It's been a city that's long been on my list of places to travel for a very a very long time. 31 countries in under a decade, I'm not sure what's taken us this long to visit. The wines and Madeira, the history and culture rounding every cobblestone turn, not to mention the beaches, Baroque architecture, and the applause-worthy vivid sunsets... Portuguese perfection at it's best.
Everyone that I know that has been, gushes about it, comparing its similarities to my city by the Bay, San Francisco. Perhaps it's the Golden Gate Bridge that isn't, the cable cars transporting visitors throughout the city, or getting your walking shoes prime for the urban hiking extravaganza through the City of Seven Hills?
Not only is Lisbon laden with charm and friendly people, but there is also cultural and artistic richness here. Experiencing the addictive buzz of this town first hand, I can see the sticking similarities of this old world charming place. Get excited yet again for that glorious feeling of teetering in the unknown – this time, by way of Lisbon.
Mercado da Ribeira ≫ Food tip in #Lisbon? Try everything! From the sweet cherry liquor Ginjinha to the conservas and grilled octopus. And one way to get a taste of it all is the Time Out Market located in Mercado da Riberia. It's a collection of legitimate big deal chefs and purveyors in a boozy food hall near the city’s waterfront. It’s pretty impressive and popular with locals and tourists alike and undoubtedly the least Lisbon-feeling place in the city but a great way to get a sampling of the vibrant foodie scene. It's also a great place to visit on Sunday's when most places are closed. You will also find great local wines as well! If you want some fun little gifts to take home, grab beautifully retro-packaged tins of sardines from the Conserveira de Lisboa. And check out my favorite stand of all – the plants at O Meu Amor e Verde.
If I had to pick one favorite restaurant in Lisbon, 1300 Taberna is it. Located inside Lisbon’s LX Factory, aka the arts district. The grilled octopus and the charcoal-grilled black pork are a must order here. Chef Kiko Martins created A Cevicherria, a Peruvian-inspired ceviche menu with Portuguese flair and a giant octopus hanging from the ceiling, which is pretty rad.
Inside the São Carlos National Theatre in Chiado is Café Lisboa, a beautiful place that is perfect for lunch by Portuguese famous chef José Avillez. A charming space with a beautiful terrace as well. There is also Bairro do Avillez which has been getting a lot of attention for its lively atmosphere, delicious fare. A must try are the giant red shrimps - they won't disappoint. And if you still haven't gotten enough of Avillez, try Cantinho do Avillez for dinner. Simple sophistication. A lovely relaxed dining room and exceptionally friendly staff. The Asian-inspired cuisine here is amazing. I could have chosen one of everything on the menu, it all looked so good (I decided on the scallops (highly recommend), and the meatballs in green curry).
Located in Chiado, Tágide wine and tapas bar is a beautiful tapas bar serves excellent small plates and delicious Portuguese wines. Be sure to try the custard tarts (served warm with cinnamon ice cream). A little pricier, but worth it. For the city’s absolute best seafood, hands down head to Cervejaria Ramiro. This is a Lisbon institution – loved by tourists and locals alike. Simple, but the best. Another Lisbon institution is Pap’açorda which located in Bairro Alto. Head there for dinner. The restaurant was once the ‘it’ place for the media crowd and celebrities around town. Pap’Açorda’s décor is simple and understated, and the food is amazing. Authentic Mexican in a really fun and colorful space in the Cais do Sodré district is Las Ficheras. Come here for quesadillas and muitas margaritas!
Smoothies & Coffee Shops
The coffee culture in a lot of Europe is slowly evolving and Lisbon has sure caught on. For downright delicious coffee head to Cruzes Credo, a casual coffee shop with free wifi and across the street from Se Cathedral. It’s a great place to grab lunch/dinner with many gluten-free options. Pois Cafe also offers great coffee, free wifi and wonderful, casual meals. Enjoy a cup of coffee with house-made almond milk as a milk alternative at The Mill coffee in a minimal, modern, and wonderful setting. They also offer avocado toast, which I've heard is really good! In the Principe Real neighborhood, Copenhagen Coffee Lab is a cool spot with a Nordic-designed interior serving up amazing coffee. If you’re walking north of the city or along Avenida da Liberdade, make sure to stop at Fabrica Coffee Roasters.
Cold-pressed juices and smoothies at Yao Pressed Juicery just west of Bairro Alto. You can make your own juice combo or grab pre-made juices to go (perfect if you have a refrigerator.) The smoothies here are amazing, and so are the nut mylks. Another great option is Liquid Lounge, A small organic juice/smoothie spot that’s got every combo of green juice or fruit smoothie imaginable.
Airbnb ≫ Lisbon seems to be awash in reasonably priced airbnb apartments and I would suggest you take advantage of those options over the hotels. It's a great way to really enjoy the city and immerse yourself the way that the locals do it to book an Airbnb in one of the neighborhoods. Neighborhoods to consider? Lisbon’s Baixa, or ‘downtown’; Alfama the city’s oldest quarter; Bairro Alto the city’s bohemian quarter with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes; Belém a historic suburb with a lot of culture.
Palacio Belmonte ≫ For high-end historical luxury that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, the Palacio Belmonte is a 15th century palace-turned-guest house. Tucked away in the streets of Alfama, right up by the Castelo de São Jorge (atop the highest hill in Lisbon), this enchanted palace-style accommodation is run by a charming husband and wife team, and makes for a truly memorable experience.
The Independente ≫ Affirming Portugal’s reputation as having the best budget accommodation in Europe, these neighboring late-19th-century mansions in a premium location on the border of the Bairro Alto & Principe Real districts, were stylishly converted in 2011. With views over the Tagus river, this lovely hotel is full of classical features – big shuttered windows, high ceilings, vintage furniture, stained-glass windows, floors laid with traditional Portuguese azelujos, and wrought-iron balconies. There is also a stylish in-house restaurant on the ground floor – Decadente – with a modern Portuguese menu, cozy atmosphere and beautiful outdoor courtyard.
Just because! Portugal’s first ever COS (Collection of Style) store is as fresh and beautiful as the rest. COS – the higher-end label of H&M – is full of beautiful and timeless staple pieces – simple, stylish basics – with reasonable, mid-market prices. I can’t walk past one without stopping inside, in any city. Feira da Ladra (“thieves market”) is Lisbon’s biggest flea market, held in Alfama each Saturday morning. Come here for some amazing antique finds. The market starts at the Arco de São Vicente – an arch near where the famous tram 28 stops. With a store in Baixa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros), and one at the Mercado da Ribeira, Conserveira de Lisboa for the most beautifully vintage-packaged tins of sardines. A staple on any Lisbon shopping list, they have been around since 1930s. A perfect gift to take home. In Bairro Alto, this is Portugal’s most famous chocolate brand, Arcádia , created in the city of Porto in 1933. I love the wrapping as much as I love the taste of the chocolate itself. It makes for another perfect gift. Try the port wine flavor! LX Factory. In a far-off corner, somewhere between Lisbon and Belém, an old industrial site has recently been converted into an exciting new art and design district. A creative hub full of galleries, cafes, bookstores, and clothing boutiques, this is the perfect place to while away a few hours. Shop here, eat here, hang here. I especially love the Ler Devagar bookstore, set amidst an old printing plant, with a little café tucked away amongst the books.
FROLIC + EXPLORE
Belém ≫ A neighborhood famous for its monuments near the river and its pastry stop at Pasteis de Belém. Sit along the river and enjoy the beautiful views of the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge at sunset - the colors are amazing! Tour the monastery Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, one of the oldest in Europe, Torre de Belém, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, and the Centro Cultural de Belém (Contemporary Art Museum). EDP (Lisbon’s Electricity Museum) is worth checking out. this beautiful old power station was once responsible for supplying Lisbon with all its electricity.
Principe Real/Bairro Alto ≫ Walk down Rua da Escola Politecnica, then Rua d.Pedro v. When you’re coming down the hill stop on the left at the ‘miradouro’ to see the views of the city and have a coffee. There are several ‘miradouros’ (lookouts) spread around town with spectacular views and cute little cafes and tables outside. My favorite one in Alfama is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which is located halfway up the hill, at the top of Rua de Augusto Rosa.
Alfama ≫ A very charming, very old part of town (and my favorite) with azulejos (the colored tiles) at every turn. Great photo opportunities. Don’t miss the Castelo de São Jorge (São Jorge Castle) at the top of Alfama for an amazing view of the city.
Chiado/Baixa ≫ Perfect to wander around and explore. Watch the sun go down from Park – a tree-filled rooftop bar, above a parking lot in Chiado, with amazing sunset views, funky tunes, and chilled out vibes.
EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF LISBON
Sintra ≫ One of the most beautiful and poetic places in the world, just a little outside of Lisbon. You will feel as if you are in a fairytale here. Wander around, grab a coffee, do a spot of shopping, and take plenty of photos. Get lost in the magic. A few hours will be enough.
Guincho ≫ A beautiful beach town. Have seafood for lunch at Mar do Inferno. Or drive a little further north to have lunch in Azenhas do Mar - a little cliffside town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which has amazing seafood and stunning views.
Valerie is a San Francisco native who loves overall health and wellness. She content creator and recipe developer, helping brands in the Fitness, Health & Wellness space tell their stories through gluten-free, mostly plant-based food, life + travel.