It’s quite a bold statement saying that Lisbon is one of my favourite city break destinations. But it really is. This city has everything: great weather, beautiful architecture, a fantastic – and growing – foodie scene, a vibrant nightlife and beaches half an hour away. And it is SO AFFORDABLE. Staggeringly so.
Here are my foodie highlights from my visit last month:
Famous Portuguese chef Jose Avillez is loved in Lisbon with two Michelin stars and a big name in the city for experimental cooking. Mini bar is his more affordable restaurant – located in an old 19th century theatre on one of Bairro Alto’s side streets. Expect ‘mini’ plates and inventive dishes. As our waiter said ‘nothing is how it seems’. While it’s quite dark inside, the stylish decor is very sixties and there’s a very good vibe. My favourite dish was the prawn ceviche on a wedge of lime and the tuna roll. Worth booking as even on a Sunday night it was nearly completely fully booked. Sublime, and certainly an experience to remember.
Tabik is new on the Lisbon scene, and the young chef Manuel Lino, much admired. Located on the Avenue das Libertadas, you wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant like this here. The interiors have distinct touches of Scandinavia – lots of pale wood and a minimalist feel, but the faux tiled floors remind you you’re in Portugal. Large doors open the restaurant and bar completely up to the street which is lovely. The food is delicate, delicious and beautifully presented. You get the whole gourmet experience – from warm bread and butter to a pretty amuse bouche. If you just opt for a main course and a (obligatory) pudding, then it’s not too expensive. Highly recommend the Portuguese version of a rosemary creme brûlée. Delicious.
Tucked away on a quiet, pretty square in the charming Bairro Alto you’ll find this Scandi-influenced restaurant. Royale Cafe is the ideal place to stop at mid-sightseeing for a a bite to eat on their shady green terrace. Albeit it small, it’s still nice to have your lunch outside in the Bairro Alto without it being a big, noisy tourist trap. For those wanting to avoid the outdoor heat, then their quirky, warm interiors will make you feel right at home. They do excellent brunches on a Sunday, or for those you love Middle Eastern food, their mezze plates (hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush) are delicious. All wonderfully affordable too.
This place really surprised me (in the right way), hidden inside the Internacional Design Hotel, right in the centre of Baixa. Initially I was unsure as I climbed the stairs, but as soon as you enter this exceptionally bright space, with a fun, mis-matched interior, you know you’ve made the right choice. We came here for tea (ice cream and cake) – which was yummy – but lunch and dinner (with a playful Portugese menu) is meant to be really good too. I love their huge windows which open up to lovely views of Dom Pedro IV square. They offer healthy juices here too and it’s a great place to come rest your weary feet for an hour or two.
Absolutely adored this original wine bar, owned by Jose Maria de Fonseca (who seems to be a big deal in the wine world). With a beautiful arched ceiling covered in (3,627) green wine bottles, this place certainly stands out from all other wine bars in Lisbon (e.g Grapes and Bites). The wine list is substantial and (mostly) Portuguese. The waiters/sommeliers certainly know their stuff and will recommend the types of wines you like. The charcuterie board with an array of cheeses and cold meats was huge and well worth it if you’re going to stay here for a while. Prices very reasonable, with glasses of wine starting at around 2.50 EUR. Only in Lisbon!
With the most ideal location for those who have just explored the Alfama and the very impressive Castelo de Sao Jorge, Portas do Sol is unsurprisingly a very popular lunch spot. With an expansive terrace with views to die for of the city and the Tagus river, this place is worth a rest inbetween hectic sightseeing. The food is OK – I would recommend the smoked salmon focaccia – but it’s better to just come for a beer or a glass of wine, while you drink in those views.
With an ideal location right in the centre of the Bairro Alto, this cute little roof top bar is definitely worth a visit. Be it for a refreshing homemade coconut lemonade (be warned, they are quite sweet) or for a cocktail. The views of the city and the river are stunning, and you feel worlds away from the Bairro Alto’s hustle and bustle. The hotel itself is also a great place to stay. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World brand, this is one of the top five star hotels in the city, with plenty of character, and a lot of the rooms have fabulous views.
Detox Lounge by Liquid [HEALTHY/NON ALC]
Healthy food and juice bar Liquid, has four bars in Lisbon. We stumbled across Liquid’s ‘Detox Lounge’ as we were walking through the Chiado area after lunch at Royale Cafe. The reason it caught my attention was because of the big sign saying BLOG above the door. So naturally curiosity took over and we walked in. Down a narrow corridor you’ll find the Detox Lounge, with crates of fruit and veg piled on top of each other by the bar. Come here mid-Lisbon wanderings and buy a juice for on the go. Or grab a table by their large open windows, with views of the stunning square Largo do Carmo.
Check out City Turtle’s Portugal Destination page for more tips or where to eat, drink and stay.