The Lisbon City Guide
Happy January y’all! But for real, if the January blues have got you down do what I do and start booking a trip to somewhere warm….like Lisbon!
WHEN I WENT:
October, for 3.5 days. Every single day of the trip was about 25 C/77 F, with the sun shining down all day.
WHERE I STAYED:
Lisbon Story Guesthouse located in the Rossio area of town. The location is highly desirable as it is next National Theatre and within walking distance of the attractions. I booked here because it was on a list of accommodation Lonely Planet recommended and the decent photos and good reviews on TripAdvisor. The price was also nothing to scoff at €50 per night. Long story short, I would not recommend for anyone to stay here. The photos online were misleading and there are many men who loiter outside the entrance all hours of the day and night. Other than the area being convenient to town and the airport, there is nothing else to brag about here.
WHERE I ATE:
MARIA LIMAO – I was extremely hungover when we ate here. We trekked in the heat but oh my goodness was it worth it!! I had the blueberry pancakes that came with yogurt and honey. P had the ham, buttered cheese and tomato toastie. I couldn’t finish all of mine (you get 4 huge pancakes!) so P finished them off and requested we return before we went home to get more pancakes. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back, but you know it was good if you’re willing to trek somewhere again! I think we got out of here for about €11 with our meals and a lemonade.
BROOKLYN – If I lived in Lisbon this would be my go-to brunch spot. The two women working (I think they were the owners) were on it! The menu is extensive which made it hard to choose what we wanted. We eventually settled on the salami, cheddar cheese, gherkins (pickles), arugula (rocket), and tomato bagel and the chicken, tomato and oregano sandwich. We chose correctly, both were scrumptious! Get yourself a typical Portuguese latte too while you’re at it – you won’t be disappointed.
ZENITH – BRUNCH & COCKTAILS – This was the most hipster (and most expensive brunch at €25) place we visited which was a nice change from Dublin and the never-ending hipster pop up places. We had the eggs benedict with smoked salmon and eggs zenith. Both were so good. The freshly squeezed OJ was unreal and I loved that their iced coffee actually had ice in it – a rarity in most of Europe!
MANTEIGARIA– When in Portugal you HAVE to try the famous Portuguese egg tart, pastel de nata. I think I had 4 or 5 of these in the short time we were in town and it doesn’t hurt that they were only €1 each. I know Pastéis de Belém is also extremely popular for their pastel de natas but we did not visit Belém during our time in Lisbon.
SANTINI CHIADO– Another sweet treat to indulge in in Lisbon. The strawberry gelato was unbelievably fresh and reminded me of my favourite smoothie flavour (Stawberry X-Treme) from Smoothie King back home. Anything that gives me nostalgia will always win me over.
SOLAR 31 – We saved this for our dinner on our last night and we could not have asked for a better send off. I have been wanting to try octopus for ages and I finally got it here. I loved it! P had a steak and that was delicious as well. With two mains, a bottle of wine, and a dessert, we made it out of here for less than €70. The interior isn’t the nicest I’ve ever seen but the service is impeccable. Highly, highly recommend.
COZINHA DA ESTACAO – We saw a lot of people (people who looked local!) eating here one night while having drinks at The Beer Station. We decided to give it a go for dinner too and we were not disappointed. The tuna they bring out with the bread to start was delicious – I could have eaten that as a meal on its own! We sat outside and were in time for happy hour which includes €4 gin and tonics. We had the duck and the chicken – both were very tasty, but the chicken was better. Sit outside if you can.
BAIRRO DO AVILLEZ – This had really good reviews, so I added it to our list of potential restaurants early in my trip-planning. We had the beefsteak sandwich and the Iberian pork steak sandwich. Both were very good, but very small! I would say skip here for dinner (our mistake!) but do come for a light lunch or small snack.
BONJARDIM– We ate here on our first night and thankfully our meals improved from here. The prawns here were so fresh, even P liked them, and he is not a huge seafood fan. We also got the cod since I read everywhere you must have cod in Portugal. It was very salty! The service also wasn’t fantastic. I would skip here if visiting.
MERCADO DA RIBEIRA (Time Out Market) – This is basically a not as cool version of San Miguel Market in Madrid. We had the “Yuppie” meat sandwich from O Prego Da Peixaria. It was a bit pricey (€9.50) compared to other spots we ate in town.
WHERE I DRANK:
PORTAS DO SOL- The views here are gorgeous, and the drinks are strong. A nice place to rest your legs from all those hills!
O PURISTA– We stumbled on this while making our way to ‘dinner’ at Bairro do Avillez. We weren’t quite ready for dinner yet, so we decided to check it out. This was such a unique find! In the front there is an old school barber, then a little bar/hang out area, and a finally a pool table. The selection isn’t huge, but they had Lagunitas, so I was a happy girl.
PARK – I saw this bar listed on nearly every guide I consulted, and it was recommended to me by every basically person I know who has visited Lisbon. What’s funny though is that on almost every guide, Park is described as a secret bar that only locals go to. If that’s the case, why does every white girl (myself included!) have it on their Lisbon guide? This would be cool if you were 21 and going with your girlfriends or if you have a trust fund.
GROOVE BAR – Like O Purista, we found this bar by chance. We were walking around during the day and found it, but it wasn’t open yet. It looked cool, so I looked it up and after seeing some good reviews we visited again at night. The drinks here were good, staff was super nice, and the atmosphere was cool. We went on a weeknight, so it wasn’t insanely busy which I appreciated in my old age, lol. I say it would be a busy spot on the weekends, but it is worth a visit no matter what night of the week you find yourself in Lisbon.
CAVE ROCK BAR – Groove Bar wasn’t open right when we got there so we found Cave Rock Bar at the corner and stopped in. This is definitely a bar I wouldn’t have gone to on my own or put on the list, but it was so good. It was quiet while we were there but the girls working were really nice and the drinks were cheap and high quality. Can’t really ask for more than that, can yah?
GINGINHA DO CARMO – This sour cherry liquor is native to Portugal and you have to try it when you’re there! There are a lot of these shops around town and some old women sell it on the street to make extra money. I particularly liked this shop because you could get the shot served in a chocolate shot glass! A normal shot is €1.35, and a chocolate shot is €1.65.
DUQUE BREWPUB – If you are a fan of craft beer then you have to have Duque on your list. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat outdoors, make sure to grab it! The location is off a huge set of steps, so you’ll be at a table on the steps – perfect if you love people watching like I do.
THE BEER STATION – Hands down, the winner of the pubs for us in Lisbon. We came here multiple times throughout our trip. The pints here were affordable for some quality Portuguese craft beer. This is right next to Cozinha da Estacao so if you end up having dinner there you should treat yourself to a pint here after.
CHEERS IRISH PUB – Sorry not sorry that we went to an Irish pub on our holidays when we were already drunk. It is an unwritten rule that the Irish go to an Irish pub no matter where they are. In our defence though, we only stayed for one drink! This was in what P and I assumed to be, Ironically enough, their version of Temple Bar.
WHAT I DID:
When doing research for activities to do and sights to see in Lisbon I kept seeing day trips. Day trips specifically to Belém and Sintra. Sintra looked gorgeous but neither of us were too bothered by the idea of a day trip. After visiting Lisbon, I can now see why so many Lisbon guides suggest a day trip – there is not that much to do in Lisbon. Most of what I have here is not exciting, but I wasn’t looking for that on this trip.
MERCADO DA BAIXA – I am not actually sure if this market is up all the time, but it was full of food, shops, and drinks. It is in the Rossio part of town and well worth a gander if you’re around there. I tried the famous vinho verde here and it was highly enjoyable!
TRAM 28 – We didn’t ride this because it was always packed. I had also read that many locals use this tram and get annoyed with tourists coming on it. I saw it go by plenty of times and it was uncomfortably full. Do it if you want but I was happy to not be crowded on a hot tram with strangers.
SE DE LISBOA - The Lisbon Cathedral, is the oldest church in the city is the see of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. I am not Catholic but there is something so gorgeous about Catholic churches to me. If you like visiting churches for architecture, religion reasons, etc. be sure to pop in, it’s free!
FEIRA DA LADRA – This is meant to mean “thieves’ market” and I would have to agree with that. There was a girl who definitely should have been in school walking around with a weapon that had spikes on it trying to rob people. The place was full of crap. If you’re in the market for old Hustler magazines and figurines of pigs with women’s bodies, then this is a dream for you! If you’re normal, avoid it.
PRACA DO COMERCIO – A really nice plaza but beware it is full of men trying to sell sunglasses, selfie sticks, and hash. The bright yellow of the buildings was my favourite part. It is one thing in Lisbon I would say to not miss.
CHIADO – Another plaza. If you’re going to visit one, prioritize Praca do Comercio.
PRACA LUIS DE CAMOES – You guessed it, another plaza! But this one is super close to Manteigaria, so go there and get a pastel de nata and watch Tram 28 go by stuffed full of tourists!
MUSEU DO FADO – Another find we came across just walking around. I am telling you, walking around is the best way to get to know a city and find things you might have missed. The museum explains what fado is, the passion behind it, as well as the cultural and social influence it has had in Portugal. Worth the €5 to learn a bit of history on the local music.
Overall, we found Lisbon to be a cheaper, a lot less stuff to do, version of Rome. If you’re on a budget, Lisbon is an option that won’t break the bank. I wouldn’t be rushing back to Lisbon and if I were to return to Portugal it would be to visit Porto. If you do go to Lisbon, a couple of days will do you. If you stay longer, I would suggest planning a day trip to Sintra to get out of Lisbon and see somewhere else.