For the last few years Lisbon has been on my radar. I feel as though there was a period when everyone was heading there, and I kind of missed that bandwagon (thankfully). I figured a trip this summer was well overdue, so I booked a few days in early July. I can tell you with certainty that ever since returning, I’ve had major holiday blues. Let me explain…
If you’ve seen photos of the Portuguese capital, or even heard stories, then you’ll know just how pretty it is. Every inch is covered in intricate detail; colourful buildings laced in patterned tiles, sun-kissed balconies and cobbled streets that make a city hike up rolling hills oh so worth it. Typically, I found myself in an airbnb staying with with an artist in Principe Real (yes, holiday goals indeed). She was amazing, and so was her home. I won’t share detailed photos here, but when a host leaves you cheese, a bottle of red and fresh fruit as a welcome gift you know you’ve found a good’un.
Here’s a quick and honest rundown of some of the best places I visited, and where I recommend you go too.
The simple answer is by foot. Not only will you see more of the city this way, but you’ll want to walk around just to get a feel for the place. There’s always something to take a photo of or a side street to meander down, but those legs WILL be tired come evening. On a few ocassions I got the bus up to LX Factory and Belém, which is kind of essential being a fair distance away. Also, a tram ride from Baixa-Chiado is a fun way to do some hop-on hop-off sightseeing around the inner city.
Possibly half the reason I came here. Lisbon is so cheap compared to other european cities, and you will not be disappointed with it’s array of designer and vintage boutiques, speciality food shops, independent stores and high street chains. One of my favourites was Embaixada, the Portuguese concept department store in Principe Real. Outdoor creative island LX Factory is home to agencies and professionals, plus a trendy mix of food outlets, fine art, fashion designers, world-famous chocolate cake-makers Landeau, and the rather special bookstore Livraria Ler Devagar. Head to Baixa-Chiado for the main shopping district, that will eventually lead you down to Lisbon Square where you can quite literally dip your toes in the river Tagus.
Eating + drinking
If brunch is your jam, make your first morning stop at Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013, these guys are onto a winner and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Staff are well-versed, and the vibe is very east London coffee-house. All white interior, communal seating, fresh-baked goods (cinnamon rolls are insane), and a neo-soul playlist to rival my own. The breakfast deal here is a winner for around 6 euro, and the speciality coffee is good and strong. Similarly, The Mill is perfect for avo on toast, eggs your way, great service and an eclectic crowd – but it gets busy. Just opposite here is a tiny little juice bar called YAO Pressed Juicery and it’s WONDERFUL.
Lunch on the go is the perfect excuse to head to the Time Out Market – an old fishing market near Cais do Sodre. It’s a buzing food hall, with around 35 vendors plus a couple of bars and a gift store. The made-to-order pad thai at Asian Lab and traditional pastéis de nata at Manteigaria (sister to the Chiado branch) were worth the trip alone. If you fancy a quiter spot for food or cocktails, Lost In blends Bohemian decor and nature with uninterupted rooftop views.
If like me you eat a vegetarian or plant-based diet, Lisbon won’t fail you for dinner. There’s plenty of seafood and meat floating arond the city’s restaurant scene, but look hard enough and you’ll find some amazing vegetarian gems suitable for attending alone, too. Jardim dos Sentidos is in a beautiful garden setting where you can eat a full three-course meal for under 20 euro, and you’ll find the BEST stonebaked organic pizza at In Bocca al Lupo – a cosy and friendly joint along the most unassuming side street. On my second visit they knew my order!
And to relax?
I found myself lazing around Jardín del Príncipe Real in the evening warmth – a neighbourhood garden filled with beautiful flowers and a conservatory-style restaurant. You’ll find these gardens dotted around Lisbon districts. If you enjoy being by the river, when in Cais do Sodre take a walk along the seafront; there’s a nice buzz around there. Equally, when in Belém, a walk along the prominade of this slow-paced town is a nice way to wind down with great views of 25 de Abril Bridge. For sunrise and sunset views, head to the infamous Portas do Sol (The Gates of the Sun) for panoramic views over the rainbow-coloured houses of Alfama.