Europe,  Travel

Lisbon, Portugal

My parents, aunt, and uncle, being the impressive people they are, did a bike trip from Spain to Portugal, so my cousins and I met them in Lisbon when they were finished. A bunch of my friends have been taking weekend trips to Portugal. Lisbon is a great city, there’s Porto and the wine region, plus truly incredible beaches with stellar surfing. I was excited for my first trip to Portugal, to explore Lisbon, and make a day trip to the beaches.

We stayed quite central near the Praça do Comércio at the Pousada de Lisboa. It was absolutely stunning, incredible service, spacious rooms, plus the breakfast buffet was killer. Location wise it was perfect: quite central and easy to get everywhere.

On my first day, we took a food tour of the city. I very rarely do the cultural experiences when I travel, so it was a nice mix of exploring plus culture. It was a great way to explore so much of the city and see different areas. We started by walking to a pastry shop. It was overwhelming the number of different desserts they had. It was a lovely little hole in the wall shop, but had many of the same desserts we tried throughout the city. The three favorites were Pastéis de Feijão (bean pastry), Pastéis de nata (custard tart) and Pastéis de Belems (egg custard tart). The last two are quite similar and very common in the city.

After that we walked to a wine and cheese café. Another lovely little shop – there are so many of them throughout the city. I felt like we could just walk and stop in any of the cafes and find something delicious and new. After the wine and cheese, we walked around a few more places including a Bifana shop. Bifan is a very common pork sandwich in Portugal. Not for me, but fun to try it and experience truly local food.

One of the more memorable stops was at a Ginjinha bar. Ginjinha is a Portuguese liquor made of ginja berries, which are like sour cherries. It’s served as a straight shot, with a little cherry at the bottom of it. It is a bit sweet, so it goes down fairly well. There are tons of Ginjinha bars throughout the city, which I found incredibly interesting as it is unique to Lisbon, or probably Portugal.

We ended our tour at a sardine restaurant and shop. Sardines are a massive part of Portugal’s culinary heritage and a bit of a delicacy there. There are sardine shops throughout the city and sardines were on the menu at a majority of the restaurants. It was a great way to end the tour with this Portuguese tradition.

I had really wanted to do a day trip to the Comporta, which is meant to have the most incredible beaches. It’s a few hours travel there from Lisbon, and unfortunately we got a late start, so we ended up heading to Costa da Caparica. It was nice and surely deep into summer would have been great. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great beach day with the wind and colder temperature, so we didn’t last very long out there. I don’t think I would recommend it as a beach, it does the trick if you need, but probably other nicer beaches.

After our beach adventure we went to a late lunch at Chapitô à mesa back in Lisbon. It’s a hike to get up to the restaurant, but a cool little place. The top of the restaurant has seating which is where you want to be, and from there you can see almost all of Lisbon. It’s gorgeous, good food, decent pricing – definitely recommend it!

One night we went to a festival closer to Cascais, EDP Cool Jazz. I’m not the biggest jazz fan, but it was a great set-up and a fun thing to do in a new city. And for dinner beforehand we went to the Time Out Market, which was perfect. There are tons of stalls with all different kinds of really delicious food. As to be expected, I got sushi, but my dad got wonderful, fresh fish.

On our final night we went to Belcanto. It was epic. I’m not the biggest foodie, but it was an incredible experience. From start to finish the service is out of this world; they even catered the tasting menu to everyone’s different dietary restrictions. At the end of the meal they took us into the kitchen to watch for a bit which was really cool and felt quite special for us.

We also did a trip to Cascais one day to see the castle and spend a bit of time there. The beach here, while significantly smaller than Caparica, was a bit nicer and a similar distance from the city. The castle is a skip in my opinion. It’s nothing great, plus incredibly long lines. If you are a castle fanatic, maybe you go, otherwise I would definitely say not to do it. If you have an extra day, Cascais was a fun little town to explore. You can see most of the town in a day, plus explore the beach and check out some of the nice restaurants and pubs.

Lisbon is a fun weekend trip – there’s lots to do, but also oto take it easy and eat good food. Looking forward to another Portugal trip!

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