Portugal is still somewhat of a hidden gem when it comes to Western European travel. TGP founder Meredith recently spent a weekend in Lisbon and was delighted by the capital city’s beauty, hospitality and unique beauty. Read on for her travel tips and an amazing day trip!
HERITAGE LISBON HOTELS is a group of 5 boutique hotels, offering guests an array of options in the city center. Each property is managed by Portuguese families and is built into historic houses and buildings, giving a luxurious, yet “local” feel to each hotel. Guests can stay at Solar do Castelo, nestled high in the hills of the Alfama district and the only hotel located within the walls of the historic São Jorge Castle medieval village. Or, for a more central location (which is what I wanted), Hotel Lisboa Plaza is located just off of the bustling Avenida da Liberdade and is a traditionally decorated, welcoming hotel with several different lounge areas that feel like the rooms of a nice Portuguese home. The details of the hotel were what stuck with me – the bottle of local Port waiting in my room upon arrival, the homemade pastel de nata (a traditional Portuguese pastry) at breakfast every morning and the friendly staff that was always eager to help me with planning out sightseeing or day trips. No matter the property, staying with Heritage Lisbon Hotels is sure to be a great start to experiencing the true flavor of Lisbon.
TIME OUT MARKET Arriving to this market for lunch was super overwhelming, in a good way. I was faced with over 40 stalls offering traditional and modern takes on Portuguese cuisine, as well as many other global options. Time Out Market is the first market in the world where everything has been chosen, tasted and tested by Time Out’s own editors. Rest assured that wherever you end up will be a local hotspot you’ll be salivating over for a long time.
PARK This pick doubles as my choice for a great view AND a great place to grab a meal or a cocktail! Located at the top of a parking garage in the hip neighborhood of Barrio Alto (tip: hang out in this area if you’re looking to bar hop!), enjoy sprawling city views from comfy lounge chairs over a casual menu for lunch or dinner.
PHARMACIA Located in the building of the Pharmacy Museum by the Santa Catarina lookout terrace, this restaurant’s décor is inspired by old pharmacies. Guests have their choice of many traditional Portuguese tapas dishes, cocktails and local wines. Try it for lunch or dinner and have a drink on the terrace, it’s got a great view!
PASTÉIS DE BELEM No visit to Lisbon is complete without sampling the amazing Portuguese deserts – especially pastel de nata (a sweet egg tart in a crispy pastry cup)! Pastéis de Belem has been serving the “best” pastel de nata since 1837, so they’ve pretty much nailed the perfect recipe. Be prepared for a crowd, when we went the line was out the door! *If the line is too long, I’ve heard that lesser-known Manteigaria is also often said to have the best pastel de nata in the city!
ELEVADOR DA BICA One of the most photographed streets in Lisbon is probably Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo. It’s in the historic neighborhood of Bica, known for picturesque cobblestone lanes, small bars and a famous funicular that runs up and down the street and has been doing so since the late 1800s!
SÃO JORGE CASTLE Catch the sunset and explore the grounds of this massive Moorish castle that sits high on a hilltop in the historic Alfama neighborhood. There is a small cafe where guests can enjoy a glass of wine with sweeping city views, but my favorite vantage point is looking out over the 25 de Abril suspension bridge from one of the castle’s towers.
SANTA JUSTA LIFT The last remaining vertical lift in Lisbon, this once functional elevator is now more of a tourist sight. The lines are always long to take a ride to the top, but the view is pretty incredible as the lift is located right in the middle of the city.
*Other highlights include: Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery and Praça do Comércio!
See my favorite snaps from Lisbon below (click to expand):
DAY TRIP: SINTRA, PORTUGAL
Sintra is a smaller, resort town and just a 40 minute train ride from the Lisbon city center. I went there for the day and was blown away by all there is to do – it’s truly a destination in itself! While the actual town is rather sleepy, there are several castles and palaces dotting the hills that guests can visit by bus. We visited Quinta da Regaleira and got lost in the fairy tale estate and its lush grounds (including the mysterious Initiation Well that is a mossy inverted tower, spiralling down into the earth).
I’d also recommend seeing the Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors and the Monserrate Palace. This is a lot to do in just a day, but the bus system runs throughout the region and connects visitors between the several popular destinations. One other notable spot is the dramatic cliffs of Cabo da Roca – a cape which forms the westernmost extent of continental Europe. We sat for hours in the sunshine on the edge of the huge cliffs, its a gorgeous landscape that cannot be missed!