Lisbon is less than 3 hours away from most UK airports and the perfect place for a long weekend break. I went in November and it was still 15-20 degrees C. every day. The city is a stunning melting pot of culture, charm and architecture with lots of outdoor fun, great nightlife and beach frolics too. Plus the food, the food is absolutely fantastic. Fresh seafood, steaks and Bifanas not to mention those glorious custard tarts. And with flights from just £40 what are you waiting for?!
Lisbon is a walking city and while you can get a big red tourist bus I would recommend putting your favourite trainers on and hitting the tarmac. Watch out for those hills though. Wander through the cobbled streets of the Alfama district, sit in Rossio square to see the impressive Station building. Admire the Eden Theatre, Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the cafes and boutiques of the elegant Chiado neighborhood.
When in Lisbon, you should try the national dish bacalhau (salted cod) and a bifana (pork sandwich). Many locals will mention Bifanas do Caldas which is up near the Castle. I will be going back for the custard tars though they are fantastic and the best are notoriously from Pasteis de Belem where you can watch them being made.
Mini Mar, is the latest addition from Michelin-starred Jose Avillez a local Portuguese chef. It is a sophisticated restaurant and bar with informal service nested inside Sao Luiz Theatre, right in the heart of Lisbon’s Chiado. Avillez follows the tradition of great chefs like Ferran Adrià, from the legendary el bulli, which devote their lives to creating food that could prompt an emotional response in the person eating it.
Cervejaria Ramiro (cervejariaramiro.pt): “Is the place to eat seafood” according to everyone and the queue outside shows that’s true. We went early around 5pm and walked right in but when we left there were over 50 people waiting outside! Fresh, simple and beautiful raciones of fish and shellsfish are sold by weight.
For a celebrity chef meal at a common man’s prices, you can’t do better than Tasca da Esquina (Rua Domingos Sequeira 41C; 351-21-099-3939; tascadaesquina.pt), tuck into a menu of small and medium-size plates intended for sharing. You’ll find everything from pig tails in coriander to sautéed quail legs (in a buttery and lemony garlic sauce) to ultra thin slices of warm black pork on toast.
We made a brief stop at the Time Out Mercado Da Ribeira Lisbon, located right in the city. The market features a number of food booths, and would be a great place to stop for lunch. I’d recommend trying a few different places, because there were so many options.
For vegetarians, one of the best places to eat is Terra (restauranteterra.pt). It is a buffet option but very popular. Meat-eaters can’t go wrong at Carvoaria Jacto. Choose your meat (beef, pork or lamb), the cut and the weight and then wait for it to be cooked. We ate at Argentinian La Parruchera after hearing about their panoramic views and it was fabulous.
For those on a budget and looking to experience local flavours, O Eurico is your spot. Don’t expect polished service but it’s an experience of taste and tradition in a loud, riotous atmosphere.
Where to Drink
If you’ve never been to Lisbon, you should visit the Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s party neighbourhood. The drinks are cheap and you have a great selection of rowdy through to local holes in the wall with sour cherry liqueur shots. A good place is Galeria Zé dos Bois, a 27 000 sq foot palace turned non-profit arts collective or Tasca do Chico, known for being one of the best places to catch some local singing. Pavilhão Chinês (The Chinese Pavilion) feels more like a museum than a bar, crammed full of antique curiosities including model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and cabinets filled with toy soldiers, medals and military artifacts
Bica, is a steep street up a cute little funicular where several great bars have opened up recently. Pai Tirano, and Pensão Amor, a refurbished old brothel now sporting a classic-naughty burlesque decoration.
Situated close to the harbour, former fishing tackle shop Sol E Pesca is now a bar stacked to the rafters with colourful tins of sardines and all kinds of seafood to enjoy with a cerveja or two. Rods, baits and nets leftover from the building’s past decorate the quirky space, which attracts locals and tourists alike in the lively riverfront Cais do Sodré area.
Get out the city! (if you have to)
The coastline from Lisbon has loads of fantastic beaches, all easily reached by the train for just a couple of Euros and hop on and off at your leisure.