Kevin and I debated where to celebrate our honeymoon — maybe New Zealand? Or somewhere in Southeast Asia? But then we remembered our first trip to Spain — the romantic cafes, great wine and warm weather. Plus, we could easily tack on a trip to visit Portugal, a place neither of us have never been. Boom! We were sold.
Portugal once was continental Europe’s greatest power. It’s here that explorer Vasco de Gama became the first person to sail directly from Europe to India. Lisbon, the capital, clings to incredibly steep hills (bring comfy shoes!) and is along the bank of the Tagus. Meaning: it’s pretty gorgeous! It has an urban feel, but definitely a lot sleepier than Madrid (where we found ourselves heading out around 11 PM!).
But there is one thing both these major hubs have — a reputation for great food, romantic music, dance and chatty, laid back people (especially in Portugal!).
It’s also a lot cheaper than Spain and quickly becoming the latest travel hot spot. Below are our top picks for your next trip to Lisbon.
5. LX Factory
Among the many places you can visit in Lisbon, there is one that many travelers don’t know about. LX Factory is a revitalized industrial area once full of factories, but now home to boutique shops, trendy eateries, street art, co-working spaces, and a weekly market. Perfect for hipsters but worth a visit even if you’re not!
There are too many restaurants at the LX Factory to name them all — and they range from formal sit down restaurants to coffee shops and bars. Weirdly, we found there to be a little bit of an attitude at many of the restaurants. This is definitely not the norm.
But we highly recommend a stop here during the day when the stores and cafes are booming.
4. Alfama District
The Alfama neighborhood is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon where you can easily wander aimlessly (i.e. get totally lost!) among the narrow cobbled streets and homes. At one point, I was weaving through clothing lines and laundry baskets! Oops.
You’ll find gorgeous tiled homes (I couldn’t stop photographing) along with Fado clubs. What is Fado? It’s traditional folk music that grew out of this neighborhood.
The music is pretty sad (well sad, if you understand the Portuguese language) and includes instruments like guitars, mandolins and lyrics related to lost love, sadness and death. While this art form began dying out, there has been several modern-day Fado musicians bringing it back in vogue. You can learn ALL about it at the Fado Museum located in the Alfama (and worth checking out).
If all this Fado business bums you out, you can always go chill in the awesome Pois Cafe (like Kevin did!). Or wander the streets and take a million photos of tiles and windows (umm, like me!).
3. Time Out Market
The Time Out Market is the mother of all food halls! We were so excited to come here (in fact, it was the first stop upon landing). And the place did not disappoint. Kevin’s coworker visited Lisbon and gave it high reviews (and we agree). The hot spot opened in 2014 and is the first of several planned food hall ventures for the magazine (with halls even coming to the US).
What you’ll find are 30+ food stalls, communal tables and some of the cities top eateries (curated by the Time Out team). Among our top recommendations are Manteigaria (for custard pies called pastel de nata)…
Manteigaria Silva (the city’s best charcutaria)….
…and Henrique Sa Pesssoa (for 24 hour suckling pork…yum!).
Five top chefs have restaurants here. And the original fish, fruit and vegetable market stalls occupy the other half of the landmark building. In short, come here hungry!
2. Tram 28
The number 28 Lisbon tram connects Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique, and passes through the popular tourist districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. The wooden tram creaks its way over the hills and feels like it might split in half at certain points of the ride. It’s all part of the fun!
We recommend hopping aboard the tram early in the morning in Martim Moniz (before it enters the very crowded parts of the city where you will likely not find a seat).
And then ride it to the Bairro Alto neighborhood where you can hop off and get a delicious egg custard tart at Manteigaria. And yes, if this shop sounds familiar, this is another branch of the tart shop in the Time Out Market. We ate too many of these tarts to count (they were that good!).
1. Evening Out in Bairro Alto
And our #1 pick? The lively (and slightly gritty) streets of the Bairro Alto district at night. You’ll find cafes, restaurants and wine bars. Though I think what made the evening so special was our romantic dinner at Grapes and Bites, which became our favorite meal in all of Portugal. And there was some major competition!
And in no small feat — Kevin proclaimed the dessert was the best chocolate pie he’s ever had. Luckily, we accidentally ordered two (seriously!). And we’re only slightly embarrassed to admit we could have probably even ate a third dessert…but held back. Reluctantly! Though, in all fairness, you could have probably ordered 4 of these to equal the size of a slice of cake at the Cheesecake Factory!
Clearly, eating was definitely one of our top activities in Lisbon! But we felt little guilt with all those hills! Stay tuned for more updates from our travels through Portugal. The journey continues!