On Visiting Lisbon, Portugal
All I want is to be back in Lisbon. As we move deeper into November, I feel as though I should still be roaming the cobblestone streets and listening to the light-hearted chatter of people enjoying the sunshine. This longing is especially acute with the recent shift of the political climate in the U.S. It's especially tender now that I feel immense anxiety and terror at the prospect of my, and other folks of marginalized identities', future here. And so I often find myself in bed, re-watching the videos that I made on my trip: Dan and I driving through the hills of Sintra, the waves in Cascais rushing up against the shore, a short clip of a night spent journaling and drinking red wine on the balcony of our rented apartment. I feel grateful to have experienced it all.
I left pieces of my heart in Portugal. It happens whenever I travel; I return and feel pleased with the experience, but unsettled. Ready to go. I spend hours each day thinking of where to travel next. My life in bustling NYC doesn't seem as shiny and exciting. I want to live two lives at once.
For now, I'm left with my memories of visiting, and that's okay. It was truly a beautiful experience. Every night I jotted down everything that we did because I didn't want to forget a single detail. The whole trip felt a bit like a dream. My next big trip will probably be something more long-term. A week never feels like enough time. Just when I'm on the cusp of discovering something new about my Self, it's time for me to return home.
I initially thought about making a 'traveler's guide' to Lisbon, but it wasn't flowing right. Instead, I've summarized some of my favorite things, and the places that I loved + think others will love, too. If you're planning a trip soon, I hope Lisbon moves up to the top of your list.
Lisbon is a walking city. There are endless cobblestone streets, winding alleyways, and the houses + apartments are built/painted with warm colors + tones. Everyone's balcony tells a story — there is clothing hanging out to dry, long-limbed plants and blooming potted flowers, and occasionally someone out on their balcony for sunshine and a smoke.
My favorite areas to walk were the Alfalma district + Barrio Alto (in the afternoons.) Alfalma is the oldest district in Lisbon, and all of the homes and streets tell a story. Most of the area is on a steep incline and it feels like an adventure winding up and down the hills, searching for the best view overlooking the city. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, there's a big flea market called 'Fiera da Ladra' and it makes the area even more magical. Vendors sell everything from incense and jewelry to leather journals and clothing, and there's a lively energy and excitement amongst everyone who's there. One of my favorite moments of the entire trip was riding the Tram 28 (despite how packed it was), squished against Dan and the other folks on the train, headed to Alfalma — I just remember feeling so excited about what the day would hold, and already-enamored with Alfalma's magic.
I loved Barrio Alto for the story it tells during the day. At night, Barrio Alto is Lisbon's party area — people fill its streets, bar hopping from one spot to the next; vendors walk around selling roses, giant sunglasses, and light-up sticks; people are out eating dinner amongst the high-energy of the night. Yet during the day, everyone clears out, the streets become silent, and there are only small hints of the night before. For me, afternoons in Barrio Alto always held a bit of mystery + romance, and I loved our walks through its streets.
From Lisbon it's fairly easy to travel to other cities + so we also visited Cascais, Belem, and Sintra...
We visited Cascais on a cloudy day, and though we spent some time napping + reading on the beach, we didn't stay for very long as it was tiny, packed, and fairly dirty. We ended up taking an Uber for €8 up to Guincho Beach and enjoyed that area so much more. It was beautiful + fairly deserted. Sticking my feet into the water, watching the surfers + swimmers, and walking the length of the beach put me entirely at peace.
Sintra, a town located in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, was my favorite place + part of the trip — I can actually feel my heart swelling just writing about it. The area is so incredibly stunning and the higher into the mountains you go, the more you become entirely immersed in nature + beauty. Dan and I rented a mini-car and went on a day tour, and when I tell you I fell in love...
We only really had time to visit the Monserrate Palace, but it was breathtaking and surrounded by the most lush gardens that you could get lost in. If I had a good book, blanket, and a few snacks, I could've spent the entire day there. We also went to Cabo da Roca, the western-most point of Continental Europe, and its beauty is unmatched. None of my photos do it justice, but thankfully, photographer Stefan Bajan recently visited and took this photo so that you can see what I mean.
I also bought my favorite pieces of jewelry from Sintra, had the best/sweetest pear of my life, + was generally in an incredible mood/state of being. If + when I visit Portugal again, I'd love to stay in Sintra for a few days — there's so much to do and see that it's impossible to tackle on a short day visit.
As for Belém, we only spent a short amount of time there — just long enough to get a 'Pastel de nata' from one of the oldest pastry houses in the city, Pastéis de Belém, stop by the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, and visit the Museu Berardo. Because we visited pretty late into the day, I felt tired + underwhelmed, and I think that tainted my experience of Belem. That being said, my mood lifted entirely when we ate the Pastel de nata — it was worth the entire trip/train ride.
I can't forget about the food. Freshly caught seafood, decadent sweets + pastries, and incredible pork/ham... I spent a lot of time licking sweetness from my fingertips + returned home with an extra seven pounds. Favorite places + meals below —
Rua do Loreto 21, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
+351 21 346 1564
Neighborhood: Bairro Alto
> An incredible seafood restaurant. Daily fresh fish that you can pick from the counter. I tried + highly recommend the Tuna Burger with caco bread (we had it twice) + a cod dish that I can't remember the name of, but I wish I could have 100 times over. (It was cod with an olive oil base, with potatoes + greens.)
Time Out Market Lisboa
Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal
+ 351 21 395 1274
Neighborhood: Next to Cais do Sodre railway station
> If you're looking to try a little bit of everything, visit here. It houses the top Portuguese restaurants, as well as shops to buy wine, desserts, and souvenirs. Dan and I came here every. night. for dessert. (Every night y'all...)
O Prego da Peixaria
Rua da Escola Politécnica 40, 1250-096 Lisboa, Portugal
+ 351 21 347 1356
Neighborhood: Príncipe Real (also located in Time Out Market)
> They specialize in Portuguese hot sandwiches and burgers + also have incredible fish burgers. We had the salmon burger with tinted caco bread.
Pestiscos no Bairro
Rua da Atalaia, nº133, 1200-039 Lisboa, Portugal
+ 351 919 574 498
Neighborhood: Barrio Alto
> This restaurant was a 5-minute walk from our apartment and I loved the atmosphere + energy. A great spot for people-watching, and their Portuguese sausage + scallops dish was pretty good.
Calçada do Combro 58, 1200-024 Lisbon, Portugal
+ 351 21 591 4011
Neighborhood: Barrio Alto
> An amazing bar that overlooks the entire city. It's actually on top of a parking garage (EML's parking building) on the 7th floor. The elevator only takes you to the 5th or 6th, I believe, and then you take the stairs the rest of the way.
Until we meet again, Lisboa, xx