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.
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.
Let me also show you the area where I lived, which was near the subway station Terreiro do Paço.
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.
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.
Codfish 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.
From 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other restaurants I passed by but didn’t dine in
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit the Alfama District
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.
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.
Elevador de Santa Justa (Lisbonlisboaportugal.com for more info of its significance)
Praça do Rossio
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bacchanal (Time Out Magazine)
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
- Cascais (seafood)* day trip
- Ginjinha (Portuguese liquor)
- Martim Moniz area
- Portuguese tarts (Pasteis de nata)
- Cafe at Chiado’s historic cafes
- Alfama, Chiado, Bairro Alto, and Príncipe Real are four popular neighborhoods where you’ll find a plethora of restaurants. You can also skip the tourist path by heading to a local-filled tasca in Graça or São Vicente
- Thank Cod at Zé da Mouraria: for its roasted cod
- Loco – one star Michelin
- Ground Burger
- Santini ice cream
- Taberna da Rua das Flores
- Tarts at Pasteis de Belem
- Clube de Fado
- Bota Sal
- Beco Cabaret Gourmet
- O Watt
- Taberna da Rua des Flores
- Cervejaria Ramiro
- Os Gazeteiros
- A Cevicheria
- Taberna Fina
- Largo Restaurante
- Restaurante Eleven*
- Tavares (one of the oldest)
- Restaurante Doca Peixe
- Fortaleza Do Guincho*
- Bica Do Sapato
- As Salgadeiras
- Bistro 100 Maneiras
- Bairro Alto*
- Park (bar)*
- TOPO (bar)
- Lux Frágil*
- K Urban Beach Club
- Barrio Latino
- Casa Independente
- Cafe at A Brasileira