Spring in Lisbon
A spring city break in Lisbon is the ideal tonic for a Scottish winter. With attractions in abundance, the cuisine and the climate it was an obvious choice for myself and my partner.
When planning this trip I instantly became aware of the diversity and vibrancy of our chosen destination.
This post is by no means a comprehensive guide to Lisbon; think of it as a dairy entry that will share the highlights of our trip and the tips that we picked up along the way.
Our journey began with departing Aberdeen for Edinburgh, from where we departing. We arrived the night before and stayed in the Moxy (our first time staying there), the morning of our departure we checked the car in to the mid-stay car park and took the shuttle to, this is easy to book in advance and makes for a hassle free drop off.
We flew with Brussels Airlines, this meant a short stay over in Brussels Airport, a welcome stop for coffee and a waffle.
Once we arrived in Lisbon we used Uber extensively in the interest of expediency, time is precious on a city break, fares are also very reasonable at €7 from the airport to our accommodation.
Alternatively you can also use the Aerobús, metro and local bus services, all of which are less than €4 for a single fare.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Alfama, being in the historic centre of the city with it’s vivid colours, street art and buzzing bars allowed us to feel totally immersed in the local culture. The apartment we had was a cosy two bedroom sanctuary of white and blue, channeling the quintessential colours of the azulejos Portugal is famous for. Set up with all the essentials we had the flexibility of self catering as well as an array of local shops, cafes and bars within one minute of the apartment. What astounded me was the price, almost half the cost of a hotel in the area. If you happen to be new to Airbnb and sign up via my referral link we'll both get a credit.
We purchased 72 hour passes which gives you free transport a on the Lisbon Metro subway and buses, trams, lifts of CARRIS lines, CP Train. Free pass in 35 museums, monuments and places of interest. 10% to 50% discount on local services and cultural and tourist interest.
This was a kind of one stop pass for the cities main attraction and transport. Once your email voucher comes through you can embark to the nearest tourist office (we went to the Praça do Comércio office) where the contactless card can be issued to you, at this time hard copies of the Lisbon card guide are also available. At €40 each the savings you make through free admission and discounts are abundant.
Where we ate...
In the four days we had we certainly did our best to explore as much of what Lisbon had to offer. Our apartment was next to a fantastic deli on Rua Do Terririnho which set us up for sourcing local organic produce for those speedy early morning breakfasts.
Eleven Restaurant by Joachim Koerper
Café a Brasileira
Pastéis de Bélem
Time Out Bar
Versiculo do Faia
Restaurante Ponto Final, Almada
Casa Piriquita, Sintra
Restaurante Angra, Praia Grande
Cozinha Da Felicidade
McDonalds, our fun tradition we have of sampling the offering of overseas McD’s
You cannot visit Lisbon without sampling your fare share of custard filled pastries, I took this responsibility seriously and sampled the following: Pastel de Nata, Pastéis de Belém and Travesseiro de Sintra. All were delightful in different ways, my particular favourite was Travesseiro, which literally means large pillow, it was a flaky creamy delectable delight.
Time Out Market - Cozinha Da Felicidade
Curated by a committee and quality controlled, a trip to the Time Out Market will undoubtably leave everyone feeling satisfied. There are three areas to the market: flowers, food and the dining hall. The atmosphere here is intoxicatingly electric, bustling with tourist and locals there is literally something for everyone.
I opted for Cozinha Da Felicidade where I had succulent shredded pork, butternut squash purée and potato chips. The combination of juicy salty pork, creamy earthy purée and crunchy chips made for a deeply comforting and enjoyable meal.
Versiculo do Faia
On our first night in Lisbon we ate here, a hop skip and a jump from our apartment nestled among other eateries and bars there’s a buoyant atmosphere in the area. This cosy restaurant boasts a menu of Portuguese classics with seating options inside and out, I had the octopus (the first of many octopus explorations).
Restaurante Ponto Final
Night two saw us cross the Tagus and head to the city of Almada on the recommendation of Antonio, a local guide. To get here you take the ferry from the Cais do Sodré ferry terminal, it costs €3 for a return and takes about 10 minutes. Once in Almada the walk to Ponto Final is entrancing. We were fortunate to have the sun setting in front of us and to come across an electronic band rehearsing on a jetty, only their silhouettes distinguishable against the sun set. The buildings en-route are covered in elaborate graffiti. When we arrived we were instantly put at ease with the welcoming rustic charm of the place. The menu is predominantly fish and seafood based, it was a real treat. We ate like kings here, opting for a fish tapas selection; we were served a myriad of fish and seafood, my favourites being the crispy sardines which were landed in the harbour less the 10 minutes away and the rich fish stew, spiked with garlic and chilli. Dinner for two was €40 which represented the best value meal we had on this trip.
On our day trip to Sintra we had lunch at the beautiful beach of Praia Grande, Restaurante Angra is a family run establishment serving good honest food to match the view. I had the octopus curry which was a revelation. The wine we had with this lunch has become a regular feature back home whenever I cook fish and shellfish. The relaxed ambience sets you at ease and allows you to soak up the setting and enjoy the food.
Eleven Restaurant by Joachim Koerper
A modern and dynamic building with a wealth of textures begins the sensory stimulation. Set against the backdrop of Parque Eduardo VIII the views of the city from this restaurant are sensational your eye doesn’t know where to settle, the fully glazed elevation engages you to take in as much as u can, on a clear day you can see across the city, past the Tagus and to the landscape in the distance.
We opted for the Eleven tasting menu; a six course adventure that explores the best of Portuguese produce, the whole menu is well balanced and the wine pairing elevates the food, wine and your senses to new highs. For me there were three stand out courses:
Soap da Pedra - served with a broth that infuses right in front of you the contents of the bowl which literally look like a pebble, gently melt when pour over the fragrant broth.
Red Prawns with ‘Calado Verde’ - the balance of flavours and textures of this dish were so good that I was inspired almost 9 months later to interpret this dish in to my Christmas dinner as a replacement for a prawn cocktail. Fresh, sweet, earthy and salty.
Portugal’s Cheese Map - served on a board in shape of the of Portugal this dish way playful of course cheese, one of my favourite things to eat.
The food is otherworldly; infusing classic Portuguese flavours with modern gastronomy which ultimately results in a truly memorable culinary experience, one I will most certainly cherish.
The service was spot on with the experience of the front of house staff demonstrated at every turn.
Where we shopped...
A Outra Face da Lua (Baixa)
Conserveira De Lisboa
Silva & Feijóo
This & That
Attractions we visited...
Praça do Comércio
Torre de Belém*
Padrão dos Descobrimentos - Admission was €4 with 20% discount with Lisbon card. A slightly better view than the one from Torre de Belém, both depending on time of day will likely have large queues. I’d honestly save the admission fee and enjoy the monument from the ground.
Castles de St Jorge*
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora - Admission was €5
Oceanário de Lisboa - Admission was €16 with 15% discount with Lisbon card
Portuguese National Pavilion - A short walk from the Oceanarium, at the time there was a free modern art installation here, the gallery space changes periodically.
Elavador de Santa Justa*
Carmo Convent - Admission was €4 with 20% discount with Lisbon card. Our favourite part of this was enjoying the beauty of the building and then the intrigue of the museum mummy’s n’ all.
Praça do Rossio
GAU Gallery - A street entirely devoted to street art, full of colour and incredible urban art.
Electro 28*- The busiest and certainly most cramped tram service, honestly not entirely worth given you feel very much like one of the famed sardines when abound. The end result being disappointment as you could see half the sites you hoped. Experience Lisbon’s fantastic funicular on a different route you may even find yourself a hidden gem on the way.
*Free with Lisbon Card
Trips we took...
Both excursion we went on during our trip we found on Airbnb experience, this was my first time using this feature, it proved to be an absolute god send, providing excellent guides at competitive prices and allowed us to sift through the obvious tourist traps.
Lisbon by boat
This was a treat on our first day, a 2 hour guided tour of the main sights of the city, Antonio (our guide and captain) was an absolute professional full of local knowledge and charm he seamlessly navigated 3 parties on the tour; flipping between, English, German and Portuguese. The tour cost €15 per person and provided excellent value not only in cost but also by providing a unique perspective of the city.
Sintra Cascais Day Trip
The convenience and ease of this trip was an experience I hope to repeat. The typical overcrowded coach with a pick up in often far flung car parks that may need a bus to get to are departed with. Collection from our apartment at an agreed time and intimate group numbers; on this day we were fortunate enough to have our guide (Tomás) to ourselves for the day resulting in the feeling of having your local friend take you on a guided tour of the area. The attractions we visited were:
Quinta da Regaleira €4 with 20% discount with Lisbon card
Pena Palace & Castle of the Moors combined ticket €15 with 10% discount with Lisbon card
Palácio National da Pena €9 with 10% discount with Lisbon card
Azenhos do Mar
Cabo de Roca
On my list for next time...
Explore barre alto neighbourhood
Experience traditional tapas & Fado
Soak up the view from Quiosque do Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara view point
Go to ZBD
Dine in Belcanto
Visit the National Azulejo Museum
Visit the Cristo Rei Monument
Take a trip to the Cascais national park