You know how they say Mum is always right? Turns out she can pick a great holiday destination too! We were lucky enough to spend our last summer holiday pre-rona with my parents in Portgual.
Lisbon is referred to locally as the ‘city of seven hills’ but to be honest the city felt like one giant hill to me, so take your best walking shoes. There’s a lot to love about Lisbon – it has some of the world’s best food, people, culture, geography and architecture to boot and don’t even get me started on the pastei de nata.
We were lucky enough to have a colleague (and former Lisbon local!) tip us off to the local hot-spots so passing on the favour, in the hope that the world will be exploreable again in the not too distant future!
Getting there – Lisbon is fairly accessible by air from most European destinations (when corona was a beer of choice and not a global pandemic).
Getting around – From Lisbon airport we caught an Uber to our hotel (9 euro). Uber is super cheap in Lisbon but don’t let that stop you from using the local tram service, which is quaint, cute and will give you a slice of life to dine out on – a must.
Despite the hills, the most immersive way to see Lisbon is to walk (if practicable), to enjoy the beautiful architecture, the incredible tiled artistry and of course to stop off for pastei de nata at the end of every block, guilt-free!
Domestic tourism – On leaving Lisbon we caught a bus to Lagos (23 euro) which departed from the Sete Rios Bus Station (which was a 4 euro Uber away). Word of warning: there are lots of buses at the station and the signage is predominantly in Portuguese -arrive with ample time so you don’t do what we did and spend the majority of our journey hoping desperately that we had caught the correct bus.
Don’t get sucked in by the tourist traps in the centre of the city, you know the kind I am talking about (the dead giveaway usually being the pictorial menu in 5 different languages, with pizza, pasta and burgers to boot – in Portgual!?!?) Lisbon’s foodie scene is just getting going.
This seafood lover’s dream set around one long central bar came highly recommended by a friend. The restaurant boasts the kind of menu where you want one of everything and what you do get is delectable. Top rated for atmosphere, this is the kind of place you’ll be asking the waiter for the name of their Spotify playlist (which we did, shamelessly).
Peixola – R. do Alecrim 35, 1200-014 Lisboa, Portugal
Mercado da Ribeira
10 points for atmosphere, but almost none for seating space (!) in TimeOut’s new offering in Lisbon. This classy cafeteria boasts an array of mini market stalls comprising 35 of Lisbon’s best restaurants and cafes, with a pop-up on steroids vibe. The enjoyment factor is real, as you eat surrounded by bustling crowds drinking in the smells of the delicious food on offer and the infectious happiness of locals and tourists alike.
Mercado da Ribeira – Av. 24 de Julho 49 Lisboa, Portugal
Pasteis de Belem
Lisbon is the home to the pasteis de nata, that crunchy, flaky pastry which contrasts with its gooey centre, served best warm. While the complementary pasteis at our hotel got my vote, it is no secret that Pasteis de Belem serves the world’s best – the line is one hundred per cent worth it for the melt in your mouth moment.
Pasteis de Belem – R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Red bus tour
Forget the daggy tourist vibe and give this a red hot go. Lisbon is a sprawling city better known as the ‘city of seven hills’. For this reason alone, a red bus tour is one of the best ways to see everything the city has to offer.
If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, Lisbon is a city of hills, meaning that the any one of the sheer number of rooftop bars in Lisbon offers a great way to see the city in all its glory. Park seems to be the cult favourite, but check out the list above for more options.
Lisbon’s quaint tram system is a beautiful way to get around and see the city. Take Tram 28 for a (sometimes nerve-wracking) tour of Lisbon’s beautiful architecture and laneways and see how its residents really live away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist districts. The route beings at Martim Moniz and ends at the Castelo de Sao Jorge (and therefore is a great way to get up there). Make sure to go earlier in the morning to beat the tourist rush.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
While the Castelo de Sao Jorge is entrenched in Lisbon’s history, I have no doubt that many come here for the views, which stretch out across Lisbon to the 25th April Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril). A must see part of Lisbon’s history. The hilly streets surrounding the Castelo are also littered with cute eateries which are worth a try.
Praca do Comercio
This square is in the heart of Lisbon and is heralded as the gateway to the New World. Whilst in itself a plaza, there is something otherwordly about this majestic feat of architecture.
Elevator de Santa Justa
For views for days over Lisbon’s red roof titles, you cannot go past the Elevator de Santa Justa which gives your daily commute in your office lift a serious run for its money.
Sintra and the Pena Palace
If you fancy a day trip out of Lisbon, take the train to Sintra and the Pena Palace, which looks like something out of a fairy tale.
Principe Real and the LX Factory
For shopping, you can’t go past the area of Principe Real and the LX Factory. Other highlights in the area include Embaixada and 21pr concept store.
Bairro Alto nightlife
Renowned for its nightlife, there a some great places to party in Lisbon. Your best bet is to stroll the streets after dark in Bairro Alto, which come alive with people dancing and partying until the early hours. Rumour has it that the pastei de natas fresh from the bakery as the sun comes up are a great hangover cure, too! Try pink street, lux, urban beach or rive rouge for other options.
Where you choose to stay will very much depend on what you plan to do and your budget. The areas recommended to us were Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto and Principe Real.
We stayed at Lx Boutique Hotel in Baixa and by golly this place is what boutique hotel dreams are made of (did I mention the pasteis de nata were complementary!?). We were lucky enough to stay on the top floor, and our extremely large room (no Parisian style hotel rooms here!) had views for days. The decor is seriously on point and the staff are fantastic. The hotel is also situated a stone’s throw from Bairro Alta, the Mercado da Ribeira, Praca do Comercio and the waterfront. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Other recommendations were the Bairro Alto Hotel or Casa do Principe. If you choose to venture further afield, the recommended hotels in Cascais were Farol, Intercontinental Estoril, Hotel Miragem, Grande Real Villa Italia or Pestana Citdaela Cascais.
-Lost in Esplanada (cafe)
-Mercado da Ribeira
-Cervejaria Ramiro (seafood) – really good
-Confraria do Sushi – fusion sushi
-Praia no Parque
-Pistola y Corazon
-Jose Avillez restaurants: bairro do avillez, mini bar, belcanto, beco cabaret gourmet
-aqua pela barba
-palacio do chiado
-Santini gelato (people rave about this place but honestly it has nothing on Messina)
|ROOFTOP BARS||-Limão at H10 Duque de Loulé|
-Lost in Esplanada Bar
-Sky Bar at Tivoli Lisboa
-Chapito a Mesa
-Portas do Sol
-Bairro do Avillez
-Pasteis de Belem
|DO||-Take a tram ride|
-Visit Pasteis de Belem
-Take a red bus tour
-Visit Sintra and Pena Palace
-Take the Santa Justa Elevator
-Visit Castelo de Sao Jorge
-Visit Jeronimos Monastery
-Take Tram 28
-Enjoy the nightlife in Bairro Alto
-Visit Mercado de Ribiera
-Walk the Alfama District
-Hunt for treasure at Feira da Ladra (Thieves’ Market)
-Stroll the promenade in Belem
-Shop at LX Factory
-Beach it at Cascais, costa da caparica, estoril, guincho, portinho da arrabida or praia da ribeira do cavalo