My first impression of Lisbon, Portugal's capital, was that I've been to this city before even though I hadn't. The bridge looked familiar, the trolley cars going up the steep hills, the morning fog....San Francisco! Yes, that's it, this city is the Portuguese version of San Fran! Technically the bridge was constructed by the same people who designed the Bay Bridge (not Golden Gate) but the paint color on this bridge going across the Tagus, known as the 25 de Abril Bridge or simply the Tagus Bridge, is the same color as the Golden Gate making its resemblance uncanny.
In addition to its San Fran like beauty, Lisbon gets some of its unique flair from the many buildings adorned with stunning tiles (azulejos). In fact most of my photos from this city are of azulejos and when I wasn't fixated on the tiles, I was capturing the breathtaking views from all the many hilltops (my butt and thighs were barking this entire trip, BTW). There is so much eye candy here, a photographer's dream!
Getting to Lisbon is super easy from the east coast and Portugal's national airline TAP makes a visit to this city quite enticing with its free stopover program. Since Lisbon is the airline's hub, travelers en route to Europe with TAP will naturally stop in Lisbon and have the option to stay up to 3 days to explore what the city has to offer free of charge before continuing on. Seriously, it's great for us travelers and great for the country's tourism. A true win-win!
Ready to pack those bags? If you're not convinced yet, then keep on reading about this lovely city!
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Go for a stroll through the central Baixa district (and do a little shopping if the wallet permits) to get your bearings. Start at the northern end in the big square known as Praça Rossio and walk south towards the river ending at the impressive, scenic Praça do Comércio.
Venture into the elegant Chiado district and stop in Praça Luís de Camões for a coffee and Portuguese pastry. Café A Brasileira is one of the city's oldest, grandest cafés perfect for a caffeine fix with some people watching. But the highlight of this quaint square is Manteigaria for its pastéis de nata (amazing Portuguese custard pastries and I don't even really like custard). Usually a line out the door but worth the wait. Don't forget to sprinkle some cinnamon and powdered sugar on top!
Forget a guided tour and instead take a nostalgic ride on the yellow Tram 28. Riders are in for a treat as the tramcar screeches and rattles through the narrow streets of the city. Perfect for when your legs need a rest from all the hills!
Visit the city's oldest neighborhood, the Alfama & take in the view from Castelo de São Jorge. You can either reach this neighborhood on foot (be prepared to walk uphill) or hop on Tram 28 (above) at either the Chiado stop or the Rua da Conceição stop in southern Baixa. Get off at Portas do Sol and the castle is a short walk (uphill). After your visit make your way down the hill through the narrow charming side streets and get your camera ready.
Admire the gorgeous views from various viewpoints (miradouros) throughout the city. Brave the super tall Elevador de Santa Justa (which looks like an old-school elevator, but outdoors) or take the yellow funicular a.k.a. Elevador da Bica to the top for views from the Miradouro de Santa Caterina. Either way, you won't be disappointed!
Experience the beautiful melancholy music native to this city known as fado at A Tasca do Chico. Located in the hip Bairro Alto neighborhood, which is full of nightlife, and often a wait to get in but worth it. While you're there order the caldo verde (Portuguese kale) soup, which was quite yummy. Note that the entire bar falls completely silent while the performers sing their tune but there are frequent breaks to talk about how amazing they are.
Do some souvenir shopping at Conserveira de Lisboa. This shop caters to the tinned-fish lovers in your life. Don't know any? Well that's your/their loss because these little tins actually make some tasty snacks alongside a crusty loaf of bread. The labels are super artsy and fun and the employees do a wonderful job wrapping them up in parchment paper & baker's twine.
Warm up and take a shot of Portuguese sour cherry liqueur called ginjinha at A Ginjinha. Join the locals as they congregate here after a long day at the office. If you're brave, eat the cherry on the bottom!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Cantinho do Avillez for amazing food in a cozy, upscale, trendy setting. Rezzies needed. For a little more casual, opt for Bairro do Avillez by the same chef. Specifically request to sit out back in the patio. It's lovely!
Pharmacia for yummy small plates in a quirky, fun and charming space. As the name suggests, this place has a medicinal theme incorporating a bit of the building's history as a pharmacy. Great views from this area and there is an outdoor patio for when it's nice out.
Sea Me for seafood in an upscale atmosphere. Perfect for bubbly and oysters.
Cervejaria Ramiro for seafood in a casual locals' spot.
Mercado da Ribeira for a gourmet lunch in a large indoor marketplace. The market is huge and has many great options for casual dining or with sit-down service. I recommend O Prego da Peixaria for a prego (Portuguese steak) sandwich.
Yao Pressed Juicery for when you've had too many pasteis de nata. This tiny little place makes their own cold-pressed, organic juices, smoothies & mylks and each one we tried was super fresh and tasty.
Duque Brewpub for great craft beers in the buzzing Bairro Alto neighborhood. Get a flight.
Quimera Brewpub for craft beer in a super cool space that used to be an old stagecoach tunnel. Located a little outside the city center, in the Estrela neighborhood so you will need to hop in a taxi but it's a cheap ride.
WHERE TO STAY
Memmo Alfama or Santiago de Alfama for charming, boutique properties in the city's oldest neighborhood.
Bairro Alto Hotel to be a little closer to the action without losing the lux boutique feel.
Also to note is that Airbnb is a great option in this city. Many offer private terraces with outstanding views of the river. Specifically look for one in the trendy Bairro Alto neighborhood or next door in the sophisticated Chiado neighborhood.
Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature a place out of a fairytale that makes a great day trip from Lisbon. As always, obrigada for reading. Bom dia!