Holiday Diary: Living It Up in Lisbon

A must-visit city. Delicious food. beautiful architecture.

There are many beautiful cities to visit around the world, and Lisbon, Portugal is definitely one of them. Recently I made my way over to the Portuguese capital with my bestie Lorna to discover Lisbon once more. I went last year for St. Patrick’s Day visiting my family, however I was also working and therefore did not get to enjoy the city as much as I’d have like to. This time round, it was pure indulgence.

Travel & Accommodation Details

We flew Aer Lingus from Dublin to Lisbon (3 hours direct). The flight to Lisbon was fine, with no delays and free check-in baggage at the gates, though we did wait an extra bit for our bags at Lisbon airport baggage claim. Lisbon airport is very big, but all signage includes English so you won’t get too lost. My uncle had pre-booked us a taxi via the MyTaxi App (Apple/Google Play) – the same one we use in Ireland, and you can use your same account in Lisbon! We ended up using the MyTaxi App a few times and it is really cheap. When we stayed at our Airbnb in Santos, the taxi to the airport only took 20 minutes.

Getting around Lisbon is very easy if you use their VIVA Card, which allows you transport aboard their tram, bus and train services. You can top up during your stay at any of the machines – we topped up €20 for the week.

We stayed in an Airbnb hosted by Sofia & Luís, on Rue Navegantes in the Santos area. This was my first ever Airbnb, therefore I had done extensive research before we booked, but I’m glad we did opt for this one. The apartment features three rooms: the living room-kitchen, a bedroom, and bathroom.

The kitchen featured a hot plate, kettle, toaster, cutlery & utensils, pots & pans, delph and espresso cups. There were three high stools surrounding the extended countertop, while the sofa opposite doubled up as a sofa bed, and faced the mini tv and DVD player setup. Tall windows let in plenty of light, though their shutters blocked it all out again, and the air conditioning unit is up high – a modern piece of technology with an easy-to-understand remote. Blankets were dotted around the room if you ever get that little chilly.

The bedroom featured a queen-size double bed, a tall wardrobe unit with 4 hangers and an armchair. We had comfortable sleeps, and there were sockets on both sides of the bed for easy access to charge devices, as well as two wall lamps. The bathroom featured the standard toilet, sink and shower though the shower did have a nifty extra-large shower head. There was enough space on either side of the sink for our toiletries and the mirror was a good size.

  • Pros: The apartment was clean upon arrival,  and our hosts welcomed us and had freshly squeezed orange juice in glasses, a bowl of strawberries & cherries, and two traditional Pastel de Nata awaiting on the countertop. This was such a lovely gesture! There was also fresh bread rolls and a jar of jam. The air conditioning unit is modern and works perfectly, and the WiFi works very well throughout the apartment. The location was very good, with nearby access to the tram (25, 28) and bus (713, 773, 774) services back to the train stations (Santos, Cais de Sodre).
  • Cons: The bathroom needs a better vent system, as because it doesn’t feature a window, the hot air has a very small way out and lingers. There is also no handrail or foot mat when stepping out of the shower, which could be hazardous. As an avid tea drinker, I was disappointed there were only espresso cups in the apartment, especially as we were given Earl Grey tea to drink.

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RECOMMENDATIONS – SIGHTSEEING

Day 1 (Wednesday): After breakfast in my aunt & uncle’s house in Parede, myself and Lorna chilled out by swimming and sunbathing by the pool. After midday we were ready for our adventures exploring and headed over to Cascais. This is a beautiful town that resembles Cannes and Monte Carlo, and Lorna said that it reminded her of Los Angeles. Cascais has a  harbour, safe sandy beach, palm trees with plenty of restaurants and shops. Speaking of, we had lunch at Restaurante Pica Pica, where we shared an unreal platter with a litre of refreshing red wine sangria (read more below). After a walk around and getting lost in the small side street, we enjoyed our first Portuguese ice cream on our sea front walk back to Estoril to catch the train home. Cascais also has a cliff jumping into the sea point!

Day 2 (Thursday): On our second day we headed to Belém to discover its many cultural and historical features of this town. We visited the Aos Combatentes do Ultramar (Monument for Fallen Combatants Overseas), which is a truly beautiful tribute to the soldiers of Portugal over the years. It also features an eternal flame under the middle of the structure. One major sight to see is the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower). This medieval fortified tower sits on a tiny river island with a rooftop terrace, and will no doubt have a queue when you visit – so get there early to head inside and to the terrace for the estuary views. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is an incredible statue that was built in 1940 but only made permanent twenty years later in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death. When in Belém, I recommend to stop into Ciao Ciao Italia for their €2 ice cream that’s oh so delicious!

When visiting the above monuments, which are all along the Tagus River, we walked down towards the Ponte 25 de Abril, which is also known as the “Lisbon Golden Gate Bridge” due to its resemblance to the San Franciscan bridge. We then hopped onto the train and headed to the last stop on this line, Cais de Sodre, to have lunch at the infamous Time Out Market. When researching of where to eat, many people recommended visiting here. I was impressed with the huge number of cuisines on offer, the Time Out Market has very cool vibe and setup to it. Both Lorna and I ordered from Sea Me, where I opted for the Seared Tuna Steak Carob Sandwich and Lorna the Cod Fish Cakes with rice (read more below). Both were very tasty!

Day 3 (Friday): To kickstart the day, I found us a unique café to brunch in, Tease. This hipster café has a funky menu and a great vibe to it, that’s almost hidden away (read more below). We then walked to the Bairro Alta area through all its linking streets and eventually found the iconic Tram 28 at Largo Calhariz. After taking many a photo of this little yellow tram and its stunning views down to the river, we walked to the Baixa-Chiado metro station to make our way over to Alfama. When we arrived to the Old Town of Lisbon, we walked the cobblestones to the top for views from the Miradouro das Portas do Sol observation deck. The views from up there were absolutely breathtaking. The red-slate rooftops against the white facades, the horizon where the sea and sky meet – amazing! Around the corner from this is another beautiful observation point, the Jardim Júlio de Castilho. Surrounded by growing roses, magenta Bougainvillea trees as well as a beautiful church and patio, while the bust pays tribute to the Portuguese journalist, poet, writer and politician of the 19th Century. We took a breather with a few cocktails in the Terrassa Alfama at Restaurante Portas do Sol, then walked back towards Martim Moniz, and through Lisbon City to Comércio Plaza.

Later that evening, we headed to the not-so-secret Park Bar to watch the sunset over the city. This hidden car park rooftop bar is on the top floor of a genuine car park on Calçada do Combro, and was extremely busy for a Friday night. There are three bars at which you can order drinks, we opted for cocktails: the Ginger Mint for myself and the Cucumber Collins for Lorna. Later that night we strolled through town to Restaurante E Cervejaria O Cantinho Da Rosa for a late dinner of prawns then steak (read more below), though took the rest of our wine back to the apartment thereafter.

Day 4 (Saturday): We had tired ourselves out with our busy bee days so by Saturday a chill out beach day was very much on the cards. I remember Praia de Carcavelos as being a wonderful beach from last year, so we made the plan to head there after breakfast and nabbed ourselves a pair of sun loungers under umbrella, that only costs €15 per couple for as long as you like. This beach day was what the doctor ordered, where I properly sunbathed, read my new book ‘Ultima’ by L.S. Hilton, and we dove into the sea too! We headed up to Hooters Beach Bar (read more below) for a spot of lunch, enjoying burgers and sangria overlooking the ocean. We returned to our apartment to freshen up before dinner, where we got our grilled steak on at The B Temple with cocktails (read more below). As a night-cap, we found The Wine Cellar, which was a lovely little addition to our evening plan, and shared a bottle of Quinta de Citrô Pinot Noir. We got chatting to a lovely American couple who sat next to us, and ended up sharing two bottles of delicious red wine (Quinta de Cidrô Touriga Nacional and Quinta dos Aciprestes Sousão Grande Reserva 2011) with them over chats about traveling, politics, and good food!

Day 5 (Sunday): For our final day, and after checking out from the Airbnb (though we were able to leave our luggage in for €5 per bag), we visited the Palácio de São Bento before making our way down to Cais de Sodre to hop on the train to Cruz Quebrada  beach. A good few hours of reading and relaxing, sunbathing and swimming, we eventually left for lunch at the famous Taberna at Bairro de Avillez – we had a delicious meal with great service (read more below). We walked along the main shopping streets and found the Armazéns do Chiado shopping centre, then wandered through the Praça Luís de Camões before heading back to the apartment to collect our bags and make our way to the airport.

RECOMMENDATIONS – DINING

When I visited Lisbon last year, I stayed with my family and only allowed myself a glimpse of Portuguese cuisine. This time round, however, I made a list of restaurants, cafés and bars I wanted us to experience and was very happy with the results. Below are little snippets of all the restaurants & bars we visited, while you can read my full blog post here of the Lisbon Recommendations: 5 Places You Need to Eat In later this week (August 3rd) to even better convince you to visit them too!

Restaurante Pica Pica, Rue Visc. da Luz 13A-13C, Cascais: Delicious! This first meal in Cascais makes me want to come back to Lisbon very soon. We ordered the Sharing Platter for 2 (€30), which featured octopus with spiced aïoli , chorizo, fish croquettes, Gambas, shrimp fishcakes, goats cheese crostini, Portuguese black pudding, and more. The food was sublime! It was a great way of introducing ourselves to traditional Portuguese delicacies. The service was very friendly, and we also enjoyed a litre of red wine sangria, which was cooling and tasty.

Tried & Tasted: Sharing Platter for 2. Cookie FM Rating – 5/5

Sea Me at Time Out Market, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisbon: At the infamous Time Out Market, we both chose the Sea Me counter where I had a tasty tuna sandwich on traditional carob bread (€15). Though flavoursome, it was quite expensive for what you get, and I was still hungry afterwards.

Tried & Tasted: Seared Tuna Steak Carob Sandwich. Cookie FM Rating – 3/5

Restaurante San Telmo, Rue do Poço dos Negros 188, Lisbon: Our first dinner out in Lisbon, we headed to a local restaurant in the area of our Airbnb apartment. Another from my list, this was an intriguing little restaurant that had a small menu with no starters – because the breads and bits were complimentary! My tuna steak (€12) was delicious and perfectly cooked, which came with vegetables, a sweet potato side and slices of avocado. We also opted to share dessert and a bottle of white wine.

Tried & Tasted: Atum Fresco Grelhado (Grilled Tuna Steak). Cookie FM Rating – 5/5

Tease Café, Rue Quintinha 70B, Lisbon: At Tease, there’s definitely an eclectic vibe to the menu. Nearby to our apartment, here I ordered the Love Berries Toast (€4) with a Chai Latte (€2.50). I was disappointed with how small this was, and had expected two slices rather that just the one. I also couldn’t differentiate if this was truly Brie or Philadelphia cheese (there is another dish on the menu with the latter). Still hungry, Lorna and I then shared the Praline Waffle (€5.50), which was a tasty end to our brunch. The chai latte isn’t as good as in Ireland – very watery.

Tried & Tasted: Love Berries Toast (Brie cheese & raspberries), Praline Waffle (Apple, salted caramel, pecan nuts, vanilla ice cream). Cookie FM Rating – 3/5

Restaurante E Cervejaria O Cantinho Da Rosa, Rue da Rosa 224, Bairro Alta, Lisbon: After our big day out walking around Bairro Alta, Alfama and Lisbon City, and our cocktails at Park Bar, we were quite hungry and found our way to this restaurant. Not our first choice, but it was a tasty meal where we enjoyed the messy grilled prawns to start (€5) and the Brazilian BBQ fillet steak (€12) over red wine. There was an extra charge of bread and bits (€6), which we were not happy about, but didn’t let it deteriorate our experience.

Tried & Tasted: Gambas Grelhado (Grilled prawns), Picanha no Churrasco (Brazilian BBQ fillet steak). Cookie FM Rating – 3.5/5

Hooters Beach Bar, Praia de Carcavelos: When you lunch at Hooters, you usually don’t expect much. However this is not linked to the American franchise at all (though I don’t know how they get away with the name!), but is a mere beach bar to enjoy bites in between sunbathing and swimming. They specialize in seafood and burgers, the latter of which I opted for that was smothered in peppercorn sauce. We also shared a litre of tasty sangria looking out across the ocean.

Tried & Tasted: Peppercorn Sauce Burger. Cookie FM Rating – 3.5/5

The B Temple, Rue Serpa Pinto 10, Lisbon: We were on a beef kinda buzz, and headed to The B Temple for steak. Here we both ordered a steak burger, or sandwich, alongside cocktails and sweet potato fries. The steaks were cooked beautifully, the toppings complimentary and the fries were a nice addition too.

Tried & Tasted: Pregos Melty (Steak Burger). Cookie FM Rating – 4/5

Taberna at Bairro de Avillez, Rue Nova da Trindade 18, Lisbon: Having attempted to attend here for dinner the night before, we were lucky to nab a late lunch at Taberna instead. Both Lorna and I opted for the Alfacinha with crispy cod, while I then continued my affair with beef and ordered the aged beef Picanha alongside a lettuce & pear salad. Full of flavour, texture and friendly service, I can understand why this is one of Lisbon’s favourite restaurants.

Tried & Tasted: Alfacinha (Lettue Wrap) with Crispy Cod, Aged Beef Picanha with Taberna French Fries, Lettuce Heart Grilled on Coals with Pear Salad. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5

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Images © Nirina Plunkett

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