Where to sleep?
I wanted to discover two different sides of Lisboa. So I figured I wanted to stay in Bairro Alto (the more modern, hip part of town) and Alfama (the oldest part of town and therefore so, so charming). I found a nice little hostel in Bairro that is called the Oasis Backpackers Hostel. My female dorm was fine; spacious and neat. The tiny garden with a bar and the living room ensured that home-from-home feeling. Don’t let the cosiness fool ya too much though; it’s still a partyhostel ;). So, don’t forget to bring your earplugs. The location is great as it turned out to be really close to some of the best restaurants and near to the center.
In Alfama I stayed in the Alfama Patio Hostel which is cuuuuuute girl. From the outside as well as the inside. Such a nice, colorful patio with hammocks and beanbags, a tiny roof terrace and lovely barbeque nights to meet up with your new friends. This part of town and therefore its hostel aswell is way quieter and easy-going than booming Bairro.
Where to eat/drink?
BAIRRO ALTO Generally I eat vegan food (occasionally fish/seafood and which girl can live without cheese & chocolate?) so I’m always up for some new vegan/vegetarian gems. The Ink Café offers delicious comfort-food dishes made from organic, local farm products that cater to a small traveling budget. You could take your food outside and enjoy the great panorama of the Miradouro de Santa Catarina viewpoint.
After a day of uphill trecking, colorful tiles and some sneaky shopping, it’s nice to have a restaurant close to your hostel. Pharmacia can be found at the end of your street and is one magical place. The concept of this restaurant is, yes smartass, the pharmaceutical industry. Everything in this well decorated resto reminds you of old-fashioned pharmacies. From the pepper and salt shaker to how your bill is presented, it’s all very well thought through. With their pretty terrace and clever cocktails, this will be a splendor evening.
While wandering around the city, you shouldn’t miss out on the cherry liqor at A Ginjinha. The tiny bar is to die for and the old charming man behind the bar pours his delicacy with pride. Around the corner on the right side, there are a few bars to sip some authentic ‘vino verde’ (refreshing, green sparkling wine) and snack some fish patties.
Sometimes it’s not so much about the food or the interior of the place. It’s about the at least equally important factor; service. At O Boteco they have pretty good pizzas, but the kindness of their staff sealed the deal. Never felt more welcome than at this place.
ALFAMA When you’re wandering around the old streets that survived the great earthquake and subsequent fire in the 18th century, you will feel the magic. The winding streets, romantic houses and the views of the sea peeking through, cover for me the real sense of Lisbon.
There wasn’t a specific restaurant I visited in Alfama that was worth sharing. Although it is a very special experience to have your dinner at a Fado restaurant. (Fado is the melancholic type of music for Lisbon in which the singers tell about life experiences.) I’m sure the staff of the hostel will help you find some authentic ones. Nevertheless I did do some good shopping in Alfama.
If you like to take some of the tiled magic of Lisbon home with you, you could buy some dazzling tiles at Cortico & Netos. (they sell them online too; hello bathing palace). Furthermore, I continued my Saturday morning of shopping at the Feira da Ladra flea market (market of the thieves). Loads of old stuff so the treasure quest is on!
BELEM Besides green wine and seafood, the Portuguese love themselves some sugar too. Don’t you dare skip the bakery’s that are all over town! One of my fav calorie bombs is Pão de Deus; divine coconut bread. In addition, the local specialty is Pastel del Nata, a sugar powdered custard pastry that the locals eat for breakfast. The best one I had was the one at Pasteis de Belem. They indicate that they invented the recipe, so yes, therefore you have to get in line.
During my trip to Lisbon and Porto I booked a few tours and food experiences with the With Locals app. This Dutch (proud!) company connects tourists and locals in a very fun way. The locals take you on a tour, share their cooking skills or offer you a sportive/creative activity. The people I met were proud of their country, cities and local dishes and it was a blast to experience Portugal through their eyes. They invited me into their homes and good food and conversations were shared. It definitely gives an authentic dimension to your trip.
Where to zen?
LISBON When I arrive at a place I haven’t been before I always like to take a sort of off day. That means I try to find my hostel asap and then a place to relax for the rest of the day. Hence I can absorb the atmosphere of that new place and let it all sink in. They next day I’ll be up and running!
When I arrived in Lisbon a tiny park caught my eye; Jardim do príncipe real. In there I found the Esplanada do Príncipe Real which is kind of a glasshouse, where I sat all day reading and writing. A perfect place to calm down after a hectic airport/flight day.
Besides that, I didn’t forget to move my sugar cluttered body on my yoga mat. My Little Yoga Space is situated in the center of Lisbon. The room is light and small which makes you feel like you’re practicing in someone’s living room. The morning session was calm and quiet and I felt totally energized again.
SINTRA “Everything in Sintra is divine, there is no corner that is not a poem” – Eca de Queirós, 1888.
I couldn’t agree more. Sintra is one of the coolest and most mystic places I’ve been to. It is a tiny village 30 km from Lisbon and it’s easy to reach by train. It’s situated between green hills and often cloaked in fog. There are colorful, odd-shaped palaces, secret gardens, castles and a lot of Moorish influences in its architecture (which I looooove), It will leave you breathless. It’s so Zen because of its atmosphere but don’t let it fool you, there is a lot of uphill trecking so bring your best hiking shoes.
I booked a tour with Sofia from Hike With Us. Sofia was born and raised in Sintra so she told me several stories about this mystical place. She recommended going to Quinta da regaleira, a castle with a humongous garden that keeps several secrets within her. It is nice to wander on your own and discover the hidden well, underground passages and symbols. It gets you hungry though so I ate a lovely Indian dinner at the Kasbah Club. (it’s such a gem, you won’t find it online, the address is R. Costa do Castelo 2) Great food and a pretty, plant-rich deck, what else would a girl want?
After Lisbon I went to Porto by train.