Lisbon, That Mysterious Girl in Class

Torre de Belém

At first I hated her.  Her dimples were lopsided on one cheek to another, she had a capricious mood where she would shed quiet tears from time to time and then be happy again, she was an inch taller than me, and her eyes were grey.

But the more you become familiar with her, the more you start to find her romantic and magical.

Her imperfections make her seem raw and wanting to be loved, a vulnerability.  She’s mysterious, and wants somebody to explore her, somebody who loves her more and more because that somebody finds her edges and imperfections so… perfect.

And the more you spend time with her, the more she opens up to you.  She uncovers what you always loved – food, restaurants, energy, atmosphere, gorgeous skies, nightlife, districts, exotic languages, and her elegant body.

Her name was Lisbon, or Lisboa for what her friends called her.  She offered everything, from lust to everlasting.

Lisbon was always that mysterious girl who was constantly overshadowed by the popular girl in class, yet you somehow knew that underneath her mysterious demeanour, she was a fun, positive, raw and edgy person.

And as just described, those lopsided dimples represented the cobbled steps you see everywhere.  Her capricious mood represented the slight rain showers and the sunshine that would peek out from the clouds.  Her eyes were grey meaning that the weather wasn’t the best.  And the fact that she was taller than me represented that often times you have to look up, because Lisbon was a hilly city just like San Francisco.

Bear in mind that most of the time I was in Lisbon, it was mainly for Web Summit 2019, and I covered it in a separate blog post at Web Summit 2019 – To Go Or Not To Go.  Even some of the nightlife fun can be found in that blog post.  This post mainly focused on the free weekend I had and some of the afternoons and evenings after the Web Summit events.

 

Accommodation (Airbnb)

I stayed at an Airbnb near the subway station of Terreiro do Paço.  I chose this place as I thought it was near the major districts of Lisbon such as Baixa-Chiado and Alfama, and that it was one or two train stations away from the Web Summit event.  I was rather confused at first because I thought I would be one or two SUBWAY stations away from the Web Summit venue, but actually it was one or two RAILWAY stations away, so I had to figure out how to use the railway system as well.

I would agree that it’s rather convenient, and at least it wasn’t located on the hills or something.  The place was spacious, it had a washing machine since I ran out of clean clothes for 3+ weeks of vacation, and the whole place was tidy.  Plus as you will find out reading below, there were a lot of restaurants nearby.

Lisbon AirbnbLiving Room

Lisbon AirbnbBedroom

Lisbon AirbnbShower

Let me also show you the area where I lived, which was near the subway station Terreiro do Paço.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Terreiro do Paço

Terreiro do Paço

Terreiro do Paço

Terreiro do Paço

Terreiro do Paço

 

Transportation

Terminal Rodoviário Sete Rios.From Faro, I took a bus to get to here, which was Terminal Rodoviário Sete Rios, and then I switched to get on a subway train

Lisboa Santa ApolóniaNear Lisbon’s Santa Apolónia station, the closest railway station to me which was about a 12 minute walk

There were also subway trains and buses that you can take, both convenient depending on where you were going.

 

Restaurants and Food

In general, the food I had in Lisbon was pretty good, but nothing spectacular.  I didn’t set a goal to find good restaurants around there, and mainly was stuck choosing the restaurants nearby my Airbnb, due to factors such as time and how I was feeling (tired or sick).  Anyway, let me share with you where I ate, where some places were known for Portuguese’s staple food, and some were more about entertainment and fun.

 

Martinho Da Arcada (website)

A restaurant located nearby the Praça do Comércio, this restaurant has been serving Portuguese cuisine and staple food, coffee, cakes, and fish dishes since 1782.  It’s an interesting place to go in the morning, which was when I went, because there you’d see many locals standing to enjoy a cup of coffee.  For me, I came here because it was popular for serving their Portuguese tart, so I was there for breakfast once.

Martinho Da Arcada

Martinho Da ArcadaOn the left you can see people standing around

Martinho Da Arcada

Martinho Da ArcadaPortuguese tart, coffee, and a sandwich with scrambled eggs and two sausages.  The taste was okay; I find the sandwich not particularly fitting to my tastes

 

Canto Saudade (website)

A restaurant that’s also located nearby my Airbnb, I was waiting for my washing machine to finish doing the laundry, and decided to come here for a quick bite.  I didn’t eat much that night, but anyway I did still have a pleasant meal.  I felt that the ambience was quite nice, as I was sitting outside.  I didn’t go inside the restaurant, but it looked quite relaxing as well.  What’s also cool about the place is that by sitting outside, there was a bit of a romantic vibe to it.  And it is good for people watching as well when they walk past the streets.

Canto SaudadeMenu of the dessert

Canto SaudadeSaudade’s hot chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream

Canto SaudadeCodfish Brás style.  Codfish is a signature of Portuguese cuisine, so this was not the only time I had codfish.  I liked this style of cooking!  Although as you can see from the photo, the portion was a tad small, so I was a bit hungry throughout the evening.

 

Time Out Mercado Da Ribeira (website)

This Time Out Market Lisboa was started by the actual Time Out Magazine team and it brought this place alive back in 2014.  The concept was to bring together the city’s best vendors, restaurants, food, and bars and have them convene into one place.  This has transformed the Cais do Sodré into a much more bustling area.  For more of the concept, you can read about it on their Concepts page.

Time Out Mercado Da Ribeira

Time Out Mercado Da RibeiraMassive amounts of people.  Right in the center of it all was a dance floor for partners and couples to dance, very lively and entertaining this place was

Time Out Mercado Da RibeiraCodfish, cream and pennyroyal infusion, with sweet Potato Chips, dehydrated Olive sand from the vendor Cozinha Da Felicidade

Time Out Mercado Da RibeiraAlso from Cozinha Da Felicidade, should be Iberian Pork Croquettes

Time Out Mercado Da RibeiraGet your food and pick a place to sit

Time Out Mercado Da RibeiraFrom Miguel Castro e Silva.  Got the Octopus Filet with Pepper Rice (left, and not so good) as well as some tomato soup (also not very good).  Actually what’s funny is that the server here told me about how Lisbon is famous for codfish, but actually Lisbon doesn’t have any codfish or catch any codfishes themselves; they are all imported, and usually from Norway.

 

Pastelaria Santo António (Facebook)

I believe this was after visiting St. George’s Castle, while walking down the hill and going back to Airbnb, I noticed a lot of people were stopping by here for Portuguese tart, so again I stopped by here to sample some of their Portuguese tart.  Quite honestly, I liked the tart here more than at Martinho Da Arcada.

Pastelaria Santo António

Pastelaria Santo António

 

Baixamar (Facebook)

Again a restaurant located 5 mins away from my Airbnb, this restaurant was a seafood restaurant.  Quite possibly the best meal I had was at this place.  In fact, it was the only place where I had to wait around 15-20 minutes, and the waiter was so kind that he offered a complimentary free wine glass for me while I was waiting.  Worthy to check it out if you’re nearby the area.

Baixamar

Baixamar

BaixamarDon’t let this photo fool you… this place was packed once I sat down!  And some people went out for a smoke…

Baixamar“Baixamar” style seafood soup

BaixamarOysters

BaixamarBeef “pica pau” (beef strips sautéed in olive oil with white wine, garlic oil and a secret ingredient)

BaixamarPortuguese style mussels

 

O Cofre (website)

Another restaurant that was literally 2 mins away from my Airbnb.  I’ve had this both times, and both times it was for breakfast only since it was one of the few places that opened early.  Slightly pricey, but it’s breakfast.  I would say it’s a good place just for a quick breakfast if you’ve got somewhere else to go afterwards.

O Cofre

O Cofre

O CofreEnglish breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon

O CofreThe day I was leaving Lisbon, I had Portuguese tart one last time and espresso

O CofreAND also a ham and cheese toast

 

Solar Dos Bicos (website)

I got to Lisbon I think late in the afternoon, and for some reason I was starving… possibly I didn’t had lunch yet?  I got to the back of the Airbnb at around 3pm, where I was waiting for my airbnb host, and by the time we sorted everything and after I was settled in, I was only eating my lunch at 4pm.  Therefore, I picked somewhere close to my Airbnb once again, and yes this would make this my first meal in Lisbon.

Solar Dos Bicos

Solar Dos BicosLike the décor, with the shades of blue for the wall décor, illustrations of Lisbon, and blue table cloths.  The whole atmosphere lends itself to a very traditional Portuguese vibe

Solar Dos BicosOctopus; I quite liked it!

Solar Dos BicosChicken pasta

 

Duetos da Sé (website)

As you can probably guess, this was also ANOTHER restaurant located nearby my Airbnb!  I chose this restaurant remembering that it was at the back of my Airbnb and that there was Faro music during the evening.  Unfortunately, I didn’t last long enough until the Faro performance started, which was at around 10 or 10:30pm, and I left 30 minutes earlier, as I had already finished my courses and I was feeling rather unwell and decided meh, I would just listen to Faro music on YouTube.

In terms of the food I ate in Lisbon, this was probably more suited for the “fine dining” experience I had.  The food here was alright, and I think if you stayed for the Faro music, the experience would have been great.  The service was also good too.  I would recommend this place if you were around the area.

Duetos da Sé

Duetos da Sé

Duetos da SéCreme do Dia / soup of the day

Duetos da SéPastel de Bacalhau; or in English fried codfish cakes

Duetos da SéPolvo à Lagareiro, or otherwise known as Octopus.  So yes once again, I ordered the two staples of Lisbon food – codfish, and octopus.

 

Pasteis de Belem (website)

On their website, they claim to be the first ones to recreate the Pastéis de Belém since 1837 from a secret recipe and has been using this recipe to recreate their bakery goods.  Located near the Belem station, where you will pass by it when you visit the Jerónimos Monastery as well as the Torre de Belém.  When I went, there was a queue going on, about 10-15 minutes or so, but I’d say well worth the wait for these amazing Portuguese tarts.

Pasteis de Belem

Pasteis de BelemThe line

 

Vella Café

Located near the Belém Tower, this was probably one of the more mundane meals that I picked, just something I saw nearby Google Maps that was close by and didn’t give a worth about what to eat.  It’s sort of like Panda Express, where you had two options of what you wanted to put on your tray, along with some rice, and it’s worth 12 Euros already.  The food was okay and bland, nothing noteworthy.

Vella CaféThe atmosphere was pretty nice though

 

Other restaurants I passed by but didn’t dine in

Espada Restaurante BarEspada Restaurante Bar

Cantina PeruanaCantina Peruana

 

Things to Do and See

As far as sightseeing goes, I have to say that Lisbon’s tourist attractions pales in comparison to other major tourist cities like Rome and Madrid.

 

Ride Tram 28

Tram 28 is most notable for a tram that passes through many of the touristy districts such as Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela.  While I didn’t ride the tram, I saw one passing by while I was heading down from some Miradouro (viewpoint) spots.  The tram I saw looked incredibly packed.  It didn’t look comfortable, but anyway just in case you do decide to ride the tram.

Tram 28

Tram 28

 

Miradouros

There were a couple of sunset spots in Alfama and Graca that I went to that you can observe a beautiful sunset while overlooking the city.

Miradouro das Portas do SolMiradouro das Portas do Sol

Miradouro da GraçaMiradouro da Graça

 

Churches and Cathedrals

With over 81% of people practicing Roman Catholic Christians, there’s bound to be a significant amount of cathedrals and churches sprawling across the city.  Here are a few that I either went to or passed by.

Lisbon CathedralLisbon Cathedral

Lisbon CathedralAlso Lisbon Cathedral

Igreja de São MiguelIgreja de São Miguel

Igreja de Santa LuziaIgreja de Santa Luzia

 

Praça do Comércio

Also known as Terreiro do Paço, this place was the location of the Royal Ribeira Palace until it was decimated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

Praça do Comércio

Terreiro do Paço

Arco da Rua AugustaJust across is the Arco da Rua Augusta

Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio

 

Visit the Alfama District

AlfamaA lot of cobbled steps and slopes when I was walking up to go to the Miradouro.

 

Visit the Graca District

I took a bus from Santa Apolónia train station to get to the Graca District, which I arrived within about 10 or so minutes.  To be quite honest, I didn’t find anything particularly interesting or noteworthy at Graca district.  It’s about local food and street art, but to me when I arrived there, the neighborhood felt deprived of tourists.  I would skip if you are in a rush.  You can also visit timetravelturtle.com for more information about the Graca district.

Graca district

Graca district

Graca district

Graca district

Sushi GiroAlso a Sushi Giro, a knockoff version of the three star Michelin restaurant of Sushi Jiro in Tokyo?

 

St. George’s Castle / Castelo de São Jorge (website)

Possibly one of the better things to do in Lisbon this trip was visiting the St. George’s Castle.  One example of why I feel that Lisbon feels like a poorer version of Spain is exemplified in this castle.  St. George’s Castle feels like it is arbitrarily maintained, lacking a lot of historical context within, and a lot of what you see are some of the remaining walls and mainly the views of the city from atop.  As compared to the Royal Palace of Madrid, everything inside is much more well maintained and you can visualise and get a palpable atmosphere of what it was like to live during centuries back.

It wasn’t too easy to navigate to there, especially since I was walking to the area.  I wouldn’t purchase tickets beforehand considering how short the wait was for the queue; probably waited for about 10 minutes or so.

St. George's Castle

St. George's CastleViews from above

St. George's Castle

Casa do LeaoCasa do Leao, this restaurant looks goooood and it’s located inside St. George’s Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's CastleWhat’s good are the walls were still intact

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

St. George's Castle

 

Elevador de Santa Justa (Lisbonlisboaportugal.com for more info of its significance)

Elevador de Santa Justa

 

Praça do Rossio

Praça do Rossio

Praça do Rossio

Teatro Nacional D. Maria IITeatro Nacional D. Maria II

 

Praça do Município

A small but still rather well known square that I happened to pass by while on my way back from Time Out Market Lisbon.

Praça do Município

 

Shopping at Baixa-Chiado

There are a couple of well known chain stores and also shopping malls within Baixa-Chiado that you can visit.  I didn’t do any shopping in Lisbon, but here’s one that I passed by.

Armazéns Do ChiadoArmazéns Do Chiado

Armazéns Do ChiadoArmazéns Do Chiado

 

Visiting Bélem

Bélem is the station where I got off to visit the Torre de Bélem and also the Jerónimos Monastery.  Along the way, besides eating at the Pasteis de Bélem, you will see unique museums, cool boutique restaurants, streets filled with colorful houses, and beautiful gardens.

BelemRight after you get off the railway train to the Bélem station

Belem

Belem

Picadeiro RealPicadeiro Real, Lisbon’s original coach museum.  The newer one, Museu Nacional dos Coches, is just across the street.

Garden of Alfonso de AlbuquerqueGarden of Alfonso de Albuquerque

Garden of Alfonso de AlbuquerqueGarden of Alfonso de Albuquerque

Garden of Alfonso de AlbuquerqueGarden of Alfonso de Albuquerque

Praça do ImpérioPraça do Império

Lisbon

 

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

So while researching for this blog and trying to recall and match the photos with the places, it looks like that I didn’t even actually go to Jerónimos Monastery!  Instead, I only went to the Igreja Santa Maria de Belém because of the long queue that was outside.  Looking at the photos of Jerónimos Monastery, the cloisters and the environment do not look familiar to me at all.  I am stupid.  It wasn’t the last time I made this mistake, as I also made this mistake in Porto as well.

Anyway the church itself was quite beautiful, although having seen numerous churches across Europe the overall atmosphere was quite familiar, with high ceilings, sunlight seeping through the windows, and a grand interior.

Igreja Santa Maria de BelémThe entrance from afar

Igreja Santa Maria de BelémThis was the long queue that tricked me

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

Jerónimos MonasteryAnd actually the Jerónimos Monastery, which was right next door ><

 

Torre de Belém / Belem Tower

Just a few minutes walk from Jeronimos Monastery is this beautiful Belem Tower.  It looks like a lone warrior standing bravely amongst the mighty ocean.

Torre de Belém

Belém TowerSome views nearby the Belem Tower

Belém Tower

Belém Tower

Belém Tower

 

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

And again just a few minutes away from the Belem Tower is this monument to celebrate the Portuguese Age of Discovery from the 15th to 16th Century.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Belém TowerSay hi!

Belém Tower

 

Museu Coleção Berardo (website)

Another one of my favorite activities while in Lisbon, Museu Coleção Berardo wasn’t actually on my itinerary, but it happened to be a museum that I was curious enough to explore after my visit to Santa Maria de Belem on the way to Belem Tower, and seeing that it was contemporary art, I said, “Why not?”

There didn’t seem to be many tourists at all, mainly school kids who were out on school day trips.  I was quite surprised that not more tourists stop by here, seeing how close it was and how the artwork was actually quite impressive.

It is not free to get in and you have to pay to visit the museum.  It will take you about 1.5 hours to see the museum.

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção BerardoRecovering Oblivion

Museu Coleção BerardoSome temporary exhibition about two naked guys posing while floating in cultural settings

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção BerardoAnd back to normal.

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo

 

Nightlife in Lisbon

While I covered some of the nightlife districts and places in my Web Summit blog, which you can read about there such as the Pink Street and the bars near the waterfront harbour, I also went to a few other places too.

BacchanalBacchanal (Time Out Magazine)

BacchanalThe bartender over here recommended me to try the Diplomatico, which is now one of my favorite rum

Some Bar in Baixa-Chiado

Some Bar in Baixa-ChiadoSome bar in Baixa-Chiado but I forgot the name

 

In summary, despite how mysterious and enchanting this Lisbon girl was, I’m still in favor of the most popular girl in the class.  The tourist attractions, food, and atmosphere were better in cities like Madrid and Rome.

For those who’ve been to different cities in Europe, what is your opinion of Lisbon as compared to other European cities?

 

Other things I wrote down while researching:

Things to Do

  • Lisbon Oceanarium*
  • National Museum of Ancient Art
  • National Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Berardo Collection Museum
  • Caxias (beach)
  • Troia (beach)
  • Costa da Caparica (beach) surfing and beach
  • Feira da Ladra (flea market)*
  • Palacio Nacional de Pena in Sintra*
  • Sunset in Cabo da Roca
  • Sunset at Ribeira das Naus
  • National Tile Museum
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
  • Lisbon Story Centre
  • Baixa & Bairro Alto* (Praco do Comercio in Baixa)
  • Mouraria/Martim Moniz
  • Carmo Convent
  • Fado (recommended: Tasca do Chico)
  • Igreja de São Roque
  • Quinta Regalia
  • Art, Architecture and Technology Museum
  • LX Factory*
  • Panorâmico de Monsanto

 

Restaurants and Food

 

Nightlife

  • Bairro Alto*
  • Park (bar)*
  • TOPO (bar)
  • Lux Frágil*
  • K Urban Beach Club
  • Barrio Latino
  • Casa Independente
  • Cafe at A Brasileira
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