A Taste of Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal in 4 days

Travel Dates: October 27, 2017- October 31, 2017 (4 days, 3 nights)

Places visited: Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais

Weather: We got extremely lucky with the weather during this trip. It was 75ºF-80ºF and sunny all 4 days that we were there. When we spoke to the locals, we found out that it was very strange for it to be this warm around this time. But then again, seems like nowadays the weather is getting more and more unpredictable…

Getting Around: When we first landed at the airport, we took a taxi to our Airbnb, which was only cost us 9 EUROs for a 20 minute ride. Almost everyone we encountered spoke English so that was a huge relief! I ended up printing out the address to our AirBnb to give the taxi driver just in case but overall the roads were very accessible. Uber is super convenient and affordable in Lisbon. Some of our rides cost 3-4 Euros and we never waited for longer than 5 minutes for a car. We ubered back and forth during our trip, about 75% of our transportation we used Uber and cost us a total of $72 USD the entire 4 nights and 3 days we were there.

Lisbon is not a huge city so you can definitely walk around instead of taking a taxi or Uber. Since the city is built on hills, walking gives you the opportunity to catch amazing views from almost any hill you climb. However, the stone pavement (calcada portuguesa) on the streets of Lisbon makes it a bit more difficult to do so. The roads are slippery and steep at times so I would definitely suggest wearing shoes with a rubber sole or take an Uber to your destination. Going downhill was very hard for me even with rubber sole shoes!

We stayed at an Airbnb during our stay in Lisbon which was located in the Graça District. It was on top of a hill but the views from our apartment were amazing and totally worth the hike up there! After doing some research, it seemed like Lisbon was a place where there were many hostels available and many locals list their apartments on Airbnb. When deciding between a hotel or an Airbnb, it was more affordable to stay at an Airbnb – not to mention amazing views for half the price!

Food Scene:  Wine, cheese, cured meats, espresso, pasteis de nata, we couldn’t get enough of it all! The wine is extremely cheap – we purchased a bottle of wine at the supermarket for 1.20 Euros! Portugal is also known to make Vinho Verde (green wine) which tastes like a sparkling white wine (delicious!) and we often had it when we had bacalhau (salted cod) or seafood dishes.

Day 1

We left the airport at around noon and headed to our Airbnb. I had printed the address out in case I needed to communicate to the taxi driver and just showed it to the cab driver. The airport was relatively close, about a 20-minute drive. After settling down, we headed out to our first stop, Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, for an amazing view of Lisbon.

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We then headed Rossio or Praça Dom Pedro IV Square to meet our group for our food and wine tour.

Rossio square
Fountain facing D. Maria II National Theatre

We booked 2 spots for the 4:30PM Lisbon Small-Group Gourmet Portuguese Food and Wine Tour through TripAdvisor. It was a great way to meet the local people and ask a bunch of questions to the tour guide, who was very well educated on the history of Portugal and its food scene. They have their itinerary on their website so you can go there for more info.

Our first stop was a small shop called A Tendinha do Rossio, where we had vinho verde (green wine) and bacalhau (Salted cod) croquettes. (Note: this particular tour has more than enough alcohol for even the heaviest of drinkers so definitely pace yourself!).

We then ventured to Espumantaria do Pestisco where we had sardines, another favorite food in Portugal. We had wine with every food that we tried, I lost track of how many glasses we had! We then went to Bacalhoaria Silva, where we had quince jam and cheese and port wine. We also tried the famous Ginjinha, a sweet cherry liquor, a typical drink in Lisbon. We then shared a family meal with small plates called petiscos. We had a chickpea salad with salted cod, mushrooms with garlic, Portuguese sausage, and lots of bread for sharing and dipping. The tour guide taught us a lot about not only food but also history of Portugal and the ways locals live which I loved!

After the food tour, we were stuffed so decided to walk around, and check out the rooftop bars in Lisbon. We stopped by Rooftop bar (on the top floor of Hotel Mundial) and had a drink each. It was nice to be in an open air rooftop bar but I think I prefer a rooftop view during the day more, since there aren’t a lot of lights at night in Lisbon. The drink menu was primarily gin cocktails, over twenty or so varieties. We later learned that gin is the liquor of choice for many locals throughout the Iberian peninsula.

We went to dinner at Laurentina o Rei do Bacalhau at 9PM (the locals eat there pretty late!) and had some more delicious Portuguese food (See below). The Portugese commonly boast of having hundreds of cod recipes – almost enough for one a day, and this restaurant was definitely representative of that. This is the type of place where if you’re not too familiar with cod like we were, letting the waiter guide the meal is a smart option.

Day 2

We booked a day trip tour to Sintra and Cascais through Tripadvisor. There were quite a few tour options to choose from but we went with the day trip due to time constraints and overall it covered quite a bit of the more famous areas outside Lisbon.

We had a small group of 8 people which was great! Our first stop was to Sintra, where we visited the beautiful Pena Palace.

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We were able to tour around this beautiful palace and learned a lot about its history. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit was that each castle segment over time was built adjacent to one another rather than on-top of as in the case of many conquests throughout history. The inhabitants through different areas definitely had respect for their predecessors and the colorful setup of the castle is living proof of that hundreds of years later.

We were then dropped to the downtown area and we tried Sintra’s famous travesseiro from Casa Piriquita. This was the first of many amazing deserts we tried in Portugal and this pastry, unlike the others, had a flakier, rougher texture that represented classical western deserts. Following dessert, the tour guide gave our group the option of eating lunch in Sintra or going to a local joint halfway between Sintra and Cascais (our next stop). Our group unanimously opted for the latter and we ended up at a restaurant called Toca Do Julio. The place was off the beaten path and definitely looked like a place only locals visited. The highlight of the lunch was a Portuguese style black pork steak which had the consistency of a pork chop but the flavor of a ribeye (yummy!). Chances are if you end up on the same tour we were on, you’ll end up in this place.

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We were then dropped off in the beautiful beach town of Cascais where we walked around to shop and check out the area. Cascais reminded us of a mix between the beach towns of New England and Rodeo drive in sunny California. It is a hotspot for many Europeans and there was a bit of something for everyone including blue ocean facing resorts and high-end shopping. Since we only had an hour or so, we walked around shopping in the local bazaars and trying a delicious gelato from Santini.

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We got back at around 6:30PM and decided to give the famous seafood restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro (the one Anthony Bourdain visits in his show) a shot. We waited for about 45 minutes which isn’t too bad considering it was prime time on a Sunday night. They have a waiting area that has a dispenser for beer which made the time pass by. The prices were more expensive than I anticipated, especially for the tiger prawns and rock lobster but we had to try one of those!  We ordered the rock lobster and the garlic shrimp and both were delicious! The garlic shrimp was drowned in a super delicious and flavorful sauce, bursting with flavor, one that we highly recommend you to try if you come here! If they had allowed us to order a plate of pasta we would have just ate that with the rest of the sauce we had left over. We were stuffed already but wish we could have tried everything on the menu!

Day 3

We decided to go do some more exploring in Lisbon and our first stop was the beautiful Moorish castle Castelo de São Jorge. Lisbon has amazing views from many vantage points but this place took the prize. It was a little hilly getting here and the line was a bit long to get tickets and get inside but it was so worth it!!

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The castle was beautiful and walking up and down the staircases felt a little scary but overall it was such a cool experience seeing the ruins of the former royal palace, and learning about its history. It got a little packed within the castle walls, especially with the lines of tourists, but there were more than enough places to snap nice pictures. There was even a wine cart toward the outer castle limits and several restaurants with views overlooking the entire city.

We then took a stroll to Barrio Alto and was able to see the Elevador de Santa Justa, which brings people all the way up to see the amazing views of Lisbon.

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Our visit the famous Convento do Carmo was extremely memorable. This beautiful Gothic church was ruined by the 1755 earthquake and was never restored.  It was absolutely breathtaking to be present inside of what remains, with its arches exposed to the sky. It is now a museum open to the public to visit. Toward the end of the walls was what looked like a large library containing relics of the past.

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We then headed to the Time Out Market for some grub and of course we needed to try our first bite of the popular pasteis de nata. We had some from Manteigaria, which were delicious. Its flaky crust and rich egg custard far exceeded the egg tarts they sell here in NYC!

We then tried Miguel Laffan’s Chicken all around Piri-Piri chicken which was one of the top items we had on our trip. The chicken was so tender and bursting with flavor. The meat broke apart easily with just a fork and the sauce was not oily at all but still maintained an amazingly rich flavor. We then figured we would try one more thing even though we were stuffed! We had some delicious fresh sushi from Confaria. Portugal isn’t particularly known for their sushi but the country’s appreciation for fresh fish and expert cuisine made this a quality meal and each piece of nigiri was very enjoyable.

For dinner, we contemplated several options but ended up at Jose Avillez’s Bairro do Avillez. It is a place that has several eateries inside- Taberna, Pateo, Merceria, Beco, and Cantina Peruana. When you walk in you can walk through each of the restaurants and admire the décor of each room with its own unique style and feel. Even though we didn’t have reservations, the wait was very convenient as they seated us in a comfortable garden waiting room and served us snacks and wine.

We ate at Taberna, where we had a hearty meal consisting of delicious cheese and charcuterie and small plates to share. We had the Iberian pork steak with bread, garlic, and cilantro, asparagus and mushrooms cold salad, Iberico ham and serra cheese. The star of the meal was the Iberico ham. Even though I’m typically not a huge fan of cured meats, the skill and preparation with which the ham was made with absolutely blew me away.

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Day 4

Day 4 was our last day in Portugal so we tried to fit as much as we could into our day. Our flight was in the afternoon so we decided to spend our last day in Portugal in Belem. Our first stop was to the famous Pasteis de Belem where the famous egg custards were first made. It was here that we had the most amazing pasteis de natas! The cream melted in our mouths and had the perfect amount of sweetness. It was further complemented by a clean cup of Portuguese expresso.

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We then walked towards the waterfront to see the beautiful monument Padrao dos Descobrimentos, which celebrates the adventurers and explorers of Portugal. The monument was gigantic and towered over the waterfront.

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We then visited the romantic and breathtaking Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), a small fort built on the Tagus River. We were going to go in but the lines were so long and we didn’t have much time left before our flight. Regardless, there were several vantage points to snap pictures and the palace felt magical.

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We then went to beautiful Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). We waited for a LONG time so we would suggest that you get there early to avoid the lines. We couldn’t stay long since we had to catch our flight back home but we tried our best to see the most we could. The inside of the monastery had a curious yet mesmerizing symmetrical feel. It was quite historical inside as it contained the tombs of many famous Portuguese historical figures including the renowned explorer, Vasco de Gama.

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When we walked into the monastery, especially to the two-story cloisters, we were speechless. The architecture, which incorporates Manueline and Gothic styles, is so intricate and beautiful, it really deserves a silent moment to take it all in.

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IMG_2819The church that was inside the monastery was where explorer Vasco Da Gama’s remains are stored.  The church was so beautiful as well, it is really a worthwhile place to visit and worth the long wait.

We didn’t have enough time to go to many places but I wish we had stopped by Praça do Comércio, the square next to the Tagus River and the Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, a beautiful property with a palace, chapel, wells, and a park. And of course, we wish we had more time to explore more of Portugal but I think we did okay for 4 days and 3 nights!

Happy exploring and eating,

Joanna + Alan

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