Weekend guide to Lisbon. Eat & Fall in Love
Updated: 3 days ago
How to utilise 3 - 4 days in Portuguese capital (which is officially not recorded as capital, but it is assumed capital - a fun fact) and see as much as possible but also enjoy some good food and atmosphere of the city? I have tried to include most important information for you based on my experience.
Lisbon is such a beautiful city and such a great surprise in terms of travel. It is currently my favourite city in Europe I've visited so far. You may ask why? Well, first of all it's fairly small and you can visit main areas of interest by walk or by bike or scooter. Secondly; the food, especially sea food, is delicious and fresh and I cannot compare to anywhere else. My theory is that the sea food and fish come from fresh and cold Atlantic water which gives the fish and sea food distinctive flavour. Thirdly, the nightlife atmosphere of the city is so enchanting and vibrant, you want to stay up all night.
When going to Lisbon I would suggest to choose a hotel in a good location, preferably close to Barrio Alto, Cais do Sodre (these two are party hubs) or Chiado, Baixa or Alfama, alternatively if you want to also be close to shopping district and still close to the rest of the neighbourhoods The Avenida da Liberdade may be an area for you. This way you can visit majority of sites on foot or rent a bike and cycle between them.
Start your day with visiting Belem, which is a bit further away from central Lisbon, you can get there with Tram 15, bus 728 or Hop on & off bus. Apart from Belem Tower which is one of the most famous landmarks of Belem with beautiful Arabic influenced architecture, The Jeronimo Monastery is worth a visit too with it's complex and extravagant architecture funded by the 5% tax levied on spices that flowed into Portugal. It's a huge complex and so you will need time to wander throughout. As you leave Monsatery on the opposite side of the road, you will find the Discoveries Monument (The Padrão dos Descobrimentos). Another of Lisbon's landmarks honouring the great Portuguese explorers, as well as promoting national self-confidence. There's also a viewing platform available for 5 euro. Walk along the river to get to Belem tower.
Once you are back from sightseeing, you must stand in the queue to get Pasties de Belem, from a fabrica and cafe of the same name which is home of delicious tart - widely known as Pasties de Nata. But this place was the first one to create those delicacies in 1837 and they keep the secret recipe that every other bakery tries to copy without success. That bakery shop sells 20,000 of them a day and don't be scared by the long queues - they have 3 tills serving and they are quite efficient. I can tell you it will be worth the wait.
Random fact: Many of the traditional Portuguese cakes and tarts have sweet yolk based fillings and originate from bakeries that were close to major monasteries. The reason is that the egg whites were used by the monks to starch religious clothes, giving the yolks free to the bakeries close by. Hence the home of the Pastéis de Belem is next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos!
Random food fact: All other pasties from other patisseries in Lisbon, from other areas of Portugal or even exported to other countries are called Pastéis de Nata. The recipe varies, the ingredients too. Some are more crispy, some are softer. That does not mean they are better or worse... they just are not Pastéis de Belém. Those are absolutely unique in the world! Such is the fame and historical and almost cultural value of Pastel de Belém, that it was elected one of the 7 Wonders of Gastronomy of Portugal, in 2011.
If you visit Belem in the morning, there's a great restaurant just on the corner of the street overlooking the monastery. It's run by father and son. The fish is fresh and delivered daily from fishermen and steak is delicious there too, and you can enjoy seating outside to catch some sun rays.
Belem is also a house of many museums so if you are interested in visiting museum this district have plenty of them. Belem area is also a house to a striking pink palace - Palacio de Belem which is a presidential palace. (not a big fan of pink but if you are this might be your photo opportunity).
Once at the Praca do Commercio, you will see a huge archway - Arc the Triumph, walking under the arch you will find yourself on a busy pedestrian street with a lot of street performers, shops, restaurants, and patisserie shops every few meters (literally) serving pasties de nata and all other sorts of delicious pastries. At the very beginning of this street you will find little huts with local producers of cheese, wine, and cured meat, of course I got tempted and end up buying wine to take home :) After 5 minute walk on your left hand side you will see Elevator De Juste - which is a great view point for the city. You do have to stand in a long queue, not only because it is a great view point and popular tourist attraction, but also because the lift is old and the mechanism used in it is slow. So it takes time to go up and down.
If you would like to have a beautiful overview of Lisbon catch Tram 28 (the older and seen on many tourist souvenirs) or Tram 15 they both cover majority of Lisbon's landmarks. Tram 28 takes you up the hill to St Georges Castle which again is a great view point for the city but you need to pay to enter. Sunset there looks amazing. Few streets down from St George's Castle there is another view point that is free of charge and also provides fantastic views - Mirador Portas do Sol overlooking the rooftops and river - great for golden hour and sunsets.
Moving back to Alfama neighbourhood, Praca de Commercio and adjecent promende along the river is a great place to hang around in the evening - there's a lot of artists playing their music, as well as bars with DJs. You can sip a cocktail admiring the sunset over the river Taugus.
I have booked a fabulous hotel @lxboutique which turned out to be just next to pink street that appears on all Instagram feeds from Lisbon - totally by accident, in fact I chose the hotel because I liked the fact it was boutique hotel with blue facade and had blue rooms (added as a visual bonus which is my favourite colour - don't worry I don't chose hotels based on colour). I recommend it without hesitation, the service was perfect, and the rooms fantastic. So when my hubby and I decided to just go and check the pink street, we found out that at night it is quite a lively place with nice little restaurants. We were so tempted we ended up tasting sardines in olive oil and mackerels pate with almonds with crispy Portuguese white wine. The place we visited and I wholeheartedly recommend is called @solepesca and the menu comes on a fishing rod - I am a sucker for details like that - I was sold!
If you are around Cais do Sodre metro station, just short walk to the left you will find a Time Out Market, which I was a bit sceptical at first. I thought that if it was advertised by Time Out it might be pricey, not good quality, and overrated. I could not be more wrong. We went there as a recommendation from the local guide we had during our Sintra trip. He said that as a local he often eats lunch there. Fantastic food offering, great wine and you can try variety of the dishes. There are 5 stands at the back of the market (not along the market - I hope it does makes sense when you get there) that are said to be the best 5 and recommended by locals. We dined at 2 of them and were not disappointed at all. I still remember the taste of seafood risotto with sword fish and fantastic tuna tartare. Don't skip this place!
We also did a hop on & off tour - just one round to get an overview of the city, it's a great way to go to north side of the city along the residential area as far as Eduardo VII park and Ritz Hotel. If you would like to have an overview of Lisbon's neighborhoods - that's a great option as well.
Lastly, I would love to recommend a dinner at seafood restaurant Ramirez, usual waiting time is 40 mins if not more. But the owners took care of this inconvenience for their patrons and are offering a draft beer for 2 Euros to sip on the waiting line outside the restaurant. It's not a fancy place, nor the service is 5* excellence, but this place is a kind of an institution - I think. It's on a pricier side, so if you have some euros to spent make sure you go there. Two of my Portuguese colleagues told me to go there for my birthday celebration dinner - I listened and went. I did not regret at all - it was fantastic and the seafood is to die for!
Wishing you a beautiful travels,