Where to Eat: Lisbon

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One thing my research on Lisbon didn’t prepare me for is just how good the food is! After walking up and down hills exploring the picturesque neighborhoods around the city, you definitely work up an appetite, and the food scene in Lisbon is more than willing to serve up whatever your heart desires. I’ve broken down some of my favorite places that suit any taste. Whether you’re looking for a coffee shop for a quick pick-me-up, a classic seafood joint, or something sweet, this guide has you covered!

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TO START YOUR DAY
While the merits of breakfast being the most important meal of the day are debatable, there’s no denying the joy of starting your morning with a tasty latte and a snack (or two). I was so thankful when several of you mentioned that I had to check out Hello, Kristof on Poço dos Negros. This cozy little cafe with an interior that would make any designer swoon is a perfect spot to post up.

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Grab a matcha latte with oat milk and any of their toasts for a bite that will wake the senses and start your day on the right foot.  If you find the cafe to be a bit crowded, you can walk down less than a block and find yourself at Break; also carrying tasty toasts and a killer matcha latte to boot, this nondescript restaurant appeals more to locals than its trendy neighbor. I recommend trying the shakshuka or any of their baked goods (while they last). Coincidentally, the third place for breakfast that is worth a stop is also on this same street. The mill features colorful plates with equally vibrant food. This Australian-Portuguese café puts a spin on the Lisboan classics and boasts a specialty coffee menu fit for a caffeine connoisseur.

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FOR A QUICK BITE
Some of you may recall the three-night trip giveaway I did with thefenway.com giving one winner an escape to Lisbon almost a year ago today. It also included an experience at the TimeOut Market , host to 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops, and even a music venue. When I was in Lisbon, I knew I had to stop here to taste as many concepts as I could! This a great place to gather with a group of friends, or grab a quick bite on the go. It’s also perfect if you’re traveling with an adventurous or picky eater because you can order from several concepts at once, meaning everyone’s happy! Don’t be fooled by the casual setting though — this valhalla of cultural cuisine packs a flavorful punch and with a touch of refinement.

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NO FRILLS SEAFOOD
Looking for something more traditional? There are plenty of seafood locales that skip the pomp and circumstance, and focus on the thing that truly matters… the food. Looking into the windows of Zapata, you’ll see the daily catch, with a variety of selfish, including prawns, clams and barnacles. For the seasoned traveler, the appeal of a restaurant like this doesn’t only lie in the fresh, simple taste of traditional dishes, but also in the company at neighboring tables.

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One of the more popular restaurants with this reputation for straightforward food without embellishment is Ramiro. Popularity grew after Anthony Bourdain’s visit to the restaurant while filming No Reservations. Not much has changed since his visit, however they now have tablets for ordering instead of physical menus, and there are definitely more tourists there than before. The service is transactional, but quick, and food is brought out as it is prepared. Typically, they are known to have a line out the door, but we used this as a late-night food destination, meaning we didn’t have to stand outside before chowing down around midnight. Prawns and clams were quickly devoured, but the real gem of this spot is their steak sandwich, or locally known as a prego. Honestly, I could probably eat an entire dinner completely comprised of this savory, mouthwatering snack.

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DATE NIGHT
My boyfriend and I have different approaches when it comes to dining out. He famously says that he is “too big for tapas”, meaning small dishes and more refined cuisine don’t quite fill him up, whereas I’m perfectly happy chasing gastronomical experiences, which may mean smaller plates. I have a feeling the men in your life may feel the same way, making eating out with your loved one a little complicated abroad. However, with the help of the concierge team at the Palacio Belmonte, we dined at a few restaurants during our time in Lisbon that we walked out both smiling at the end of the meal.  The first, being Taberna Bairro do Avillez. One of the less fancy iterations of José Avillez’ many restaurant concepts in Lisbon, this place cooks “hearty” small plates in a laid-back atmosphere.

But, one date night stands out amongst the rest. Across the Tagus to Almada you will find yourself with one of the best views in the city in what feels like the middle of nowhere. The restaurant we were headed to is called Ponto Final. Normally, one can take the ferry across the river, but our schedules didn’t quite align with the departure times. Instead, our Uber dropped us off at the start of a long walkway, which led to a 50m tall elevator. You take the elevator down and walk along the ocean on an open, unlit walkway. The ten minute walk feels like ages, and then you start to wonder if there is even a restaurant down this path at all. “Are we walking into a scene out of a horror movie?!” Those words left my mouth just as we reached the final corner. And to our surprise, we were met by small storefront with glass doors, and home to a restaurant with classic Portuguese dishes served family style, a formidable wine list, and some mango desserts that would knock your socks off. I think that was one of our favorite nights together as a couple, and I look back on it fondly. If you’re visiting with a loved one, I hope it serves a little magic to you as well.

Pasteis in Lisbon

SOMETHING SWEET
There is no visiting Lisbon without snacking on something sweet. Pastéis de nata is breakfast for most locals, but visitors usually devour them at all hours of the day. I became partial to the ones served by Manteigaria, but other options like Versailles, Pastelaria Alcôa, and Confeitaria Nacional are sure to tickle your tastebuds just the same. While the pastéis de nata were sinfully good, there was one dessert that had us crawling back for seconds; in fact, it ended up being our breakfast on our way to the airport. The cake from Landeau Chocolate. Holy smokes. If you take any advice from this blog post, it is to not only go to Landeau, but to get your own piece, and don’t share a single bite with anyone else. You will not be disappointed.

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Have another recommendation of where to eat in Lisbon? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Sharing Walls with a Castle at the Palacio Belmonte

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Within the walls of the São Jorge Castle, this previous noble family residence, now serves as an oasis to sophisticated, but not pretentious, world travelers in Lisbon. A typical guest at the Palacio Belmonte is not looking to be burdened by bellhops touting top hats, or for the comfort of knowing fellow guests are in rooms with identical amenities. No, instead, they’re looking for connection with fellow intrepid souls who appreciate the finer things in life, such as a property that boasts ten unique suites, 1700’s Portuguese tile covered walls, a carefully curated contemporary art collection.

One of the many perks of calling this one-of-a-kind property home during your stay in Lisbon is your proximity to popular sites without feeling like you’re being overrun by site-seers. Less than a 5-minute walk away, you find yourself at the base of the the São Jorge Castle, which is perfect for a few hours of exploring and getting the best views of the city.

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Starting your morning in Bartolomeu de Gusmão Terrace Suite, named one of the most beautiful suites in the world by Condé Nast, you are treated to natural light spilling into your first floor living area, complimented by spectacular views of blue water and the red roof covered skyline of Alfama dancing in the windows. Breakfast is brought to your suite at an hour of your choosing; meaning you have ample time to take advantage of your bath robes and claim victory over a crossword puzzle. While we elected to devour our morning sustenance inside, you can take it to the top of the tower where you have an unparalleled perspective of the city from your private terrace. This lookout not only serves as the best place to start your day, it is worth ending there with a cigar and night cap as well. Bonus: you can purchase Cubans in Chiado for those inclined to give into their inner Groucho Marx.

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After you’re done taking in the city from above, it’s time to tour the hilly streets of Lisbon. Workout equipment would be wasted at the Palacio Belmonte because, as the owner likes to point out, “the entire city is a gym,” thanks to its many ups and downs. Strap on your sneakers or boots and get ready for lots of walking, while simultaneously snacking up on Portugal’s most famous dessert, Pastéis de Nata. Cafes featuring their own iteration of the custard filled pastry, paying homage to the original recipe birthed in the 1830’s abound, and there’s no harm in trying them all during your urban hike.

Chatting with alfacinhas (Portugal’s affectionate nickname for Lisbon city dwellers), you’ll be pointed to their favorite bookstore, like Livraria do Simão, or the most underrated miradouro in Lisbon, or an off-the-beaten-path tinned fish shop like Conserveira de Lisboa. Of course, if you’re looking for recommendations, you can always ask the personnel at the Palacio Belmonte; they provided us with the best guidance during our stay.

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After a long day, it bodes well to return to the ballroom with a good book, grab yourself a complimentary cocktail while you challenge your travel companion to a game of backgammon, or thumb through their CD collection to bring familiar (or new) sounds back to your suite to set the mood. However you choose the close our your evening here, it is sure to be a memorable one — as will your stay.

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A Royal Stay in Lisbon

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When I was searching for a spot to stay in Lisbon, I wanted a unique property, and something felt like an oasis without being too far from the center of the city. A few of you have actually asked me how I search for the hotels that I stay in, and to be honest, it’s not really that complicated. It’s a combination of “thumbing through” Instagram, browsing Mr. & Mrs. Smith, reaching out to friends for personal anecdotes of their recent stays, and checking TripAdvisor & Telegraph reviews. I cross-section all of my research on these platforms, and usually end up with a list of 5-15 properties that suit my fancy. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most straightforward. But, I generally like my system and find that it directs me to one-of-a-kind experiences, and accommodations that meet my needs.

Ah yes, my needs. My mom likes to joke that she loves traveling with me because the places I stay in “aren’t horrible”. (Yes, this is dripping in sarcasm). It’s no secret that I have a pension for luxury, personal service, and show-stopping amenities. Enter the Olissippo Lapa Palace.

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Situated on a hill, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, and old world vibes that are apparent the minute you pull up to the property, Lapa Palace was the ideal start to my trip to Lisbon. From the ornate tile composition at the entryway, to an impressive lobby that transports you back in time to when this property was an actual palace, this Lisbon retreat was a welcome sight after our red-eye from Boston.

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There’s no shortage of beautiful parts of the property to ooh and ahh at, including a fountain several stories high built into the side of the hotel & an outdoor pool and patio perfect for sunbathing, but there’s also quite a few amenities that make this stay a true value. For starters, the weather wasn’t quite warm enough for us to enjoy the outdoor pool, so taking a dip the indoor heated pool is a pretty sweet alternative. Their gym was pretty sizable, especially for a European property – most of them you can barely fit two people working out, but there were a good amount of machines and swanky locker rooms. Given the number of pieces of chocolate cake from Landeau I ate, and the portions sizes at Ponto Final, I was grateful to have a dedicated space to break a sweat.

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If I’m pulling the trigger on a hotel, as opposed to an AirBnB, I also need to have breakfast included. That’s kind of a non-negotiable for me because there are so many benefits to having breakfast where you’re staying: 1) you don’t have to worry about scouring your neighborhood for a spot to eat – especially on days that you’re planning a lot of sightseeing, 2) there’s a hard end time to breakfast, meaning you don’t sleep in too much and waste your morning on your trip, and 3) they’re often open earlier than other breakfast places in the area to cater to business travelers. This means if you have a scheduled activity starting pretty early in the morning, you don’t have to go through the whole thing hungry. All this well-deserved pump up talk about breakfast leads me to saying that Lapa Palace has a pretty impressive spread in the morning. I genuinely enjoyed starting my days with a pot of tea, some bacon, and fresh cut mango. I mean… doesn’t get much better than that!

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The icing on the cake, though, is really the view. Walking into our room, and out onto our balcony took my breath away when we first arrived. And, there’s something about that first impression that just stays with you.

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At the end of our stay, I was a bit sad to leave the friendly staff and pink walls of Lapa Palace, but even the view on the way out is a good one! Driving through the gates one final time and down the hills of Lisbon wasn’t the worst way to end our time in that part of the city. If you have a chance to stay here, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.