How to Explore a City: the Lisbon Diaries
January 1, 1970
by Anca Iorgulescu
I moved to Lisbon, on a leap of faith. It is the fourth time I’m moving to a new country in the last six years. Difficult? To some extent. Exciting? Hell, yes! Lisbon is a top-notch choice where if you’re here for holidays or considering to move here for a longer period. Lisbon is this oasis of start-ups, alternative cultural events, street music, and live performances. Top that with amazing weather throughout the year and you’ve got yourself one of the best places to be at the moment in Europe.
Discover the City & Discover Yourself
Traveling has always been for me an opportunity for self-growth. And that’s why I’m absolutely hooked on it. A city is like a breathing organism: strangers crossing paths, scents, and colors that mix and mingle in the air, the stream of unspoken words and outlived stories. It is a certain comfort in sharing the commonalities of a city. Don’t get me wrong, I love going off-the-beaten-track. But what I absolutely adore in traveling is the capacity to melt into a city’s well of life, to mimicry its visceral truths.
That’s why sharing pieces of Lisbon pretty much equals showing glimpses of my soul. When I arrive in a new city, what I do is wander the streets and map the places I am drawn to.
“Fixe” Places in Lisbon
“Fixe” – read “fish”, means “cool” in Portuguese. A good word to have up your sleeve when you’ll be sauntering on the narrow and charming streets of Lisbon. These are the places me and my partner found to be revealing for what Lisbon means to us. Hope you’ll enjoy reading about them, too.
LX Factory is one of the “in” places in Lisbon. On Sunday mornings we go to their market. It’s a mix of vintage, quirky people selling army clothes all with a farmer market twist. Had our first beetroot bread there, all beetrootey, soft and tasty. Now that we’re all soaked in youthful energy, time to head to a place and work for a couple of hours.
Imagine cramming an early 90’s post-soviet country in one room. That’s exactly what Fábrica Lisboa looks like. Add good food and laid-back waitresses and you have the perfect receipt of getting some remote work done in Lisbon. Work, work, but we also enjoy letting things happen, feeling how time slowly slides between our fingers. That’s what gardens and parks are for.
Jardim da Estrela
Jardim da Estrela is the star of Lisbon. We usually grab some burgers from Hamburgueria do Bairro, rush to Estrela, have lunch and then bathe in the sun reading Simone de Beauvoir. The afternoon in the park feels like those lazy, hazy days. The shimmering light transforms everything in Estrela and it just feels that we’re carved out of time. We thoroughly enjoy taking our time when traveling, being able to immerse in the sap of what is happening at that moment in time in that particular city.
Lisbon from above – Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
If you like epic sunsets, the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte in Graça is a wonderful place to cuddle, sip warm beverages and dream. Lisbon is the city of the 7 hills, so there are many viewpoints not to be missed. Our personal favorites are Miradouro de Santa Luzia in Alfama and Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara in Príncipe Real. Yes, sometimes it is a tad crowded if you’re coming during the summer. We still managed to find our little corner of the viewpoint and enjoy.
What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?
Delicious Portuguese Custard Tart from Fábrica de Nata
Are you mad about food? What about desserts? You must try a pastel de nata. Aka the Portuguese Custard Tart, this pastry is to die for! Our go-to place is Fábrica de Nata for one hour, just before we go to Refood for our volunteer shift on Friday evenings. Manteigaria on Praça do Camões is also an option. What we like is the suave taste os the custard, not too eggy, not too sweet.
Cupcakes from Tease
How do you feel about cupcakes? I know, irresistible to us, too! That’s why when we pass by Tease there’s no doubt: “Two cupcakes to go, por favor!”. We’ll savor these on Praça das Flores right before continuing our wandering on the streets in the direction of Praça do Principe Real. A tiny “lanche” – Portuguese for “snack” – just before lunch. We’re well deserving, you know…
Time Out Market Lisbon
Feeling hungry? Time Out Market is an absolute “must go to”. Combining cuisines from different parts of the world, the market is an open space, catering to all culinary tastes. Thai, Italian, Portuguese, just go for what smells most appealing! Make sure to try the macarons from L’Eclair, though. Pure delicacy!
For a late lunch on a sunny afternoon, To.B Burger in Chiado is a beguiling option. Our personal favorites? Drum rolls… the goat cheese salad and the Portobello burger with fries. We love the people at To.B Burger. We have chats about our lives and the places we’ve been to, what kind of art we love and so on and so forth. We often experience during our travels these little sharing stories, 5 minutes stolen from someone else’s life and gently glued to our own for a while.
Vegan meal at Jardim das Cerejas
Are you into vegetarian food? We are! Jardim das Cerejas also in Chiado is open for lunch and dinner. They have an open buffet and freshly squeezed juices. Yummy and healthy! RDA69 is another vegan option. It is a community space where you can hang out with quite interesting characters and enjoy delicious vegan food for 3€.
Pistola y Corazon, best Mexican restaurant in Lisbon
Pistola y Corazon has the best burritos in town. Sí, Señor! It might be packed some evenings, but you might also stumble upon a night where you’ll have your pick of seats. Bring on your inner maracas and get ready to have some Mexican fun!
Indian food at Yak and Yeti
Fancy Indian food? At Yak and Yeti, you’re in for a treat! We are addicted to their naans, most specifically, the tender cashew coconut oil one.
Chic dinner at Palacio Chiado
Got a reason for celebration? Then to Palacio Chiado! It is a beautiful space and you’ll find here seven fine dining alternatives: cheese platters, burgers, steaks, healthy options and fresh juices; all you need to have a joyous evening!
Amorino natural ice-cream
What about a little dessert? We’re all in for walking on the streets of Lisbon at night, having an ice cream from Amorino and telling our stories about what dreams we’ll manifest and make true in the near future.
Spending Quality Time in Lisbon
Depending what you’re looking for, in Lisbon, you’ll have your pick of fun activities. Bairro Alto and the famous Pink Street are the places to be if you want to have some drinks and dance. Otherwise…
If You’re in Lisbon, Then It’s Fado!
Fado is a delightful, yet nostalgic Portuguese music genre. In Alfama, many restaurants would have live Fado in the evenings. Take a stroll and find the place that calls you. We really like this cute little square. It feels very vibrant and fulminates with conversations and laughter.
Surfing Your Way to Freedom
The ocean gives us that sensation of freedom and wanderlust. So, if you enjoy the ocean, you’re in luck! The beach is 40 minutes away from Lisbon. You can reach Costa da Caparica by bus. The 161 is leaving from Roma-Areeiro. Costa da Caparica is long, wide, sandy beach going for 5km, good for surfing and kitesurfing. Carcavelos is another option. You can get here by train, from Cais do Sodré. From both beaches, you’ll be able to enjoy gentle, watercolored sunset. We’re all for that!
Dance Me to The End Of…
Wanna dance? Are you gonna be in Lisbon for a while? Try an experimental dance class from Jazzy dance school. If you’re into pole dancing, make sure to check out Carolina Ramos’ workshops at Pole Heart Lisbon. She has an amazing teaching method and you will see the benefits after your first session.
Looking for more opportunities to discover Lisbon? Visit the Viral Agenda. Most everything that is going on in Lisbon will be published here.
And if you want to take a break from the city, just get a one day trip to Cascais and Sintra. On your way to Cascais, you can also visit Belém for a couple of hours. Cascais has charming, cobblestone streets and peaceful little cafés where you can sit, read your book and let life freely flow.
Once you’re ready to make Lisbon a beautiful memory, move to towards the south and give the enticing Algarvian coast a chance! Lagos, to be precise 🙂
Let us know how your Lisbonite trip goes and reach out to us on Facebook. Happy travels & joyous smiles!