Every time I travel to a place I get lots of requests for a guide to that city/place and so I have decided that I will try my best to create a sort of travellers tip article with a “tash style”.
So, just so you know, when I travel, I do very little research on what I want to see. I read a little about the place, the main areas and neighbourhoods and a few attractions I might want to see, but mostly, I put my backpack on and I walk. I look up, down and around all the time and do tend to have a talent for finding some pretty amazing restaurants, places of interest and particularly rooftops 🙂 (A little self promotion never hurt anyone).
What time of year would I suggest?
I went to Lisbon in November, a little cold, a little drizzly, but a perfect time to avoid crowds and really enjoy the spaces and places with out too many people. I would suggest perhaps End Sept/Oct, just so you can wear a t-shirt and jeans and not have to carry around an umbrella/ rain jacket. Or alternatively, just before European Summer – April.
Try not go to this area for less than two weeks, if you have that luxury, as there are so many places just outside of Lisbon that you HAVE To explore!
Should you rent a car?
If you are planning on just being in Lisbon, no, I wouldn’t. The streets are tiny, parking is expensive and there is so much magic to be found being on foot, jumping into a tuk-tuk and riding the trams!
Uber rides are also cheap, it costs 15 Euro to get from the centre of Lisbon to the airport in an Uber.
You can get a tuk-tuk anywhere in the centre of town and even outside of town for a small price.. I advise bargaining with them. I found out, the hard way, that the Portugese are sneaky at times and do enjoy conning us!
I stayed in 3 hotels while I was in Lisbon and they were all great and I would recommend them all. The first one, Lisboa Lux Park Hotel, is a little further out of the city, but had a beautiful rooftop and was incredibly comfortable. I was in need of a bit of luxury and that is exactly what it provided. Then, the second one, was in the area I would recommend the most – Bairro Alto, it is so central filled with amazing restaurants and bars and walking distance from everything. It also feels like it has a good balance of locals and tourists. The manager of the this property, Bairro Alto 27, Ana, was amazing and she was very kind and knowledgeable about the apartment. There were three of us staying here and it was a perfect base for us. It is not huge, but it has everything you need, including a comfortable bed, clean bathroom and a small kitchenette. The one, I am currently staying in, Marino Lisboa Boutique Hotel has been absolutely perfect. It is a big room with an increbily comfortable and big bed, 2 big windows, breakfast on the rooftop and very close to the city! They are all well priced for what you get!
COFFEE & BREAKFAST 🙂
I found so many amazing coffee shops and breakfast spots that I highly recommend! The health food scene in Lisbon blew me away. Something I find difficult about traveling in Spain & Italy is that the vegetarian options are normally quite cheese and carb heavy. Not here. Here, the fresh produce, smoothies, juices are delicious and affordable. So look for the local spots as well as the good westernised spots. I feel like we did a good balance of both.
Having done my barista training for my job, I will admit a fair amount of coffee snobbery on my behalf. So, while being here I did search for the perfect cup of coffee. I hate to admit it but I am a fan of 3rd wave coffee more than I am of the local coffee. If you like your coffee with a punch, do the local coffee, it’s strong and it will give you a good kick to get the day started.
My absolute favourite spot was The Mill. Reuben, the head barista and coffee roaster has an amazing amount of knowledge and passion for his coffee. He also shows a keen interest in every customer, making sure that everyone has the perfect brew to start their day. You know those places that you never have to ask for the coffee to be warmed up or for it to be a little stronger, that’s this one! The coffee art is also beautiful and the space itself is open and inviting, with a large window onto the street, it has a beautiful light ambience. Not only is the coffee good, but their smashed avocado on toast is accompanied with the most delicious tomato relish on the side, that you might find yourself in avocado heaven! It gets super busy, so try to get there, either early in the morning (around 8:30/9) or later in the afternoon for some of their delicious cakes. Yesterday I made an error in judgement surrounding time and I tried to do some TUG work there and had to bounce around from place to place because they are so popular for a late brunch.
Thats one thing I need to add, Lisbon has got the whole breakfast thing right, so many of their breakfast restaurants serve breakfast ALL day long. And the BEST breakfasts! I might even be tempted to say that this has been my best breakfast cafe experience country I have found. Take that!
A friend of mine suggested Dear Breakfast and it is equally lovely and equally popular. Again, get there early, there was a really long queue outside the restaurant once we had left. But the design here is really lovely, simplistic and with a beautiful colour palette. The menu offers a lot for the big eaters, but also a very good range for the healthy eaters! The smoothies are delicious.
When it comes to vibe thought, Zenith has nailed it. I am not a big drinker, however, when I sat down there, with the great atmosphere and well mixed playlist, I found myself ordering a cocktail after my green juice. Yes, I am laughing at myself. And can imagine those who know me well would chuckle a bit too, it’s rather out of character. but that’s the thing, Zenith has this energy and this mood that you want to stay there for ages, moving from coffee, to smoothie, to cocktails and then more cocktails. The food is equally delicious and I had some of the most delicious coooked mushrooms as a side to my poached egg on SWEET POTATO! Talk about a a treat 🙂 . They also have a good selection of healthy options and meals for those more interested in a twist on the english breakfast. I’d say you have to go there actually.
I am currently on my way to another spot called “Naked” and I will feedback once I have had my morning coffee 🙂
If you are looking to grab a quick smoothie on the go – I would HIGHLY recommend a trip into Veggie Wave.
Veggie Wave is an eco-friendly kiosk that delivers premium
healthy juices in an interactive and joyful atmosphere.
We are driven by love: love to nature, love to health and love to people.
We show our respect and love to nature by minimizing our environmental footprint. We specially combine flavours and nutrients into healthy juices. We make people feel good by sharing our smiles and lively energy. Through these genuine initiatives, we deliver premium juices
while creating environmental awareness in a friendly, funny and young atmosphere.”
This company is awesome, started by two surfers, who are driven to reduce their waste and carbon footprint. The beautiful and incredible healthy looking woman who assisted us at the store in Lisbon had nothing but glowing things to say about the guys. You walk into the corner store and you immediately feel healthy and light. The energy in there is beautiful. All the fresh products are visible and there is a little bicycle just on the corner of the bar. While your eyes dart all around the room, distracted by the wonderful bits and pieces, you place your order for your smoothie. With all the ingredients being selected right in front of you and put into a blender, don’t be surprised when you are then asked to jump on the bike. It is so clever, it is now up to you to cycle and blend your own smoothie. Instead of using electricity, you are using your own energy to blend your smoothie. I was in heaven 🙂 Your smoothie is then transferred into a vegetable “plastic” – made from rice and corn flour – 100% biodegradable.
Another wonderful Juicing company I found, that made delicious health shots, raw date balls and juices was very close to The Mill and Dear Breakfast, called YAO Pressed Juicery. I was feeling a little fluish when I first arrived and I would pop past the little corner bar for a quick ginger, lemon and turmeric shot. It was perfect and helped my immunity A LOT. And then, of course, I can never resist a date ball 🙂 And those were very good!
After my trip to Istanbul I developed a really strange nack for being able to find really great rooftop bars. In fact almost every hotel I have stayed in on this trip (3 weeks) has had a rooftop! Ha ha, but I am telling you, it is worth exploring. That panoramic view of a city is second to none. Even in the rain. The journey up is normally pretty exciting too.
Santa Justa Lift. There is an obvious one in the centre of the city, these are the stairs (pictured above) that you climb to get right to the top, but the views are 360 and are stunning (pictured below). As always, I would suggest getting up at sunrise – you get the space to yourself, you get to see the city slowly waking up and you get to see the sun hitting its golden rays on the buildings. Be brave 🙂 and then go to the mill and grab a coffee! Ha ha! A lot of people go up in the lift and wait in queues all day. I wouldn’t do that. Get up early and do the stairs, they are pretty beautiful!
Entrentanto Rooftop Bar – you get a very similar view to that of the lift, but you get a delicious wine or cocktail with it. Grab the lift, all the way to the top floor of the Hotel Chiado and follow the passage of interesting art to the bar. The tapas and the wines are worth the visit!
Those were unfortunately the only ones that were open at this time of year that I had the chance to visit, and then obviously my hotel, Lux Lisboa, as mentioned before.
I saw so many that I wish to explore. That’s why I am coming back :)….many times.
AND THEN…MY PERSONAL FAVE….FOOD!
I am so happy with how many amazing restuarants I got to try. I will not write up big reviews on ALL of them. However, I did not have one disappointing meal. We did such a good mix of local food and alternative cuisine. The one dish I just couldn’t get enough of was the Octopus and the best one of these dishes I had was at O’Asiatico. We were actually busy doing a tapas crawl around the city (it was my sister’s last night and we were going from strength to strength). I had mapped out a couple of places I really wanted to visit and Cevecheria was one of them. Unfortunately the queue was an hour long. I hate waiting for food, so they suggested we go around the corner to Chef Kiko’s other restaurant. We were a little disappointed, but have also learn on this trip, to roll with it. The alternative to our plan has always surprised us 🙂
Thta’s exactly what happened…We were greeted by the most lovely hostess and then taken through a curtain into a beautifully decorated Asian-style room. It was stunning. We sat down at our table and from that moment on we received such great service and the most delicious food and cocktails. I had decided to say yes to most things that night. So, I had their house cocktail, a gin based asian style cocktail, which was yummy. And then I moved on to a delicious glass of Brut, which complimented my first dish of Ceviche perfectly. The ceviche was done beautifully with a surprising twist of all things coconut (coconut gel, coconut milk, coconut sugar) – it was amazing! My sister tried the swordfish, which was equally delicious. But then, the showstopper was my main meal – the deconstructed octopus dish, which arrived in two parts and blew my mind every forkful. So would I reccomend this spot? ABSOLUTELY!!!! DO IT! Slightly on the pricey side, but worth the spoil!
I don’t know why I started with the final restaurant, but I will rewind and take you back to the start. We had begun our trip at this exceptional drink spot, Ribeira Das Naus, and so decided to end my sister’s trip there too. This riverside bar/restaurant is awesome. They have a bunch of chairs lined up on the wall facing the river and all the patrons rush at the opportunity to find the first line of chairs. And from there, you prop your legs up on the wall recline in your seat and enjoy your cocktails. This time, we went with Porto Tonic (Port, Tonic, Lime and Mint- delish!!! and a local twist on G and T!). The view is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down over the Ponte De 25 April.
Our first tapas spot was then the Asian restaurant Boa-Bao in Chiado. It has a lovely outside terrace area and a delicious Asian menu, offering all the best dishes from Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Indo. I went with a very tasty Cucumber Kimchi and veggie duplings. Both exquisite and well presented. I love the way they present everything, right from the menu to the food that arrives on your table. It is on a corner street that is surrounded by a number of great restaurants and a nearby theatre.
We moved on down the road and up a few hills to a beautiful restaurant, Lost In, also with a LOVELY outdoor terrace, with exceptional views of the city and tables facing the views. Again, the staff are lovely, interactive and funnny! We had a glass of wine here and an oyster each. The view here is enough to spend all evening making your way through the menu!
After our mains, we did the Portugese thing and went for Port at our final spot. We had been to Grapes and Bites before and had the BEST evening. They have a wonderful wine menu and live music every night. There is an awesome vibe there and the sommelier is great at helping you navigate their extensive wine list. Just be sure you know what flavours & notes you like, the list is HUGE and they are very knowledgeable. Very well priced.
On a separate night, we also had delicious tapas at this beautiful and small corner bar called Rau. The oysters were delicious and the cocktail menu was inspiring. I also loved the crockery and presentation platters – a creative delight 🙂
ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND
As I said before, walk, walk, walk and in between look up, look around and you will find something on almost every second corner that you would love to explore/photograph. It is a city that for anyone who loves to take photos will be in heaven. The street art, the buildings and the trams call for beautiful pics to be taken, all the time.
Our favourite day was basically described exactly as above, but it was horribly rainy. We decided to ignore it and just to continue walking. We had done a great coffee stop in the am, gone up to the Lift to see the view and were determined to get to the LX Factory that we had all heard so much about. And so we started the long walk along the beautiful promenade, all the way there. It drizzled quite a bit, but the walk was lovely and we found the Riberia Mercardo (well worth a visit), some amazing street art and a few industrial zones.
But LX Was awesome and actually we went back there 3 times. It used to be a printing press and in 2002 they decided to utilise the deserted space and turn it into a creative hub and restaurant spot. It is awesome; with coffee shops, book shops, unbelievable chocolate cake (Landeau) and tapas. Most restaurants have outside seating and you could spend all day there wondering from place to place. I envision the most perfect Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the spring there, with lots of people, live music and a great buzz of energy! Please visit here, you won’t regret it.
I was keen to get to The Tower Of Belem for some reason. Unfortunately, as soon as we made the call, the heavens opened up and the rain bucketed down. Luckily, we met Tiago, a minute into the downpour, a wonderful Tuktuk driver who entertained us with his hilarious one-liners and music selection. He took us to the Tower Of Belem, the rain still bucketing down, and us with no protection from it. We were in hysterics as we stood in the queue outside the Tower, waiting to get inside. We eventually pulled the plug, drenched and freezing to the bone. Luckily Tiago saved us again, gave us some blankets and took us in his Tuk Tuk on a small tour to Pasteis De Belem (don’t stand in the queue for your Pasteis del Nata!None of the locals do) and back toward Lisbon.
The warm Pasteis del Nata were delish and perfect comfort for our freezing bones. for those of you don’t know what it is, I didn’t either:
“Pastéis de nata were created by monks in the Jerónimos Monastery, a major tourist attraction today and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At that time, the nuns and monks used egg whites to starch their clothes, and the left over egg yolks became a major ingredient in desserts.” credit: http://bit.ly/2QVlgGh
We went past the monastery and got some quick pics before bundling back into the comfort and warmth of our tuk-tuk. We couldn’t stop laughing and smiling though. It was such a funny afternoon.
I can truly tell you I have fallen in love with Lisbon. There is so much more that I could write, but I think it is just city that is worth exploring. Do the Tram 28 – it’s one of those things, you are not sure why it’s famous, but should be done. Explore the street art, get involved in the tapas. The buskers – all over – everywhere, create such a magical atmosphere and the city gardens and parks are just stunning.
Contact me if you want any more info, but I feel this is a good starting point,
Oh and if you need a massage, I had an amazing 90min thai massage at Siam Thai Massage. OH MY SOUL….AMAZING.