Portugal. Don’t miss it.
So there you have it, my top 5 things to do in Lisbon, Portugal. Have you ever been? Share your fave places/things to do in Lisbon in the comments.