5th Stop in Portugal: Lisbon
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Sometimes you visit a big city in Europe, and don't get me wrong it is great, but you tend to find that you like the charm of the smaller villages more. Our initial thought of Lisbon before we visited was that it was going to be another big city; cool and worth seeing, but without the small-town intimacy we love experiencing.
We were completely wrong.
Lisbon was so much more than we expected. The diversity of each neighborhood gave us unique experiences and feelings of belonging that we can't quite put into words... but I will try here. Below you will find information on accommodation, places to eat and drink, things to do and see, and I will try- my hardest- to describe the emotional reaction we had with each of these things.
Where to stay
I feel like I am raving about all our AirBnb experiences during our time in Portugal, but this one really takes the cake. Friends, I must introduce you to Catarina, one of the sweetest hosts you will meet in Portugal. Catarina has a number of AirBnb's that you can learn about on their Facebook Page, Lisbon's Passion, but Ash and I stayed in the heart of Bairro Alto at Bairro Alto's Refuge. Our apartment was located on the top floor, and from the windows we could look over the lively streets below. Not only was the apartment perfect (so cute!), but Catarina took time out of her day to tell us about everything the city had to offer. From food to sights to transportation, she gave us the low down on everything. Is was so incredibly helpful and we cannot thank her enough. If you visit Lisbon, please please please stay at one of Catarina's AirBnbs!
How to get around
The public transportation was a great way to get around and we recommend trying to use it as much as you can. It gives you the chance to see more of the city. One thing that we did not do, but wish we had, was to buy a multi-day pass for Lisbon's public transportation because purchasing new tickets each time does start to add up.
Below are different ways to get around Lisbon:
Bus- Although we didn't use the bus at all, they have many lines that run by the Ribeira.
Streetcar- We usually chose to take the streetcar since we don't have them back home. #18 runs from the Ribeira to Mosteiros dos Jerónimos; #15 runs from the Monastery to central Lisbon; and #12 takes you to Castelo de Sao Jorge. One thing to note is that the tickets do not transfer from one line to another, so you will have to purchase a new ticket each time you switch routes.
Uber- Again, download the app on your phone before coming to Portugal. We actually used Uber quite a bit. When arriving in Lisbon, we took an Uber from the Oriente Station to the outskirts of Bairro Alto, and we took it other times when we had to travel from one end of the city to another. Plus, the drivers were wonderful and some gave us great tips about things to see in the city.
Walk- Walking is really a great way to immerse yourself in the city. Not only do you get to see all the storefronts close up, but you run into cool things you weren't expecting like street performers, statues, murals, and so on. The hills in Lisbon are steep though, so we can understand wanting to hop onto a street car when trying to get to the tops of some of them (we sure did!).
Where to eat and drink
As we mentioned before, Catarina gave us a great option of places to eat; local and touristy, spendy and inexpensive, fancy and casual- she knew them all. Below were a few of the places we decided to go:
Allchiado- After checking in at our AirBnb, we were hungry... hangry. We walked for a bit and then just couldn't take it anymore. We vowed that the first place we saw we would stop at to eat. This happened to be Allchiado, which ended up being great. Ash had a traditional stew-like dish, and I had the veggie burger. Allchiado can be found on Rua Nova do Almada n 66 | Chiado, Lisboa 1200-289, Portugal.
Drinks by Jardim António Nobre- We were told that some of the green spaces in Lisbon were worth seeing, so our first night we walked up to Jardim António Nobre (on the east side of Bairro Alto) and found that it not only had a great overlook of the city, but also had a tiny little pop-up bar. We ordered two beers, and sat in their cozy lawn chairs taking in the surrounding views. This green space can be found on Largo Oliveirinha 1, 1250-096 Lisboa, Portugal.
O Asiático; Japanese inspired cuisine by Chef Kiko- We found this place by chance. Walking up and down the streets of Bairro Alto, we figured that we would keep strolling along until we saw a restaurant that sounded appetizing to us. We walked past a number of cool places, but none drew us in. We weren't exactly sure what we wanted until we walked past O Asiático, and we immediately knew this was it. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, with the back of the building encased in glass. We sat at a table next to a giant tree growing right in the middle of the restaurant. Our server was wonderful; friendly and incredibly knowledgeable, and the food was delicious. We highly recommend this spot, and it can be found on Rua da Rosa 317, Lisboa, Portugal.
Cafe A Brasileira- Cafe A Brasileira was another place recommended to us, so we went there one morning for coffee and pastries. The interior decor had an old French feeling to it, and the space was filled with tables- each packed with people. This restaurant can be found on Rua Garrett 122, 1200-273 Lisboa, Portugal.
Veganapati- Ash and I aren't vegan, but we do enjoy eating vegan dishes. We saw this restaurant from streetcar #15, and thought it would be a great place to eat. It offered both indoor and outdoor seating, and we opted for outdoor. The food was fantastic and we were very happy that we ended up here! This restaurant can be found on Rua da Prata 242, 1100-423 Lisboa, Portugal.
Vicente by Carnalentejana- This place caught my eye as we walked by it on our way to Pink Street. Inside, it looked like a beautiful old cellar that had been turned into a restaurant. We noticed that some of the outdoor seating was set up on the cobbled stone steps, each spot having a lantern and two seat pads. We loved the idea of sitting there, so we requested it. Drinking our wine and watching the pedestrians pass by on a beautiful summer evening was very romantic and definitely worth the stop. This restaurant can be found on Rua das Flores, No. 6, Chiado / Cais do Sodré, Lisboa, Portugal.
Povo- One of our goals was to see traditional Fado music, and I can tell you that this is the place to experience it! The wonderful Povo staff helped us understand the menu and gave great suggestions. We ate the most incredible food while sitting only feet away from the musicians. The performers included two instrumentalists and one vocalist. It was broken up into three or four performances throughout the night; each just as intimate and powerful as the next. We felt incredibly welcomed into the space, and were even asked by the instrumentalists if we wanted a photograph with them after the show. Um, yes! This restaurant can be found on Rua Nova do Carvalho 32 - 36, 1200-292 Lisboa, Portugal.
The Mill- We ate at The Mill the day we left Portugal. It felt very much like the coffee shops you find in Minneapolis. The staff were young and hip, and the coffee was excellent. We enjoyed our breakfast, as well as the experience here. Definitely a must see. This restaurant can be found on Rua do Poço dos Negros 1, 1200-335 Lisboa, Portugal.
What to see and do
Where to I start? There are so many things to see and do here, and with only 1.5 full days here, we did not have the time to visit everything we would have liked. Below, however, were some of the things we were able to hit and would recommend to others traveling to Lisbon:
Walk the streets of Bairro Alto- Bairro Alto is the place to grab a drink and walk around as it is always lively. We happened to be here during the week which was still fun, but heard that weekends were a blast. There are a lot of great bars to stop at, and fun people watching to be had. We enjoyed looking down at the street from our AirBnb at night before heading to bed.
Mosteiros dos Jerónimos- I had seen photos of this beautiful monastery prior to our trip, so I wanted to make sure we visited it. We walked down to the Ribeira from our AirBnb and jumped on Streetcar #18 which took us straight there. Upon arrival, we had to wait through two lines; one to the left for ticket purchase, and one to the right for Monastery entrance. The first line was a 15 minute wait, and we purchased our tickets from a machine (be sure to have cash, I can't remember if they took a card). With tickets in hand we made our way to the entrance line which was only a slight wait. Once inside the monastery we realized that seeing the interior was completely worth the time spent standing in line. The interior, like the exterior, was beautiful, and we were able to spend an hour just roaming around the different levels of the monastery that were open to the public. We recommend visiting Mosteiros dos Jerónimos, but before you do, click on the link above to learn more about its history. You can find this monastery on Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa, Portugal.
Castelo de Sao Jorge- Streetcar #12 took us up to the top of the Alfama neighborhood hill. We exited the street car and walked through one of the neighborhood alleyways, up the hill a bit higher towards the entrance of the castle grounds. Our tickets got us past the first wall surrounding the garden area. It wasn't a typical garden area you find in most European castles, but it has some giant, gorgeous trees and a great overlook of the sea below. The castle was further inside the grounds and we had a great time climbing around its walls. To learn more about Castelo de Sao Jorge, click the link above. You can find the castle on Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal.
Visit the historic Alfama neighborhood- We were not aware of how charming Alfama was until we got off of Streetcar #12. The neighborhood felt older, more beachy, more quaint. Many of the streets prohibited cars (unless they were local to the neighborhood) so we walked on the winding streets through the storefronts. Alfama sits right on the river Tagus, so the views from the top of the hill are incredible. Had we not stayed in Bairro Alto, this neighborhood would have been our next choice.
Check out Pink Street- Lisbon's Pink Street is pretty well-known, in fact we had people telling us to visit the street before we left for Portugal. Although we didn't do any late night bar hopping, we did walk up and down the street to take in everything that surrounded it. We also ate and listened to incredible Fado music in one of the restaurants, (see info on Povo above), so we did get to experience a bit of the nightlife here. I am sure that during the weekend, this area is a blast.
Our time in Lisbon was short, (too short), but really wonderful. We would have liked to explore the queer scene a little more, but found it difficult finding bars catered to LGBTQI folks. We would love to know more about the queer community here, as well as other must-see areas that we weren't able to get to. If you have experienced anything that we did not mention, we would love to hear from you in the comment box below!
I do ask that this stays a positive and safe space for readers, so please, no hurtful language or remarks about other's experiences. Thank you.