Lisbon City Guide
Portugal is surely having her moment and there is no better time to go than now. I could have spent a year in Lisbon; the Mediterranean sun overhead, surrounded by the city's charisma, drinking um bica and opening every conservas. But if you only have a short period of time, here are my TOP 5 things you must do in Lisbon:
- Eat as many Pastéis de Nata as you can. At least five per day.
- Use the metro. It is so easy to navigate and can get you across the city in 10 minutes.
- Visit Palácio da Pena and Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra.
- Eat all the seafood at Cervejaria Ramiro. You will most likely have to wait for a table, if so, grab a bottle of Vinho Verde and hang outside until your table is ready.
- Walk from Bairro Alto to Baixa/Chiado and into Alfama, while checking out the endless views and tilework all over the city.
- If you are like me and LOVE fish in a can, stock up at Conserveira de Lisboa, Loja das Conservas or A Vida Portuguesa.
Where to drink coffee + Work (for us digital nomads)
1. Hello, Kristof, R. do Poço dos Negros 103, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
Near Santos neighborhood, Hello, Kristof, offers the most diverse independent magazine collection, great coffee and stellar wifi. This was my favorite place to get some work done and spend time reading.
2. The Mill, R. do Poço dos Negros 1, 1200-335 Lisboa, Portugal
The Mill is a new Australian coffee shop near Bairro Alto. I found it the perfect place
to take a break from the city, catch up on emails, and enjoy shockingly delicious coffee. On the menu you’ll find everything from espresso made with a white La Marzocco to classic avocado toast and a collection of Vinhos Verdes.
Don't forget to look in the back right corner of the restaurant where they sell hand painted ceramic pieces, only found at The Mill.
3. Copenhagen Coffee Lab, R. Nova da Piedade 10, 1200-298 Lisboa, Portugal
This white space with a Nordic design is a great spot for coffee lovers or for those only looking for a conversation and maybe reading a book.
Their coffee is roasted and prepared in Copenhagen.
4. Heim Cafe, Rua Santos-O-Velho, 2 e 4, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal
Another wifi friendly gem in Lisbon. Great coffee, beautiful lighting and healthy eats.
Where to Eat
1. Pastéis de Belém, R. Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Ok, not technically a restaurant, but you cannot visit Lisbon without trying the famous “Pastéis de Belém” (egg custard tart) and here you can have the original ones made since 1837. Don’t get scared by the line at the door. It’s only for to-go orders. If you want to sit and enjoy this typical pastry you find a place in one of the many rooms. Served warm right out of the oven, they are the best when eaten with sugar and cinnamon.
Pastel de Nata exist all over the country and there are versions of these sweets in almost every city in Portugal, but the Belém Pastry only exists in Belém and its secret recipe guarantees a unique and unforgettable culinary experience.
2. Café na Fábrica, Lx Factory, Edifício E, R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300-501 Lisboa, Portugal
Escape the city at Café na Fábrica's beautiful outdoor patio. Under the trees, enjoy a delicious daily menu, fresh juices and lemonades.
3. Mercado da Ribeira, 481,, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
Open since 1882, Mercado da Ribeira is one of the most typical markets in Lisbon. Gaining new life in 2014, the location is now boasts 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops, a high-end music venue, and home to some of the city's best known (and longest-running) market vendors of meat, fish, fruit and flowers.
Suggestion: Grab a glass of Branco Alentejo at the wine bar and stroll the perimeter, taking it all in. Grab another glass and a seat, then wait in line at Michelin Star chef Alexandre Silva's stall. The menu is ridiculously inexpensive so order away.
4. Cervejaria Ramiro, Av. Almirante Reis nº1 - H, 1150-007 Lisboa, Portugal
Just down the street from our airbnb was Cervejaria Ramiro. Besides my family's Crab Cioppino recipe, this was the best seafood meal I have ever had. Growing up on Tomales Bay oysters and Bodega Bay dungeness crab, this is saying a lot. The menu is extensive and you'll want to order just about everything, don't hold back.
Our favorites included:
Edible Crab (Sapateira): I thought this crab was similar to dungeness but smaller. It arrives with a little white mallet which I used to shatter the shell and spray crab juice all over my parents (sorry Mom, I had to)! What I haven't had before was the body: Ramiro serves a sauce (in the shell, no less) made with the fat and body meat, perfect for dipping your bread in.
Steamed Clams in Garlic(Ameijoa à Bulhão Pato): Served in a copper pot filled with a garlicky broth.
Goose barnacles (Percebes): These barnacles literally look like dinosaur toes. They are steamed but served cold, and require a bit of peeling. It's all well worth the effort for the briny, delicious neck meat.
Giant Tiger Prawns: Sold by the kilo and doused in butter.
What to Do
Bairro Alto was once a place of bohemian lifestyle and artists. Its labyrinth streets are filled with the best of Portuguese traditions and will take you up to beautiful Príncipie Real.
The “Elevador da Bica” or Bica Lift, is an old funicular that goes up from Cais do Sodré to Bairro Alto passing through the Bica Neighborhood in-between. This place has one of the best “postcard” views you can find in the city. It can be filled with tourists, but it’s worth the visit.
For the best view in Lisbon, just north of Bairro Alto, visit Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. You can also have a drink at the kiosk or take a seat on one of the benches just admiring the view.
One of the trendiest areas of the city, you can enjoy the historic center of Baixa alongside the lively, metropolitan restaurants and shops of Chiado.
Start at Praça de Camões, at the top of the Elevador da Bica. Be sure to pop into Manteigaria for warm, fresh out of the oven pastel de nata. The pastries are made right in front of you and are served until midnight: enjoy one at the counter or take them home in a box.
Continue down to Rua Garret where you can sit near the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa at Largo do Chiado Fernando and have a coffee at A Brasileira before visiting Livraria Bertrand, one of the oldest bookstores in the world. Take a small detour in Rua Anchieta to find some vintage and typical products from Portugal at A Vida Portuguesa and grab a craft brew next door at Kaffeehaus Lisboa. Down Rua Garret you’ll find the shopping centre Armazéns do Chiado. If you have time, go up to Largo do Carmo where you’ll find the ruins of the old Igreja do Carmo (after the earthquake from 1755). Behind the church there’s the “Elevador de Santa Justa” that will take you down to Rossio and can offer an amazing panorama of downtown Lisbon.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe, Alfama is ancient and enchanting. It’s the ideal place to listen to Fado in one of the typical restaurants and admire the Portuguese lifestyle in these streets full of tradition. You can stop by the Lisbon Cathedral, or try to squeeze yourself onto Tram 28. I suggest not, instead, take the day to walk around, get lost, and wander the narrow streets while stopping for wine at hidden cafes. You won't regret it.
For a view, Portas do Sol has the best view over Alfama and take in the beauty of this neighborhood. It’s the perfect place to stop before continuing exploring Alfama.
On Tuesday and Saturday mornings at Campo da Santa Clara, check out Feira da Ladra, a typical flea market selling everything from antiques and linens to the most obscure oddities.
You can take a train from Lisbon to Sintra, a historic village 30 minutes away. While you’re there visit Palácio Da Pena and its gardens full of beautiful architecture, secret underground pathways, fountains and mountain views.
Built in 1836 by D. Fernando II, it’s the most notable example of Portuguese architecture in the Romantic period and is the main attraction in Sintra. The entire town of Sintra is worth your 30 minute ride away from Lisbon.
On your way to Palácio da Pena you can stop at Castelo dos Mouros, the medieval Moorish castle. Once in Palácio da Pena, be sure to explore all the corners, pay attention to all the small architectural details and enjoy the breathtaking view from up the hill.
If you have a car, it's incredibly easy to get to Sintra. We found parking on the street in the old town and caught the bus up to Palácio da Pena.
When you need a break from the city, you have Cascais just 30 minutes away. The perfect beach town with fresh seafood, order the local Dourada and lay in the sand. Enough said.