Lisbon is one of my favorite cities in Europe! It’s spacious, artsy, there is so much good food and filled with gorgeous architecture! Having been there three times in three years, I have gathered some insider recommendations! Ever think “that wasn’t worth the hype…or wait”? Well, this fiery Lisbon guide shares how to avoid some of those in Lisbon!
Read on for the Fiery Lisbon guide: skip that, do this instead!
Fiery views of Lisbon: Castelo de São Jorge – go to the Miradoura da Graça instead!
The medieval Castle of St. Jorge is located on the top of a hill in Alfama, it overlooks the city and the Tagus river. The majority of the castle was rebuilt in 1920 during a restoration after previous fires and earthquakes destroyed much of the castle. It is one of the most iconic symbols of the city and can be seen from almost everywhere. The Castle of St. Jorge is often recommended for its great views of Lisbon. While it undoubtedly has great views of the city and river, €8.50 is a hefty price to pay for the view alone.
The neighborhood the castle is situated in, Alfama, has many beautiful and free viewpoints! One near the castle is the Miradouro da Graça, which provides you a great view of the city ánd the castle too! Another is Largo Portas do Sol, a large terrace in Alfama looks out over the river and Alfama. Grab an ice cream from one of the sellers on the square and enjoy!
For the pastels de nata: skip Pastéis de Belém, go to the Manteigaria instead!
Even if you have never been to Portugal before, chances are that you have already tried a ‘pastel de nata’. A crispy, custard filled sweet pastry, topped with a little bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon. They are absolutely delicious and should not be missed when visiting Lisbon! Actually…my pre-breakfast consisted of one of these pastries and a strong coffee most mornings.
The recipe is credited to the monks of the Jéronimos Monastery in the Belém district of Lisbon. This may explain why the most popular bakery to get them is the Pastéis de Belém in the same street. If you have ever been there, you know that it sounds far more glamorous than it is. Waiting times are long to buy them or grab a seat at the bakery, and it feels…a little too touristy for my taste. Let me tell you, waiting in line with only other impatient tourists in the rain isn’t any fun ;).
I was lucky enough to do a food tour, which stopped by the Manteigaria. My guide told me this is the best place to get them because of the quality and due to the nonexistent waiting lines! The pastry is made with real butter here, which delivers its super crispy crust! The pastries are made in front of you, so you can follow each step in making these little bites of magic.
- Manteigaria: Rua do Loreto, 2 1200-242 Lisboa
- Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 8 am – 12 am
Fiery seafood in Lisbon: Cross the river to Calcilhas instead!
Seafood in Portugal is spectacular! With 943 kilometers of coastline, it has access to great seafood, freshly fished from the Atlantic ocean. Lisbon has many restaurants where you can have great seafood – one of the most famous being Cevejaria Ramiro. The family-run restaurant was already super popular before being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show. As this propels any restaurant into foodie fame, it is worth the visit, but be prepared for a long wait!
If you want to go for seafood, but prefer a local vibe (and a lower bill!), cross the river and head over to Cacilhas! The ferry leaves from Cais do Sodre quite frequently and is super quick (direction: Cacilhas). You’re rewarded with great views of the city and the river and some good seafood restaurants. A local favorite is Ponto Final, recommended by my last Airbnb hosts. Other good restaurants are Restaurante Farol (also recommended by hosts and local guides) and Atira-te ao Rio. Just ask for whatever seafood is in season, and you’ll have a great meal!
Going up the elevator: Elevador de Santa Justa – take the stairs instead!
Another iconic monument in Lisbon is the Santa Justa Elevator. Built in 1902 and classified as a national monument since 2002. It may not be the highest viewpoint, but has great views of the main squares in Lisbon and of the castle. Especially in the evenings, the view can be really magical! However, as with many tourist attractions, there can be long waiting times. Also, the elevator + viewpoint access costs €5.15. In a city where you can get wine for €1, that makes you think twice right?!
Insider tip for the able-bodied: there are stairs which you can take from Rua do Carmo up to the viewpoint – for free! No need to pay the elevator or viewpoint fee. From Rua do Carmo, find the stairs that lead upward (next to a gym) and go right. If you keep walking straight, near the convent you will see a small staircase. Follow that up, cross the bridge and you’re there! I included photos below to help find it easier.
Insider tip for the less-able-bodied: I understand not everyone is able (or willing to spend their spoons) on walking up the stairs. There are fewer stairs if you walk from the Carmo Convent. However, if you bought the 24-hour public transportation ticket for Lisbon, you can ride the elevator for free! This is because the elevator is technically part of the public transportation network. The entry fee to the viewpoint is €1.50. To avoid the long lines go early or in the late evenings. The platform is open from 7.00 am to 23.00 pm summer/21.00 pm winter.