Lisbon is one of our favorite cities so far: decadent seafood to 5 EUR hand pulled noodles, pastéis de natas and espresso any time of day, and literally breath-taking views everywhere you go. Those beautifully tiled pavement and building exteriors, the wide diversity of cultures – there were surprisingly tons of Asian markets and restaurants – and (yet another) coastal town vibe had us settling in deep and so reluctant to leave.
Good to Know
In our experience, the Portuguese use English much more than the French, so we had no trouble getting around. The weather during our stay was a mix of warm sunny days and very cold rainy days.
Vaccinations: Routine Vaccinations
Mosquito problems: None at the time. Their windows don’t have screens.
Problems for tattoos: None, I was complimented for my sleeve once.
Traveling as a woman: Standard Precautions
Lisbon is a fairly large city and very hilly. We mostly walked but did take the light rail over to Belém. The light rail system was a little confusing, we did need to pay to get onto the train, but exiting and entering via the Belém station does not require a ticket. The city center is very walkable, however those who need a little help there should look into the elevators and escalators located throughout the city, or you can opt to hire a tuk-tuk, ready to for hire everywhere you go.
Currency: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD
Tipping is not necessary, but appreciated. Tax is usually already included in their pricing. Most places in Portugal only take cash, so always have cash on hand just in case.
$50-70/person: This was for 6 evenings in Lisbon with a private Airbnb apartment located in the city center. We cooked most of our meals in and splurged at the Time Out Market and the famous Cervejaria Ramiro. Oh, and ate a lot of pastéis de nata, for research of course. As expected, Lisbon is a little more expensive than Porto.
Some typical costs
- Pastel de nata/Egg tart: .90-1.10 EUR
- Espresso drink: .60-1.50 EUR
- Time Out Market meal: 10-20 EUR
- AirBnB: $50/night
What to Eat
Pastéis de natas:
Our very favorite food so far has to be the pastels, we could eat these all day!
- Pastelaria Nata Fina, R. Palma 27 – They sell both kinds of crusts for the egg tarts, the puff pastry shell is better than the shortcrust shell, and they sell pastéis with cinnamon on top already (as opposed to elsewhere where they give you packets of sugar or cinnamon to place yourself).
- Manteigaria, Rua do Loreto 2 – located in the Time Out Market, they definitely have amazing egg tarts, not sure if they were just that much fresher because of their higher turnaround (than smaller pastelerias), but they were super flaky and the custard was soft and creamy.
- Pasteis de Belém, R. de Belém 84-92 – these famous pastéis are indeed delicious. They were the only ones with a crunchy bottom, served still hot and so fresh with a super soft custard. At 1.10 EUR they were the most expensive ones we’ve had.
wixsite.com/cervejariaramiro/copia-home, Avenida Almirante Reis,1 – H, $$$$
We came on a Saturday just after they opened around noon and there were plenty of tables then. Not too much later and there was a line queueing despite their quick service. Note that they serve you bread and butter automatically but it is not complementary (costs about 3 EUR), so if you don’t want to pay for it, refuse it. They also charge for bottled water, which they’ll also call “still water”, so you might have to specify “tap” water for free water. We’ve taken to just order beer or an actual drink instead of doing the tango for water. Be prepared, they do not skimp on butter here!
Our favorites hands down were the clams and the scarlet shrimp. It was first time trying scarlet shrimp: they were huge but so very tender and possess way more flavor than your typical prawn back at home; we recommend that over the lobster or giant prawn. Yet again, we were schooled in the ways of eating shellfish (read about our Le Panier de Crabes experience here) and we were shown there’s a much better way to declaw lobster. They have a special cracking tool that’s meant to snip and hold the joints rather than simply break the shell. You pinch with the tool and then twist the claw to break it apart, then push the meat from one end out the other! It was literally mind-blowing. Be prepared to splurge here, see the following numbers for the costs so you can plan accordingly! We were definitely full after this meal and quite frankly others around us didn’t order quite as much.
- 1 plate of bread and butter – 2.76 EUR
- 2 beers – 1.88 EUR/each
- 1kg clams on garlic – 11.62 EUR/kg
- 1, 0.27kg giant tiger prawn – 67.21 EUR/kg = 18.15 EUR
- 2, 0.27kg scarlet shrimps – 81.35 EUR/kg = 21.96 EUR
- 1, 1.05kg lobster – 60.81 EUR/kg = 63.85 EUR
As Bifanas Do Afonso
wixsite.com/cervejariaramiro/copia-home, Portugal, R. da Madalena 146, $
Another Portuguese signature is the bifanas. It’s a cheap but delicious beef sandwich. Here you can get them for 2.2 euro each. They’re pretty tasty but a little salty, so try it with a little mustard!
Amanhecer Supermercado Oriental
amanhecer.pt, R. Palma 41, $
As aforementioned, Lisbon has a quite a number of Asian markets, and this one is a combo of a grocery store, hand pulled noodles, Pho/Korean restaurant, and a sushi restaurant, as well as a boba stall that wasn’t open while we were there. We tried both the Sushi House (decent quality for fairly good price) and the hand pulled noodles at Noodle Delight 8 (pretty great and definitely worth the 5 EUR/bowl). Their noodles were a little thinner and not as chewy as I like, as it started to get rather soft towards the end of the bowl, but the bowl is filling and a great value. The beef soup has more flavor, as per usual, but I also found the chicken soup had a decent amount of flavor, though Carl found it unsatisfying after trying the beef soup.
Time Out Market
amanhecer.pt, R. Palma 41, $
Time Out is frequented by mostly tourists, but it is still worth a visit. As some other visitors have written so eloquently: it’s priced at a fine dining but it’s laid out like a cafeteria. It’ll still be fairly quiet if you get in before 1pm, but between 1-3pm it will be jam packed. It’s other half is a traditional mercado to buy fresh produce, seafood, and flowers, and it’s only open Monday – Saturday until 2pm. We bought some super fresh squid and made garlic calamari with a creamy couscous flavored with peach juice and laughing cow cheese, random but delicious! Did you catch our Instagram story daily? Recipe to come!
- Pick up a couple (or a dozen) egg tarts at Manteigaria
- The tuna tartar from Tartar-ria was delicious, served beautifully and with some lovely flavors.
- Each stall offers drinks, or you can grab a couple beers from Superbock Experience, about 3.5 EUR a beer
- We tried the daily special (on a Thursday) from Chef Marlene Viera, a tasty sautéed codfish with potatoes and olives.
- For dessert, there’s ice cream from Santini, their cones are like those Italian wafers, so light and crisp, but while the gelato itself was creamy it was not the most amazing gelato we’ve had.
R. da Misericórdia 13, $
We stopped often for bread at Padeiro Bairro for our breakfasts and meals. They also have pastéis but their wide array of bread and rolls mainly caught our eye.
gelatariailgelatone.business.site, Rua da Vitoria n 35, $
Il Gelatone is right next door to Padeiro Bairro, so we gave it try after all that brainwashing! Their stracciatella was very thick and milky in flavor, served a little more solid than other gelatos.
As we often ate in, we frequented Pingo Doce for groceries. They’re everywhere, and have everything from fresh produce to ready to eat foods. Similarly to France, they have orange juice machines there so you can purchase freshly squeezed juice, though the one time we tried it the orange juice was pretty tart and a little bitter. We made chicken thighs and drumsticks with salad as well as dourada fish, baked with purple yams, yellow onion, lemon, salt and pepper, sugar and lots of cilantro. We also shared that on our Instagram story dailies – recipe to come!
Read about Carl’s take on the food in Lisbon below:
The next day we found ourselves making the small trek to a Lisbon must, the Time Out Market. From fresh produce and seafood to food stalls offering a variety of dishes that one would find it hard to choose where to eat. They also had 4-5 stalls where they featured local chefs. We tried many foods from many different stalls but my favorite had to be getting some squid from the market to cook for dinner later that night. The atmosphere is definitely hustle and bustle from tourist to locals you’ll find all kinds of people here and not one food stall would be without customers. If you’re able to cook I highly suggest buying ingredients from the market and cooking it yourself. Getting a taste of the quality the city has to offer.
One of the rainy days we found ourselves craving some soup and luckily that Asian market I mentioned earlier had a hand pulled noodles stall. Ordering a chicken and a beef hand pulled noodle soup we were excited to have some more Asian food. The chicken soup, we ordered to try it but chicken isn’t usually the kind of thing we normally get, was quite delicious. Strong flavor in the broth though the chicken was a little dry. That’s usually the reason why I never order some type of chicken soup. The beef soup had an even stronger flavor. Definitely top quality broth and the beef was soft and delicious as well. You can’t really go wrong with hand pulled noodles. The taste and texture of freshly made noodles cannot be beat. It was a meal perfect for the weather and a good sign that maybe Lisbon could be a great place to live since it offered tasty Asian food.
As we explored the city more we stumbled upon another spot Anthony Bourdain stepped into. A place they offered a ginjinha, a liquor made with cherries that kind of reminded you of Robitussin with a bigger punch! Strong little shots that 1 drink is definitely all you need for a great night.
One of the eating highlights we had were Cervejaria Ramiro. A must do seafood experience! Anything that the ocean could offer, they had it! We had a good amount of dishes, as one should when they feast: garlic clams, scarlet shrimps, lobster and a giant tiger prawn did the trick for us. First came the garlic clams. I remember watching a video on YouTube of a travel vlogger who ate here said the smell of butter was breathtaking. That was an understatement. They probably go through barrels of butter a day! And the garlic clams were swimming in it. Butter, garlic and clams were simple and delicious. No ocean-y taste, soft texture of the clam meat. Next the giant tiger prawn: packed full of meat. Head juice on a buttery piece of bread – man was it heaven. I feared the head juice would be super strong in flavor but the piece of bread mellowed it out and was quite pleasant. The meat’s texture felt like a juicy steak again cooked in butter. The lobster was also amazing! Before they bring the cooked lobster to your table they show you the lobster live to get your approval of execution. Most of the dishes were simple in the way they were cooked and I appreciate that they let the seafood do the talking. The lobster had tons of meat and pretty much all cut up for you for easy eating. You just had to do little work to break some shell but for the most part the hard work was done for you. Next we had the Scarlet shrimp. Basically also a ginormous shrimp or a baby lobster.. it was our favorite out of the whole meal. The meat juicy and plump and so good we started to research where at home we could get it. The search continues! Most of our seafood was swimming in butter but you couldn’t stop eating just because the seafood itself was such top quality. Definitely tied for best meal we’ve had so far.
And last but not least, the best snack or dessert of them all, pasteis de nata or egg tarts. Not your typical Asian crumbly crust egg tart at all which I find to be hit or miss whenever I try them. Portuguese egg tarts are the gold standard! Crunchy filo dough crust with sweet yet savory egg filling and baked just so the top gets a couple spots of that gold brown skin. One of the famous places to try this wonderful treat, pasteis de Belém. Usually a long line but a quick one. We found their tarts to be perfect in flavor and creamy texture with the crust super crunchy, almost too crunchy. Our favorite place to get egg tarts was at Manteigaria at the Time Out. Perfect ratio of crunch to creamy that it was a daily must have treat
So many takeaways from Portugal in general. The freshest of seafood and produce that it seems it would be easy to be a cook here as you would just let the quality do the work for you. It’s a culinary motivation to be surrounded by such great ingredients and definitely a reminder to all cooks to keep it simple in the kitchen.
What to Do
Castelo de São Jorge
castelodesaojorge.pt, R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 8.5 EUR/general ticket
Castelo de São Jorge definitely provides a great view, though Lisbon is very hilly so you can find a great view for free elsewhere if you’re not interested in the castle itself. The ticket gives you entry to the grounds to walk around the castle ruins and see the small permanent exhibit, but otherwise there is not much to look at. We went first thing in the morning on a Wednesday and enjoyed the quieter crowd, felt satisfied after a couple hours and left just before it started to get busier. Be prepared for the thigh burners as you’ll climb a number of stairs around the castle, not to mention the hill to get to the castle itself. There are peacocks living on the grounds, which made for some entertainment as they squabbled over territory from the pigeons near the cafe.
Belém, or Bethlehem, is a very popular district of Lisbon. It’s not far from the city center, but to save some time we opted to use the light rail instead of walking. Again, it was a little confusing as the Cais do Sodré stop seemed like the only stop that required a ticket, no other stop on the way seemed like you needed one, so perhaps we could have saved on the ticket cost had we just walked a bit farther and hoped on the next station. We spent a couple hours just walking around and photographing the monastery and garden, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument. Note that the church next to the monastery is no longer free to visit, though inexpensive: 1.5 EUR.
Relax, Snack, & People watch
One of the best things to do in Europe is to slow down and just enjoy the day. We especially liked this in Portugal, where the coffee is cheaper and you can also eat pastéis! As Lisbon is quite touristy, there are plenty of places to people watch, like any of the city squares, the Time Out Market, or down by the water in the Alfama district. Any time of the day, you can go to a café and order just an espresso or a beer and wile away a couple hours. For a quieter area, try Josephine bistro & bar, or any of the cafés near Rua da Palma.
Where to Stay
The AirBnB is cute and has everything you might need. It is a good location but there is a LOT of noise late at night. The garbage gets moved around midnight and the neighbor gets back home late and smokes and the smell comes into the apartment. During our stay there was also some construction and work going on in our building and the next one, so there was also quite a bit of noise in the mornings.
Luckily the host was super flexible about our late check out since we had an overnight train to Madrid.
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