I always make so many lists when I go abroad of places I want to visit during a trip. I then spend most of my time during the trip making new lists which feature a combination of places I've ticked off the original list, places I walk past and want to come back to later, and/or places I stumble upon spontaneously; compiling all of my favourite places with consideration for others who may one day visit and appreciate some first hand recommendations. I also have good intentions for the list to form the foundations of a blog post on my return, but every time I find I hit the ground running straight into overflowing inboxes and other tasks to make up for lost time, with no chance to look back. So, unsurprisingly, it never happens. This post, however, marks a moment of change.
From day trips and flea markets, to local beaches and the worlds best pasteis de natas, here is a breakdown of my favourite eats, drinks, see's, do's, shop's and stay's during my brief encounter with Lisbon.
You'll struggle to find a bad Pasteis de Nata anywhere in Portugal, I'd imagine, but if it's the best you're looking for, head out of the city to Belem and don't stop until you get to Pasteis de Belem. This place is nothing too fancy; just traditional, affordable and famously delicious. If there's a queue, queue. If you want to take away, take no less than 5 (per person) or you'll be kicking yourself when your only one is over and done with. But if you have the time (and I'd really advise you make the time), find a seat in the back and give these mouthfuls of pure insurmountable pleasure your full attention.
For an authentic Portuegese experience, I can recommend Ribadouro, A Provinciana, A Cervicheria, Cervejaria Do Bairro and Pinóquio. Cervejaria Ramiro is a famous family run seafood restaurant which we had to queue for but was well worth the wait. Peixola is another slightly more modern place for fish (and rum, just FYI), as is Sea Me Paixaria Moderna, which exists to pay tribute to the old fish shops of the city. And finally, Cantinho Do Avillez is also a must; a relaxed atmosphere with unique interiors and a sophisticated and well thought out menu.
For those with allergies / intolerances or other specific requirements, Terra Restaurante offers a pretty authentic and mostly vegan / vegetarian buffet. Cone ou Copo for all your gluten free / dairy free ice cream needs. Pizzaria Lisboa is one of the best pizza's I've ever had, and it was gluten free. Koppu Ramen Food is also lovely if you've tried enough of the local cuisine.
For sweets, Pastelaria Alcoa, a modest bakery chain, has a lot to offer, alongside hundreds of other local pastelarias dotted throughout the city. If you've run down your Pasteis de Nata quota for the day, a selection of handmade chocolates and the most heavenly chocolate cake awaits at Landeau Chocolate.
Topo and The Insolito are both great rooftop spots, if the one thing you want is a perfect view. Both also happen to serve a selection of drinks and amazing food. The Insolito is situated on the edge of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara - a small park with a fountain that occasionally has markets and live music. About as picturesque as it gets.
Next to your list, add Pavilhão Chinês - a really characteristic bar in an old transformed grocery store. The rooms are museum-like - decorated with thousands of antiques and artefacts.
All of the architecture, everywhere. Just walk around, put your phone away and take it all in. Dotted around the city, almost like checkpoints, are a selection of miradouros - which translates literally to mean 'viewpoint'. Basically, they're little spacious areas - often with benches, greenery and occasionally a tiosk selling food and drink - that offer particularly good views / photo opps.
St Jorges Castle in the Alfama district is also a popular site for the best views of the City.
Pay a visit to Basilica de Estrela and be sure to pass by the Santa Justa Lift even if you don’t go up it. We stayed in the Alfama District and would highly recommend just wondering around here enjoying corner cafes, local shops and an endless array of artful exterior tiling.
The Botanical Gardens are also a nice place to take a rest from walking.
Take a short train ride out of the city to Belem and take a stroll through the small town. You’ll find lovely cafes, bars restaurants and stores and the usual lovely architecture. You should also schedule some time for the Jardim Botanico Tropical and if you like art museaums, the MAAT.
Take a day trip to Cascais - also reachable by train - and spend some time wondering through the town until you reach the beaches. There are plenty of places for lunch, lovely traditional stores as well as a small market.
LX Factory is a creative hub on the outskirts of the city. You’ll find all sorts, from antique shops, furniture stores and a holistic therapy cafe and training hub, to cafes, concept stores and artist studios, in an otherwise derelict factory. V inspiring and worth a short taxi ride out of your way.
Lisbon is famous for its jazz, so spend some time researching or asking locals for the best venues in the city. We spent an evening at a really tiny jazz club called Hot Club, with an intimate vibe and cosy atmosphere.
As well as exploring the city centre and the streets lined with local vendors, we found a few special gems during our visit; different to the touristy shops or the usual chains. Fiera da Ladra Flea Market is worth a visit for anyone into vintage anything. Whenever I travel to new places, I try to seek out local markets. It's really wonderful browsing the stalls and provides a lot of culture and tradition in a combination of locally crafted goods and second hand tat. This flea market is huge so allow some time to wonder around. A vida Portuguesa is a huge indoor market selling vintage bits and bobs, from clothes and furniture to collectors items and homeware. Some things are a little pricey but it's lovely to browse if not to buy. There are also some really unique stores and showrooms in the LX Factory (see 'Do').
For food, Time Out Market - an indoor food market, serving fresh hot and cold, ready-to-eat food. You can also pick up groceries or baked goods if you don't want to stop for a meal. They have a great selection of many different cuisines; a combination of fine dining and casual yet creative street food. If you want to buy local groceries to cook back home, Mercado Biologico Do Principe Real is a market selling all the fresh, organic produce you could need.
Whenever I travel, I tend to stay either with friends, in rented apartments or in hostels - especially if I'm travelling alone. I love meeting new people and getting really valuable advice on the area from the locals who live there. During this trip we had a private room in the Alfama Patio Hostel which is really beautiful and has a garden and rooftop. Each morning they made a batch of fresh crepes, included in the price of the room, and all awakened guest gather in the garden to enjoy them together. For anyone booking last minute or on a budget, Lisbon has a pretty strong selection of pretty nice hostels. Otherwise, there are many really lovely hotels and of course Airbnb's a plenty.