Planning my summer holiday has never been so easy and straightforward. I’ve always wanted to go to Lisbon and took less than an hour to book my flights and choose my Airbnb! After living in Spain for a few years, I decided it was the right time to compare the two cultures and cross the Portuguese border.
Considering their proximity territorial-wise, the two could not be any more different. Most importantly, their rather different approach to food. Even though Portugal offer tapas-style dishes and sangria, they’re far from being their best choices. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in the Portuguese capital, so let’s cover food first, as let’s be honest, that’s all we think about!
I’m all about saving money on flights to spend it on food, clothes and drinks, which means I always go for cheaper airlines. The only downside of that however, are the very unfortunate arrival times. We arrived around 8pm in Lisbon and were at our Airbnb at 9pm. It always takes some time to settle in. so by the time we realised we were hungry, it was already 11pm! We didn’t think it would be possible for us to eat anything respectable, but were pleasantly surprised by “Taverna Portuguesa“, a charming restaurant in Bairro Alto (the hip neighbourhood) with a kitchen open until 2am! Not only is that very rare to find, but the food was delicious, the staff was fun and friendly and the place was crowded with a good atmosphere!
Tip: You don’t have to eat the bread, cheese and olives (they’ll charge you extra if you do).
Where: Calcada do Combro 115, Lisbon 1200-112, Portugal
I know you’ll want to eat al fresco every night when you’re in a city like Lisbon but the Time Out market, which opened in 2014 is another alternative way to spend your night. There are about 40 stalls with different types of foods, from pizzas to burgers and traditional dishes. I decided to get some fish tapas and heard that the Miguel Castro e Silva (which is a smaller version of a famous restaurant in Lisbon) had some of the best sea food. I picked an octopus salad, some fried cod bites and a vinho verde white wine.
Tip: A dish over 10 euros in Lisbon is a scam! (unless it’s a fancy restaurant)
Where: Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal
If you want to escape the busy Lisbon streets and take a walk on the coast, I would highly recommend taking the boat to Cacilhas. Once you get off the boat, take a right and walk along the wall until you see a small plaza with two restaurants. We went to the first one called Atira-te ao rio which is, as you can see below, on the border of the river. There’s a small beach just in front of it as well where you can take a dip if you get too hot. We ordered grilled sardines and fried cuttlefish – truly delicious!
Tip: Watch out for the price of Gin if you fancy a cocktail! A glass of wine is 2€ but a gin and tonic can be up to 15€!
Where: Cais do Gingal, n.º 69/70, 2800-284 Almada, Portugal
If you don’t know what pasteis de nata are (Portuguese custard tarts) then you better run to the closest Portuguese bakery in your neighborhood and try one right away. The tarts were originally made in Belem, which is one of the most touristic districts in Lisbon, and are said to be the best ones in the world. Although we’ve had some tarts in the market as well as other places around Lisbon, there’s no denying it: the pasteis de belem are the most delicious ones!
Tip: If you’re not exactly keen to go all the way to Belem, why not try Manteigaria in Bairro Alto?
Where: Rua Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Try getting lost in Alfama (the old district) and you might encounter this small restaurant with a courtyard on a traditional street. The plates and the setting are simple, and it feels a bit as if you walked into someone’s dining room, until you get seated in the lovely patio area with colourful place mats and ceiling lights. The fish is grilled right in front of you and served with delicious potatoes roasted on the bbq. I was happy to discover that the waiters don’t start speaking to you in English (although my Portuguese is very broken) and the meal was so cheap! We both had a fish, two beers each and paid less than 20 euros.
Tip: Keep in mind that fish will always be your best choice in Lisbon.
Where: Beco do Azinhal 7, 1100 Lisboa, Portugal
Are you salivating at the thought of fresh fish and pastel de natas yet? Do leave comments below to let us know about your experience over there and whether you’ve tried any of the restaurants above!
Images: Aurore Groult