The best tours to know Lisbon
History has it that Ulysses, while on one of his legendary trips, stopped in Lisbon and claimed these lands as his, thus calling it Olissipo. More than 2000 years later, we know that this story is nothing more than a founding myth, but Lisbon’s true and real history is well visible. One can see and feel it just by walking on the streets, whether looking to the Pombaline buildings, talking to the several cultures that first arrived with the Portuguese Discoveries ages, or simply by visiting several ruins or looking at the natural landscape that surrounds Lisbon and its outskirts. Little details like that, really contribute to make Lisbon an one of a kind city.
Given the abundance of points of interest, that are not always in sight, it’s no surprise that Lisbon has several tour operators who tought of everything and designed tours to guide visitors around the city. Usually, these tours consist of pre-planned routes around a specific theme. They can simply deliver historical routes or grant guided access to museums and monuments, but some have more to it. There are tours designed to let people know bars and discos, others thought to present Lisbon’s vast food culture (ranging from portuguese to thai cuisine) and, of course, leisure tours, where people are invited to try and experience something new – whether it is a surf class or a wine tasting. Truth is that these tours and routes are the best way to get to know the portuguese capital.
There are various ways to carry out a tour through Lisbon. You can do it on your own, of course, but the best is to leave accompanied – by a group or by a solo guide. Some tours are even supposed to be done by feet (namely the ones comprising visits to museums and monuments), an effort that’s compensated by the wealth one can find in Lisbon’s seven hills. But you can also choose to do the tour aboard a motorized vehicle: buses, boats, tuk-tuk or even electric cars and Segways are some of the options that grant total freedom around town. If the weather allows it, a journey to one of the many beaches surrounding Lisbon is absolutely essential. Costa da Caparica, Sintra or Cascais are some of the places where you can just sunbathe or start those surf lessons you’ve been wanting to take.
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Best restaurants in Chiado
Chiado is the show window of Lisbon: here, shops and restaurants keep flourishing in a merge of styles that overtakes borders and pleases every taste. We prepared this guide with some of the hottest spots in downtown Lisbon to facilitate your choices. Thus, we recommend to look out for Fábulas and its unique terrace. Inside, it combines a vintage décor with a menu filled with light meals, like toasts and salads. BCN – Beber e Comer by Novamesa also deserves attention, especially if you’re looking for a catalonian meal: tapas (spanish snacks) are the main specialty. In the same logic, Kaffehaus should not be disregarded. It offers a fair amount of austrian dishes and a brunch said to be one of the best in town.
But walking in Chiado can really whet your appetite, and sometimes a mere tapa is not enough. For those times, the generous menu of Tacho à Mesa by Faz Gostos offers nothing but portuguese food cooked in the hour and with taste. Taberna do Chiado looks up to tradition and recreates the ambience of a typical tavern. The stand outs? Azorean black pudding with pineapple and the smoked ham with three cheeses and asparagus – just to name a few. Next to rua Garrett, Café do Chiado also deserves attention. Enhancing a bohemian style, it promotes literature (it has its own library) and gastronomy: risotto, shrimp curry or english steak are the specialties. Almost on the next door in Café São Luiz and its gourmet cuisine with low cost prices. The menu mixes portuguese typical flavours and ingredients with flavours from all over the world. Plus, lunches and dinners in Café São Luiz grant a 20% discount on the ticket price for the daily show in that theatre.
Around the same area, you will also find the sophisticated Largo. Standing next to Teatro São Carlos, it stands out for the bold décor and the contemporary menu with portuguese ingredients – the 80º codfish with portuguese seasoning is the best exemple. Keeping the emphasis on luxury, let us move to U Chiado. Displaying an industrial chic décor, it’s one of the restaurants that stays open until later in the night (it only closes at 2 a.m.) and from the menu we suggest the hamburgers, risottos or pastas, besides the codfish in rosemary oil. You’ll also hardly avoid one of José Avillez’s restaurants, since the chef has three houses in Chiado. Belcanto, open since 1958 is perhaps the best example. It is worth precisely for the aristocratic look and dishes like “dive in the sea and the lamb”, or the classics strogonoff and eggs à professor. Pizzaria Lisboa also has chef Avillez signature. In this restaurant you will find 25 different pizzas with names that pay homage to Lisbon’s streets. Last, but not least, we recommend a strategic stop at Santini. Perhaps the most famous ice-cream store in Lisbon and around, it always have lines outside and that might be due to the freshness of ingredients: the ice-creams are 100 % artisanal and to die for.
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Guide to the terraces and coffeeshops of Lisbon
Lisbon is the perfect place to spend the whole year in both coffee shops and terraces. The city is full of unique places to enjoy the almost permanent good weather, while you gather your breath or have a cold drink. Through this guide, you’ll find a fine selection of the best coffee shops and terraces, thought for those days when you really want to go out. Starting out on the western area, we suggest Darwin’s Café, located inside Champalimaud Foundation and with a luminous terrace, right in front of Tagus’ estuary. Next to Torre de Belém, you will find Café do Forte, a sunny terrace which combines good location and a menu filled with good suggestions. Still next to the river, we point out Le Chat, a bar gifted with a magnificent terrace facing Conde de Óbidos dock. Meninos do Rio stands nearby, right above the water and next to Cais do Sodré. It’s usually full with happy people and has a parking lot really close.
On the way to Bairro Alto, you can stop in Noobai, located in Santa Catarina viewpoint. It is very popular and highly frequented and only five minutes away from the area where everyone goes out. In Chiado, Café no Chiado is the one drawing attention, namely due to its inviting terrace and well balanced menu. Keep in mind to try Quiosque de Refresco, remembering the old iron kiosks selling cold drinks and snacks. Customers are young and old, locals and tourists, always coming by in a frantic rhythm. The Lost In, working as both terrace and bar near Príncipe Real, is a serious case of success, taking a high point in town to offer a fantastic panoramic view. On the top of Alfama, Portas do Sol is the obvious stand out, since it gathers everything needed to grant great sunny moments. Finally, on the way to the easternmost part of town, make a strategical stop in Deli Delux. Originally a gourmet grocerie store, soon became famous for its terrace facing the river, where you can have a drink or try the house’s delicacies. It’s a calmer place, sought by people looking for some quiet and individuality. You just have to take the time to choose the place where you’re going to rest your legs next.
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Romantic escapade in Lisbon
In Lisbon, love is in the air. It’s in the buildings’ charm, in the beauty of the streets, in the grace of the portuguese pavement or in the joy of light. You could spend hours telling you why Lisbon is the perfect city for a romantic escapade, but it’s better if every couple check for themselves. Start by finding out a hotel, like the exquisite Mercy Hotel. Located in the city epicenter, it has the downtown and Bairro Alto at its feet, besides offering an unique view of the city from its terrace. In the vicinity, one can also find Hotel Internacional, who took na old pombalino building to settle. However, if you prefer to delve into the typical and traditional Lisbon, try Memmo Alfama. This hotel is integated in the Design Hotels network and is just two steps away from Alfama and St. George Castle.
With the luggage unpacked, it’s time to go out and see Lisbon with your other half, so go downtown and get elétrico 28 (tram number 28). It takes around an hour to complete the route, and since it goes through some of the most emblematic neighbours in town – like Graça, Castelo, Chiado or Estrela and its basílica -, it’s a nice way to be introduced to Lisbon’s own charms. If you’re staying near the centre, take the time to visit cais das Colunas and the privileged sight over Tagus River or even the belvedere on the top of rua Augusta’s triumphal arch. If the weather is warm and welcoming, step up the game and visit jardim do Torel or Nossa Senhora do Monte’s belvedere – both unmatchable spots in Lisbon. Places like jardim da Estrela or jardim Calouste Gulbenkian are equally great and peaceful, thus providing good times for a couple. In the meantime, hunger will probably get you, so you’d better head for Deli Delux in Santa Apolónia – their terrace is right over Tagus river and a must for both locals and visitors.
As the night falls, it sure is time to enjoy a more intimate ambience, preferably with a cuisine up to it. We recommend 100 Maneiras, Origami and Pedro e o Lobo, which successfully ally sophistication, exquisiteness and charm to portuguese cooking traditions. Afreudite, however, it’s plainly naughty. The ambience is hot and the food is both exotic and aphrodisiac. But there’s an ultimate place for romance: it’s called Ponto Final and it’s located in Almada, on the south bank of the Tagus River. Not only one of its tables is literally above the river, but it is also possible to watch an unforgettable sunset over Tagus bay. Having finished your dinner, decide what kind of ambience you’re looking for. Pavilhão Chinês, with a proper chinese decor, is ideal for a relaxed, laid-back night. Foxtrot, a place where years don’t seem to go through, works under the same logic and promotes intimacy in an old-fashion way. But if you prefer to party for a while, try Ondajazz in Alfama, or the ever so trendy Lux Frágil. But of course you can just go back to the hotel and think about the words of the Portuguese poetry Fernando Pessoa: “I love like only love can love, I don’t know any other reason to love besides loving, what more can I say besides I love you, when everything I want to say is that I love you?”.
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Restaurant’s guide for group dinners in Lisbon
Birthday, bachelor parties, school dinners, family meetings… All these situations suppose gatherings which, at some point, are done around a table. Nowadays, many restaurants have menus thought exclusively for groups, offering one (or more) courses and drinks for a fixed price. To make your choice easier, we prepared a restaurant guide for groups in Lisbon. All you have to do is choose the more suitable place and do the necessary booking. Adega da Tia Matilde is a classic restaurant for large groups. Open since the 1920, in the neighbourhood of Entrecampos, it started as a simple tabern, inheriting its unpretentious environment and the snacks that are still served today. Codfish pataniscas (mashed potatoes deep fried cake) and white grouper soup with clams and spinach have been on the menu since the beginning.
Foradoras, in rua Cruz dos Poiais (near São Bento), is another expert in large dinners. The starters are the highlight, since they’re announced as being “exclusive” and homemade. Closer to the center, two steps away from Bairro Alto and another two from Rossio train station, is Parreirinha do Duque. Managed by the lovely and always smiling dona Mena, it’s a restaurant for groups par excellence and its always full with tourists and locals. Santa Rita, an ever less secret of Lisbon’s downtown, works under the same logic and the group menu grants four different dishes per person. Also Hamburgueria Gourmet – Casino de Lisboa is a place to go when looking for group friendly restaurants. Thought for cosmopolitan youngsters, in Hamburgueria’s the highlights are the burgers, the pizzas and the fusion sushi.
But this isn’t entirely made of old taberns. AMesa, installed in LX Factory, was created precisely having diners meetings in mind. The main dish is pizza, made at the time and served on the only table available in the restaurant, around which 50 people can be seated. The ones looking for a more sophisticated place might want to try Pharmácia. Presenting a decoration inspired by the Pharmacy Museum (where it actually is integrated), prescribes dishes as tiborna (freshly baked bread) and bolo de caco (bread from Madeira island) with mushrooms, as well as a DJ to cheer up the mood.
José Avillez, winner of a Michelin star in 2011, has in his Cantinho do Avillez a mandatory stop for groups looking to combine tasty snacks with glamour. For this restaurant, chef Avillez created snacks as partridge pies with bacon and onion, pudding with bread crust and complete courses like lamb tagine or couscous with vegetables and yoghurt sauce. Nearby is Largo, the place where chef Miguel Castro e Silva develops group menus according to the seasons. But, Largo also stands out for displaying one of the largest gin menus in Lisbon. Having done the presentations, take the initiative, gather your friends and make your way to a nice group dinner in Lisbon.
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