IDEAL for your next city break to the Portguese capital.
Lisbon is a city break destination pulsing with confidence. Tourism here is very much on the up, with the Portuguese capital welcoming 4.5 million visitors each year; a number which is only predicted to rise. It’s easy to see why; a laid back yet exciting disposition, superb cuisine, cobbled streets and attractive architecture all make for one of the finest European getaways around. If you’re penning your itinerary and need a little guidance, then here’s a start; our 7 of the best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal, IDEAL for your next city break in the Portuguese capital.
FEAST ON SEAFOOD
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Lisbon is one of the best places in the world for shellfish and you’d be a fool to leave the city without sampling as much of it as possible. The best of it is served at informal, boisterous and completely unpretentious restaurants known as Cervejarias (places where beer is dispensed) serving platters of mainly grilled shellfish in a convivial atmosphere. Wash your meal down with that requisite beer or better still, a glass of Vinho Verde, a dry green wine from Portugal which goes exceptionally well with seafood.
The best place in town to eat seafood is undoubtedly Cervejaria Ramiro; a Lisbon institution and one which has lost none of its charm as its popularity has grown. For us, the absolute standout is the scarlet prawn; the size of your forearm and boasting enough of those all important head juices to fill a teacup. The clams here are excellent, too. But enough of the eulogising, we’re getting hungry. Head on over to our roundup of best places to eat seafood in Lisbon here, to find out more.
VISIT THE TIME OUT MARKET
But Portuguese cuisine doesn’t stop at seafood. Oh no, there’s a great variety of delicious sandwiches, snacks, sweet treats and more on offer in Lisbon. From unfussy to fine dining, it’s all here, and the best places to taste some of the city’s most famous dishes, all under one roof, is at the Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira). Here, some of Lisbon’s most celebrated chefs have set up stall to sling their signature dishes, with some fully fledged restaurants established on the market’s peripheries.
Don’t leave before you’ve sampled Portugal’s two world beating sandwiches, the Bifana Prego; essentially, a grilled pork or beef roll, but so much more than that. Balcao da Esquina does a fine version. Another Portuguese classic, cod a la bras, also has a home here, as do superb salt cod croquettes at the market’s Croqueteria. Still hungry? Then Manteigaria, one of Lisbon’s renowned custard tart factories, has a stall in the Mercado da Ribeira. And if you’ve still got room after that, then follow your nose.
Lisbon is spoilt for vast, ornate squares, but the best of all has to be Praca do Comercio, which sits right on the banks for the Tagus River with splendid views to match. The 36’000 m² square is lined with gorgeous arcades and places for a bite and a beer, with the distinctive pastel yellow facades making for an agreeable selfie opportunity or two. On a summer’s day, the cafes just off the square, right on the water’s edge, make for a superb spot to wile away an afternoon getting a tan and getting tanked, too. Exit through the Rua Augusta Triumphal Arch afters, with a spring in your step and into a night out on the tiles…
ENJOY THE 24/7 NIGHTLIFE OF PINK STREET
Lisbon has an open minded, boisterous nightlife which goes down, up and around for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you’re a party animal or prefer something more sedate, there’s something for you here.
Most visitors head first to the lively, perennially popular Pink Street (just round the corner from the Time Out Market) which has several restaurants, bars and clubs. Make Sol E Pesca your first port of call, for a few snacks of conserva – tinned sardines, horse mackerel or octopus (to name but a few) on bread – paired with a beer and a spot of people watching. Pensao Amor is perhaps even more beloved, full of both locals and visitors alike, with its colourful decor and reliably noisy atmosphere. If you want to don your dancing shoes after that, then Europa is guaranteed to get you sweaty.
If you’re up for something a little different, Lisbon also boasts one of the world’s best casinos, just a half hour bus ride on the 728 away from Pink Street in the city’s glamorous theatre district. Opened in 2006, it’s the 9th largest casino in the world and the continent’s biggest. Before going, it’s prudent to get some practice in. New for 2020 are community ownership crypto-powered casinos that distribute profits to players instead of a centralised owner that keeps all the profits themselves. Try one out prior to your visit to get a handle on gaming.
TORRE DE BELEM & CUSTARD TARTS
The famous Portuguese custard tart – puff pastry, egg, milk and sugar, with a touch of cinnamon spice – is perhaps the country’s most well known culinary export. But forget those claggy ones you’ve had off some subpar place on the British high street. The real deal is a different beast entirely.
It’s worth making the journey to Belem, a 45 minute tram trip from downtown Lisbon, to sample the goods served at Pastéis De Belém; they began making the tart in 1837 according to a secret, ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and lay claim (‘arguably’…don’t @us) to being the first commercial operation to do so.
But custard tarts aren’t the only reason to visit Belem; it’s simply a gorgeous, laid back escape from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon proper. The historic Torre De Belem sits right on the water, at the entrance to the city, and is a stunning structure. Expect lengthy queues accordingly.
SCALE SAO JORGE CASTLE
Vital for your packing list; bring shoes equipped for scaling the famous Lisbon hills. Particularly worth the ascent is the Sao Jorge Castle, which sits proudly at the summit of the Sao Jorge hill, Lisbon’s highest. Though the climb is steep and winding, the stunning views at the summit are reward enough. Visible below is Baixa – downtown – and even across the Tagus River to Almada and beyond. Because of the castle’s age (it was built in the 11th century), many of the castle’s chambers, chapels and the rest no longer remain, but the walls and towers are still in good nick and the summit is beautifully shaded; perfect on a balmy Lisbon day.
TAKE THE TRAM 28
The Lisbon streets are certainly iconic; narrow, winding, slippery as hell and steeper still. One of the best ways to get around, then, is on a tram. The Tram 28 represents Lisbon’s best sightseeing tour and favourite mode of transport, all rolled into one. A 24 hour ticket for around €6 (cheaper to buy in advance at Metro stations, rather than onboard, incidentally) will allow you access to all public transport in the city, and is the best option for a hop-on, hop-off kinda day riding the 28. Lovely stuff, and a great way to see the capital city’s sights.