6th July, 2018
After spending 3 days in Porto, we headed to the Capital of Portugal – LISBON.
Portugal’s capital – Lisbon is bursting with culture and great places to eat, stay and party – and it’s the cheapest city break destination in western Europe.
Best time to Visit
Is winter the best time to visit Portugal? No, objectively speaking, it’s not. If you want to get the most out of visiting Lisbon (and Portugal), you should wait at least for the spring. However, can it be a good time to visit? Sure! The month of January in particular is great for visitors from Northern Europe who want to kick off the new year with a city trip in a mild climate.
December and January may get quite rainy and cold, but there are also fewer tourists, which makes it easier to have a more personal and unhurried experience.
Spring is an excellent time to visit, and arguably the best time of the year. The average number of rainy days drops from around 12 in March and April, to 8 in May and just 5 in June.
MIRINDA suggests ! – You may want to visit Lisbon in June, as this is a month filled with festivities around the Popular Saints. There is music in the streets, colorful buntings everywhere, and vendors selling grilled sardines. The biggest night is St. Anthony’s day (early June) and the week leading up to it is a pretty big deal as well, though the entire month sees all sorts of festivities.
Getting around Lisbon – The most convenient ways..
The best way to see Lisbon is to walk. If you’re the kind of travel romantic who enjoys strolling along cobblestone streets, sitting down at a cafe patio, or just getting lost on purpose, then you’ll feel right at home.
Other ways to get around Lisbon are :
Tram – The two tram lines in the city are a favourite mode of Lisbon transport for both locals and tourists. There are two types, the modern Siemens “Articulado” trams or the historic “Remodelado” trams.
MIRINDA fun-facts!- E28 is the most scenic route and it crosses through the historic Alfama district. A tram ticket cost starts at €2.90.
Hop-on Hop-off bus – The buses here are much faster than the trams, and several lines run through all parts of the city. They are cheaper than the tourist tram and take less time to travel from one place to another. Another advantage to this easy Lisbon transport option is one can buy multiple-day tickets or go for unlimited passes if planning to stay in the city for a longer period of time.
Uber – is also widely available here.
MIRINDA Suggests ! – First, you buy a Viva Viagem card for €0.50 and then top it up with whatever type of ticket you’re interested in. You can buy a €6 ticket that let’s you use the Metro, Bus and Tram for a period of 24 hours. I believe they also have a more cost-effective 5 day pass, that you can find out about when buy a ticket.
Top 8 must visit attractions in Lisbon
Don’t fixate just on the tourist sights, as half the fun is just to explore at random. Turn a corner and you won’t know what you’ll find next: maybe some colorful traditionally tiled buildings, a quirky crafts shop, a spectacular view of the river Tejo, or maybe some incredible street art (Lisbon has lots of it, more than any other city I’ve been).
Here are our top 8 picks of the must visit places and attractions in Lisbon…
1. Torre de Belem : A Historic Tower
Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland. It is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.
MIRINDA suggests! – Possibly worth a quick look on the outside if you’re in Belem anyway, but inside it’s really just a staircase. A bit of a tourist trap. I know this may sound negative, but I’m just trying to save you some time!
2. Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology – MAAT
Designed by British architect Amanda Levete, MAAT opened on the banks of the Tagus to great fanfare in 2016. Comprising a former power plant and a separate curvy modern annexe with 7,000 square metres of exhibition space, some critics say the exterior – gleaming white stone turning gold in the setting sun – is the best bit.
MIRINDA fun facts! – Museum entry €9 for both buildings, open 12-8pm, closed on Tues.
3. LX Factory
Situated in Alcântara, the buildings where budding creativity now flourishes once belonged to a fabric company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense” (Company of Wiring and Textiles). It opened in 1846 and was considered a significant company in Lisbon’s industrialization. Today, however, you will find various offices along the upper floors – ranging from flexible workspace for freelancers to modeling agencies to photography studios – and eateries every few paces on the ground floor.
MIRINDA suggests ! – We would strongly suggest you try spending atleast half a day here, there are so many small shops and artsy places to see and experience. Also, the restaurants and the vibe of this place is amazing and worth experiencing !!!!
The first thing you may notice when entering the gates are all the flyers along the walls. As a trendy locale, groups, bands, and anyone wanting to extend their voice pin their flyers within the entrance walls hoping to be heard. Continue walking around and the outdoor wall art will soon catch your attention. From inspirational quotes to random cartoons, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the artwork, but they’re appreciated anyway.
Where to Eat at LX Factory?
There are too many restaurants at the LX Factory to name them all, but a few stand out from the crowd.
A Mesa – In the mood for pizza and don’t mind sharing a table with strangers? A Mesa is a hip pizzeria with long, wooden tables that seat up to 50 people.
Mez Cais LX – Hearty and yummy Mexican food at its best.. Must try – The margaritas, steak burrito and the dessert churros.
LXeeseCake – The woman who runs LXeeseCake goes by the name Madame Cheeselova, but the nickname is not a combination of “cheese” and “lover”. It’s actually a tribute to Madame Cheeselova’s two specialties: cheesecake and pavlova – the latter can be purchased on Sundays or when ordered in advance.
Landeau – And if cheesecake isn’t your thing, Landeau may tickle your fancy instead. At Landeau – which also has a shop in Chiado – you can try “the best chocolate cake in the world” which has a variety of textures and must be sampled to understand.
The Therapist – This place is something entirely different. Are you looking for a cool spot for a healthy lunch? Visit The Therapist! Are you unsure how to navigate life in Lisbon? Visit The Therapist! What if you want to see a nutritionist? Yep, visit The Therapist! In short, The Therapist is a sort of restaurant, clinic and a “Lisbon Survival Guide” school all in one.
Trendy things to do at LX Factory?
Ler Devagar – has received a lot of attention as not only one of the most beautiful and unique bookshops in Portugal but also in the world. When you step inside it’s clear that this space once belonged to a factory as the metal staircase and some of the structures are giveaway features. The bookshop sells books both in Portuguese and English (mostly in Portuguese though) and you can peruse them while sipping coffee or sampling cakes from the café inside.
Bairro Arte – After reading (or instead of it), go shopping. There are many shops inside the LX Factory, but one that stands out is Bairro Arte. The merchandise is a bit retro, a bit artsy, and very much geared towards amusement. If you’re in need of a novelty gift, this is the place to go, and there are lots of unique pieces that are great for decorating the home as well.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – Visit LX Factory on any Sunday and you’ll run into the outdoor flea market.
4. Sao Roque Church & Museum – Home of the World’s Most Expensive Chapel
The church with the plainest façade in Lisbon has one of the city’s richest interiors. Each of the chapels is a masterpiece of Baroque art but the showpiece is the fourth one on the left, the “world’s most expensive chapel.”
Adjoining the church is a Museum of Sacred Art, containing 16th century Portuguese paintings (including one of Catherine of Austria, and another of the wedding ceremony of King Manuel I), a display of vestments, and an impressive collection of baroque silver. A highlight is a pair of bronze-and-silver torch holders, weighing about 840 pounds, among the most elaborate in Europe.
5. Jeronimos Monastery
Grand and impressive, the Jerónimos Monastery is quite the sight to behold, even from the outside. It is the site where many ancient Portuguese explorers sought shelter, either before or after a trip, and the monastery is the final resting ground of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer who was the first European to sail to India. This is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites in Belém and a National Monument, declared in 1907.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – Entrance to the monastery costs €10.
6. The Discoveries Monument
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or the Discoveries Monument, that stands today was built in time for the 500-year-anniversary of the death of Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator and to symbolize Portugal’s role during the Age of Discoveries.
Today, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a striking, 52-meter (170-foot) memorial composed of concrete and stone, built to resemble the bow of a ship pointing towards the sea from its location along Tagus River.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – While one can enjoy viewing the monument up close from the outside, tickets can be purchased for €5 (around US$5.90) to peruse the museum inside and climb (or take an elevator) up to an observation deck above. We totally recommend doing this, the views of the city are amazing from the top…
7. Listen to Authentic FADO at Tasca Do Chico
Tourists, Portuguese, elderly or young, they all come in to watch or sing the authenticity of fado vadio celebrated here – it’s generally intense and emotional and sung by amateurs, although they also take in renowned artists, you never know who’s going to sing. Either way, it’s a constant surprise. This establishment, filled with paintings, billboards, and photographs, is almost always fully booked.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – We highly recommend you pre-book a table for yourself a day in advance as this place is generally packed
8. THE BERTRAND BOOKSTORE – The oldest bookstore in the World !
The Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal has been open since 1732. That’s right, 281 years. It was open by Peter Faure to be a hub of Lisbon’s art and intellectual scene, over time, has become the cornerstone of the Bertrand bookstore chain, has more than 50 stores throughout Portugal. Now, it hasn’t been at this location since 1732, just since 1755 when the original store was destroyed in the great earthquake that leveled much of the city (and was the inspiration for Voltaire’s Candide).
Faure turned the store over to the Bertrand Brothers a few decades after opening it, and the Bertrands got their own printing press, held workshops on printing and writing, and even have their own font (the font of the store sign in the images below.
Where to Stay ?
Accommodation in Lisbon is generally inexpensive. We strongly suggest you stay in Bairro Alto , as most of the attractions in Lisbon are close by from there.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – While the Bairro Alto neighborhood is where all the action is, we wanted to stay a bit further away (near Rossio Metro). The Bairro Alto neighborhood is known to come alive post 11PM and even when the bars shut down, people continue their party on the streets because, in Lisbon, it’s legal to drink on the street! Therefore, not great to get a good night’s sleep if you end up staying at an apartment upstairs from a bar. Plus, this neighborhood has more steep slopes than usual, so we didn’t want to risk ending up with an apartment we’d have to climb to every night after a day of gallivanting.
Airbnb across Portugal is very reliable and has plenty of options. It is quite cheap too. Just book a nice apartment with good reviews and you will be set.
Some people prefer hostels too. There are some good ones which offer a good deal for money. Check the reviews on trip advisor.
Food in Lisbon
It’s time to loosen your belt. No, seriously. Food is a standalone reason to visit Portugal but in Lisbon things get even better.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – Our Favourite Spot in Lisbon : Praça Luíz de Camões – Every evening, we’d invariably end up at this bustling square in the Baixa Chiado neighborhood. We’d buy the local lemongrass (Erva Príncipe) or black currant (Groselha) drink from Quiosque de Refresco (refreshment kiosks) and sip the ice cold drink served in these cool cornstarch glasses, watching the people around us.
The kiosque, by the way, is a genius idea that needs to be replicated in other cities.
- Pastries – PASTEIS DE BELEM (Rua de Belém, 84-92)This is the pastry shop for which I made the pilgrimage to Lisbon, and a pilgrimage that was absolutely worthwhile. We ordered a 6-pack of pastries to go and ate them warm at the train station, sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Gelato – SANTINI (Rua do Carmo, 9)
This gelato shop is always packed! So much so that the line for gelato extends to the street and disrupts traffic. They have a huge selection of flavours that changes seasonally.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – A few points about eating out in Lisbon:
* Almost all restaurants will bring you a plate of olives and bread without you asking for it and add it to the bill in the end. If you don’t want it, you can ask them to take it back or just leave it untouched.
* Sunday is a bad restaurant day. Everything is closed so make sure to plan accordingly.
* Tipping: It’s not customary, but it’s a good gesture. 5-10% of the bill is good enough.
Where to eat in Lisbon ?
- TIME OUT MARKET – The Mercado da Ribeira has become one of the liveliest culinary spots in Lisbon since it was converted into a food court by Time Out Lisbon in 2014.All the stalls are outstanding, but you could begin with fried baby squid at Marisqueira Azul, follow it up with the roasted farinheira (smoked pork sausage) by chef Alexandre Silva. You could also try some petiscos (sort of tapas) from Northern Portugal by chef Miguel Castro e Silva. These include francesinha, a mega-sandwich that goes into the oven and is served with a sauce poured over it.
MIRINDA suggests ! – For vegetarians and vegans, the selection at Time Out Market may not be not very exciting. Typical Portuguese cuisine is meat- and fish-heavy. However, at the Asian Lab you can order vegan curries and pad thai. At Pizza a Pezzi, you can get vegetarian slices, though not vegan (as they all have cheese). And you won’t be disappointed with a slice of cake for dessert at Nós É Mais Bolos.
Then, you could taste the suckling pork by Michelin-starred chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, or the traditional grilled chicken by Miguel Laffan, another Michelin-starred chef. For dessert, you could try Santini that offers some of the best ice cream in Lisbon.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – The Mercado da Ribeira is located at Cais do Sodré. The food court is open daily for lunch and dinner, from 10am to midnight (Friday and Saturday till 2am). The traditional market is open from Monday to Saturday from 6am to 2pm.
- TABERNA IDEAL (Rua Esperança 112) – An excellent Taberna, serving food from the islands of Portugal. Good food, average deserts, large portions and excellent atmosphere packed with locals. Especially loved the pairing of deep fried chorico with sliced oranges and their tartine made with honey, rosemary and fresh cheese.
- TABERNA DA RUA DAS FLORES (Rua das Flores, 103) – This is my favourite restaurant in all of Lisbon. Favourite. We ate here on our first day. I went back here midweek for their dessert of fresh cheese, honey and almonds. And then, again, we went back there for dinner on our last night in Lisbon. Everything we ate here was superlative, but the one dish I remember so distinctly was the Tiradito de Corvina (fish, a lot like sea bass) barely cooked on hot stones, and raw inside, served on a bed of seaweed, sprinkled with tiny dried prawns and sesame seeds and a dollop of gochujang on the side. And their clams, such good clams with chopped up chourico. I’d say, you can blindly order anything here.
- PIZZERIA CASANOVA – One of the best pizza restaurants in Lisbon. Opened by an Italian woman living in Portugal for already 30 years, Maria Paola Porru. If you desire a pizza at midnight, the kitchen is still open, but even at that time you might have a queue for a table, but worth to wait.
- TMN AO VIVO – An old warehouse was transformed into a concert hall (capacity of over 1000 people) and fully equipped to accommodate bands and DJs, but also receives stand-up comedy and theater’s performances. You can listen to pop-rock, indie rock or world music and the programming is a result of renting the space to agents and labels.Almost possible to get your feet wet in the river, enjoying the view from Christ the King and the 25th April bridge lying down in a sun bed and sipping wine. Or else sitting at a table to have lunch. With soft music in the background, watching the sailing boats and the fishermen. But there is more inside.
Going out for drinks in Lisbon
More and more, Lisbon is being recognized for its food, but if you ask us, what really defines the city is its distinctive drinking culture. Here’s how to sip your way through Lisbon from morning ’til night.
Must visit bars in Porto
- THE PARK BAR – The parking lot on the Calçada do Combro is probably the coolest in Lisbon, not because it’s free, but because you’ll find PARK on the top floor, a bar that offers a 360° view of Lisbon.
- LUX – You can dance, you can listen to good music, and stay there until it closes at around 8 in the morning !!!
- PENSAO AMOR – The name means ‘Love Boarding House’ – a nod to the building’s past as a place of business for sex workers and their clients. Trendy locals now flock here to see and be seen in the over-the-top lounge bar – a sort of decadent tearoom, open from late afternoon – and attached rooms, which include an old-style disco. There are occasional concerts and the background music is eclectic.
- O BOM, O MAU E O VILAO – The Portuguese title for the Sergio Leone film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly provided the name for this ambitious project, hinting at its multifaceted nature: bar, restaurant, film club and music venue, with concerts or DJ sets daily. Check the Facebook page for details. In contrast to most Lisbon bars, where house and electronica rule, here soul, funk, Afrobeat and jazz dominate. Several rooms feature striking murals by local artists.
- LIS BEER – LisBeer claims to have the largest selection of beers in Lisbon: some 250 and counting, even if not all are craft beers. Opened in early 2015, it is a pleasant place where it is still possible for punters to smoke.
Coming up next… Must Visit “Day trips” around Lisbon !
Keep following up on www.mirindatravels.com to know all about it ….