Our Guide to Lisbon

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities to visit. Like many cities in Europe, it is old-timey and gorgeous. The architecture and the intricate design to many of its buildings and squares show that it once was an extremely wealthy power, but has since declined. Keep an eye out for fancy old buildings that are looking good, and those that are falling apart.

Worth noting:

  • Lisbon is a city built on hills, which is an important part of its design. Keep an eye out for its streetcar system and its elevator… both the oldest in the world.
  • You can read about our experiences in Lisbon here, here, here, and here.
  • Breakfast is hard to come by anywhere in Portugal. The idea of brunch or breakfast being eggs, toast, etc, doesn’t exist in Portugal. Breakfast is an espresso and a pastry. In Lisbon, there are a few more options, and in most cafes you can get different types of ‘toast’ with a coffee (see below) 
  • Lunch is typically served between 11am and 3pm. If you want to eat between 3pm and 5:30pm, good luck. Most restaurants are closed at that time.
  • When you sit down at most Portuguese restaurants, they’ll put bread, pate, olives, etc on the table. If you eat these, the cost will be added to your bill. If you’re not interested, you can ask them to take it away, no problem.
  • Espumante is the word for Portuguese sparking wine (like Spanish cava or Italian prosecco). Be sure to try some while you’re there, as it’s rarely found outside of the country.
  • Common greetings include “bon dia” (good day or good morning), “boa tarde” (good afternoon), “boa noite” (good evening).

Places we’ve stayed:

  • VIP Executive Arts Hotel – has parking, is close to the airport, in a new part of Lisbon. Not close to the downtown if you’re walking, but a cab to the downtown is around 12 euros
  • Travel & Tales AirBnB – These guys have an apartment building in the Principe Real neighbourhood of Lisbon. The apartment is super gorgeous and they are really great guys. They have an office in the base of their building and are easily available if you need any help.

Restaurant recommendations:

Writing and re-writing this list for friends and family is almost painful because Portuguese cuisine is just so good. Every time I review this list I start looking at flights to Lisbon so I can go back all over again.

None of these places would be described as budget friendly, but relative to other capital cities, the price quality of Portuguese food, particularly at these places, is top notch.

  • Sea Me (for lunch)
  • Across the street is my favourite place to buy Portuguese tarts
  • Cervejaria Ramiro – this place is AMAZING. Has amazing seafood. Shared tables because it’s so busy. There will almost certainly be a line up and wait. We waited for 15 minutes, but your wait could be longer. Order the shrimp, the clams, and goose barnacles (percebes). Lobster was also good. Really, everything there is good.
  • Faz Gostos Lx – This is higher end fancy Portuguese food, in a building that used to be a convent. Very good food and service, in a beautiful setting.
  • Stanislav Avenida – A really good Russian restaurant. The pierogies are good, and so is the steak tartare. They speak great English, and the service is really good. Go for lunch or dinner.
  • Bistro Edelweiss – a pretty good German restaurant in Lisbon. In the Principe Real neighbourhood. Good food, great service.
  • Mercado da Ribeira – in an area of the city that’s revitalizing, TimeOut turned a warehouse into a high end food court. Different top restaurants in Lisbon have kiosks here. Not incredible, but an interesting variety of fast foods. One of the more budget friendly option in this list
  • Belcanto – I haven’t been here. It’s a michelin star restaurant that a friend of mine went to and loved.
  • Esplanada Cafe – this is a cafe located in the Jardim do Principe Real – great spot for breakfast. Sit down in what’s basically a greenhouse cafe in a park. Order a tosta mista… sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • The Mill – a wine bar/snack bar owned by a friend of ours. You can definitely get breakfast here.

Bar recommendations:

  • Pavilhao Chines – this place is pretty bizarre. Drop in for a drink to check out all the knick knacks they’ve collected here. It’s pretty hilarious.
  • Kiosks – there are little kiosks on the streets all over Lisbon. Some have tables and chairs in a little patio area. All serve coffee and pastries, and these are definitely part of Portuguese “breakfast” culture. Most also serve alcohol, and many straight up serve sangria, cocktails, etc. These are Kevin’s 2 favourite kiosk spots:
    • Largo do Carmo (beside a church, near the top of the elevator)
    • Bambu (on Avenida Liberdade, the main boulevard in Lisbon)
  • Pensao Amor – A really cool bar with a burlesque theme. Very laid back with couches, etc. You can chill out and have a drink. Great cocktails. This is a fairly unique place, and there are many other late night spots nearby.
  • Clube de Fado – while in Lisbon you *definitely* want to go to a Fado bar. Fado is traditional Portuguese music, and it’s unlike anything else. This is the best place to go for a show. There’s actually a Moorish well in the corner of the performance room.

Sites to see:

  • Jeronimos Monastery: You can pay to go inside the whole thing, or just see the church for free. Be sure to walk along the outside of the building to appreciate the detail of the carvings on the wall. This monastery and the many surrounding sites, all in an area known as “Belem” are about a 40 minute walk from the main core of the city, so you may want to take a cab to get there.
  • The original Belem pastry cafe (near the monastery): This is where Portuguese cream tarts were invented! There’s usually a big line out side. Instead of waiting there, go inside and get table service, and the wait will be shorter. The cafe is quite large, so just head inside and find a seat.
  • Near the Jeronimos Monastery there are lots of other sites to walk around and see, including the “Monument of the Discoveries” and the “Tower of Belem“, which is over 500 years old.
  • Anywhere you are, put on your serious shoes and walk around the city to explore the various squares. Walking in Lisbon can be tough due to the hills, but it’s a small enough city that you can walk just about anywhere. 
  • Neighbourhoods you must see, in the downtown core, include Chiado and Bairro Alte – these 2 neighbourhoods have great nightlife, with lots of bars, people in the streets, etc.
  • The Lisbon Oceanarium is also quite cool, and worth checking out. It’s in a modern area of the city, so you will likely have to cab there, but it is worth it.
  • Be sure to walk down to the waterfront to see where Portuguese exploring ships used to dock for royal pomp and pageantry after a long trip. Don’t eat in the restaurants on the square by the waterfront though, because they’re mostly tourist traps.

Lisbon is a great city, full of great people. We spend the majority of our time there walking around, eating delicious food, and drinking Portuguese wine. If you like any of those things, then you’re sure to love Lisbon.

For more stories on how you can have fun in Lisbon, check out our blog archive on Lisbon.

Enjoy!

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