If I leave you with only one piece of Portugal advice: You HAVE to see a Fado Show. There are dozens of over priced options in the tourist areas but I found one of my all time favorite travel hidden gems at the quaintest Sr. Fados located in Alfama district. Open Wed-Sun, this cozy ground floor spot only seats 25, and not necessarily comfortably. But like an elbow on top of elbow Thanksgiving dinner table set for your entire family in your Grandmother’s tinsy living room, it just works. You won’t have an opportunity to order, but I promise everything served is local and fresh, like the biggest and best fish stew I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The owner has a farm outside the city where he grows his own wine, olives and vegetables and his wife’s family has a fish stand where they get the fresh catch daily. Even the cheese is made right outside of the city at his elderly neighbor’s house! After dinner is served, the living room setting comes alive with guitars and the wife’s angelic voice. Reservations are an absolute must.
Other Eats: There is no shortage of inviting restaurants in Lisbon, but the Barrio Alto and city center are a bit over priced and touristy. For the real good finds head to Alfama. Wherever you end up, the salt cod is a must (bacalhau) and of course the pastry shops. Those sweet delectable sent from heaven pastry shops. You’ll unfortunately also have to drink the syrupy port after every meal. It’s a thing, just choke it down on account of cultural immersion.
Truthfully, even with a week in Lisbon, I felt like the city was unconquerable because of the expansive size and wealth of tourist attractions. I am generally all for saving money and utilizing the public transportation ..but investing in a driver is advised. There are more unique museums, monuments, castles, and neighborhoods then you can imagine and they’re spread out with miles between. Hire the driver and spend your time enjoying the city not catching subway transfers underground.
Tourist stops worth mentioning: Architecturally pleasing, historically rich, vibrant young demographic – Lisboa is such an underrated city amongst its European neighbors. But there’s a different kind of life here, a mix between the no pasa nada sentiment of Spain and the culturally sophisticated French. The best advice I have for visitng this city is to just embrace it.. and let it embrace you back. But along the way, here are some notable tourist stops to consider: St. Georges Castle, Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, get a photo on the infamous yellow tram, the museum that hosts the world’s largest collection of royal carriages, design and fashion museum, world’s 2nd largest aquarium (if you’re into that kind of thing?), Parque Eduardo, & my favorite: letting life pass you by in Barrio Alto over a glass of crisp local white wine.
If you do only two things in Portugal, it should be a Fado show & a trip to Cascais. This adorable fishing town epitomizes beach life and has this sunny welcoming vibe that makes you want to extend your flight indefinitely.
…I truthfully would take up permanent residence here if I could fish, cook, or really anything else useful for employment. Cascais bonus: If you go by bus you’ll pass Estoril – which is home to Europe’s largest casinos.