I leaned forward and peered over railing of the shady terrace. Lisbon’s terracotta topped buildings laid out below me, like boats bobbing in a rough harbour. My view framed by the surrounding hills, the snaking River Tagus and the elegant Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The city stood stoical in the fading sun, with the ruined Carmel Convent the only clue that Lisbon was once flattened by an earthquake. I take a sip of my Super Bock beer and admire the Moorish São Jorge Castle, guarding the city like a lighthouse, feeling very lucky to be enjoying this beautiful city.
For me, this is the best way to enjoy Portugal’s capital. With a coffee, cold beer or cocktail, and a plateful of Bacalhau (Portuguese codfish) or some other delight from the sea. Of course, there are many fantastic view-less bars and restaurants in Lisbon but the nautical remains a recurrent theme of my weekend in the city. Portugal was a naval powerhouse in the 15th and 16th century. Many of Lisbon’s monuments and statues commemorate it’s history as a maritime power. Even the country’s flag includes an armillary sphere, a navigational instrument used by sailors.
But Lisbon is more than it’s faded nautical past. It is the home of vintage yellow cable cars, Baroque churches and squares along with enchanting Moorish tiled facades. A young vibrant city made up of unique districts with a bold nightlife, cheap drinks and modern restaurants. So, after enjoying the incredible sights, districts and monuments of the city move onto it’s other draw, the sensational yet affordable food and drink.
Drinks, Dinner and Dessert in Lisbon
Miradouro da Graça
A pine-shaded, paved terrace standing behind the 18th Century Igreja da Graça Church. The terrace provides incredible views over the city and is popular with young people, especially at sunset. There is seating and a kiosk selling €2 beers and toasted sandwiches. Perfect spot to chill out after a day of sightseeing. Very close to the Alfama district and on the route of the cute, yellow, vintage tram number 28.
Address: Largo da Graça, 1100 Lisboa, Ph: +351 218 865 341Open: 10am -2am 7 Days
Wine With a View
An ultra-convenient mobile wine cart selling Portuguese wines and the famous Ginjinha cherry liquor at Lisbon’s most scenic sites: the São Jorge Castle, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Torre de Belém. Making it easy to toast this beautiful city!
Address: Three Locations – At the Castelo de São Jorge, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Torre de Belém. Open: 11am to 6pm
Park Bar is a funky, urban hotspot situated on the 6th floor of a car park in the Barrio Alto district. Considerably more expensive than other bars in Lisbon, it is packed with tourists. But the views over the city are incredible and overall it is a fun place to hang out with fellow travellers. My friends and I loved the alcohol heavy white sangria filled with martini sparkling wine and strawberries.
Address: Calcada do Combro 58, Lisbon 1200-115, Ph: +351 21 591 4011 Open: 1pm-3.30am Monday to Friday, Saturday 12.30pm to 2am, Sunday Closed
Cocktails, Cocktails, Cocktails! This iconic former grocery store takes quirky to the next level! Five rooms filled with shelf after shelf of quirky artifacts like porcelain dolls, ceramic novelty mugs and vintage toys. The extensive cocktail menu is disguised as a vintage magazine and every cocktail was fantastic. The atmosphere is quite relaxed and low-key but a visit to Pavilhão Chinês is a must.
Address: R. Dom Pedro V 89, 1250-093 Lisboa, Ph: +351 21 342 4729, Open: 6pm to 2am 7 days a week
A local named Pedro told me that:
“Nobody actually knows the name of the bars in the Barrio Alto”
He said that instead, people just meet some friends in the nearby square, buy a drink in a bar, socialise in the street then move to the next one. So that is exactly what we did and what fun it was! We met locals and tourists mingling and chatting in the street. The cocktails at Art88 where commendable and those in Cusek Bar strong and cheap. But be warned, Barrio Alto quiets down at 2am when the local all head to the clubs.
A compact rock bar and dance club with live music and a fun vibe. The night we visited the band were fantastic, playing popular rock covers with sassy female vocals, drum solos and a skillful saxophonist. Tokyo Bar is situated on Lisbon’s “Pink Street” or Rua Nova do Carvalho, once the cities Red Light District but now a pink coloured party strip. Within walking distance of Barrio Alto, this lively corner of Lisbon is the perfect place to dance the night away.
Address: R. Nova do Carvalho 12, 1200 Lisboa, Ph: +351 21 347 2429, Open: Monday to Saturday 12am-4am
Quiosques de Refresco
Lisbon has a relaxed and alfresco approach to dining and socialising, and the quiosques de refresco emulates this attitude perfectly. These vintage-style, wrought iron and often ornate, kiosks occupy many of the cities squares and parks. They are the perfect place to sit back with a coffee, beer, ginjinha (cherry liquor) or horchata (milky almond drink) and people watch.
My friends and I stumbled on Santa Bica after attempting to get a table at Estrella da Bica, another busy restaurant with great reviews. But it is fair to say the Santa Bica was a happy accident. The friendly staff kindly squeezed us into a window side table at this busy restaurant. Which proved to be the perfect place to watch the iconic Elevador da Bica trundle past.
The layout of this ex-bakery is intriguing, with tiny light filled rooms and an alfresco patio. The food was tasting, modern, Portuguese style tapas. Our favourite dish was the squid salad but also try Bacalhau à Lagareiro, a dish with Lisbon’s traditional cod. Both went perfectly with a bottle of Vinho Verde. The name translates to “green wine”. A young, lightly sparkling, refreshing white perfect in the warm Lisbon weather.
Address: Tv. do Cabral 39, 1200-054 Lisboa, Ph: +351 967 092 128, Open: 6pm to 1am Tuesday to Sunday
Restaurante “A Vela” Associacao Regional De Vela Do Centro
Some of the best clams I have ever tasted! Served with coriander and garlic they were delicious accompanied by toasted bread, a cold beer and a few grams of the Gamba Nacional (national prawns).
This seafood restaurant is housed in a sailing club which has wonderful views of the River Tagus, Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and Santuário de Cristo Rei (Lisbon’s answer to Christ the Redeemer). It was filled with locals smartly dressed in designer sunglasses and boat shoes. Situated in the Belém area of Lisbon, very close to Jerónimos Monastery, “A Vela” is definitely worth a lunchtime visit. Just don’t be put off by the tacky Super Bock chairs and maybe avoid the local spinach delicacy- it is green goo.
Address: Doca de Belem Avenida Brasilia, Lisbon 1400-038, Ph: +351 21 364 2711, Open: Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 10pm, Sunday 9am to 4pm
Casa Do Alentejo
Casa Do Alentejo is housed in a 17th Century palace that once belonged to the Viscounts of Alverca. It boasts a Moorish style central courtyard, a grand stone staircase, glass chandeliers and 17th century tiled panels. But despite it’s grandeur, the building is run down and a little worse for wear.
The restaurant serves very traditional, no-fills farm style cuisine. A friend recommended the oven baked rabbit for two but without another diner willing to eat the Easter Bunny I settled for a lamb stew. Certainly, not the nicest meal I had in Lisbon, a little bit bland and bony for my taste but it is a nice place to admire the old-world charms of Lisbon. Maybe just go for a drink or dessert instead?
Address: R. das Portas de Santo Antão 58, 1150 Lisboa, Ph: +351 21 340 5140, Open: 10am to 11pm 7 days a week
Chapitô à Mesa
Chapitô à Mesa is Lisbon’s famed Circus School and just a short walk from the São Jorge castle it is an offbeat but enjoyable place for lunch. A vast open courtyard with an attached bar and terrace which overlook the beautiful city of Lisbon. You have to be lucky to bag a seat on the terrace but even without the views this place is still good. The lunch menu is simple and honest, made up of toasted sandwiches and salads. The goats cheese salad and the sardine toast were delicious.
Address: Costa do Castelo 7, 1149-079 Lisboa, Ph: +351 21 887 5077, Open: Monday to Saturday 12–6pm, 7pm–1:30am and Sunday 7pm to 1.30am
Pastéis de Belém
The holy grail of Lisbon’s pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart). These sweet, egg custard tarts with a golden pasty base are made using an ancient recipe from the monks of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. They are a must when visiting Lisbon. Best enjoyed with a bica (porugese espresso) or with a picnic in the nearby peacock filled Jardín Botánico de Ajuda botanical gardens.
Address: R. Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Ph: +351 21 363 7423, Open: 8am to 11pm 7 days
If you are already bored of Pastéis de Belém then maybe it is worth visiting Pastelaria Alcoa. An artistically mosaiced pastry shop specialising in “monastic pastries” which follow ancient recipes from Cistercian monks. The theme here is eggs, pastry and sugar with the specialty at Pastelaria Alcoa being the cornucôpia, a deep-fried pastry cone stuffed with custard. Yum!
Address: R. Garrett 37, 1200-309 Lisboa, Open: 9am to 10pm 7 days a week
After filling yourself up to the eyeballs with custard, maybe it’s time to move over to some classically cool and refreshing gelato. There is no better place than Gelataria Portuguesa near the castle. That way you can stroll through the cobbled streets of the castle district with your dripping cone and pat yourself on the back for visiting this fab city Lisbon.
Address: R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo 15, 1100-250 Lisboa, Ph: +351 917 565 534, Open: 10.30am to 8pm 7 days a week
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