Portugal won the Euro finals last weekend. My mind kept drifting in and out of the fact that just over two weeks ago I was in Lisbon witnessing the beginning of the winning spree. Nuno, my Lisbon Rider guide, told be that they only celebrate the big wins - and they certainly did!
June is a perfect time to witness the Portuguese passion for festas. Lisbon was mine to conquer for 4 days and my expectations were well exceeded. While best to explore by foot – you need to be prepared for a good workout. The perfect antidote for the delicious pastries you will "sample" along the way. If working out is not your thing, you can also choose to navigate the city in one of its many vehicle offerings: jeeps, tuk tuks, vintage Volks, double-decker buses, trams, metro/public buses.
I chose the Baixa neighbourhood as my main headquarters - the Portugal Boutique Hotel (also known as Portugal Hotel) was a dreamy rest spot.
My workout mainly consisted of the following:
Circuit 1: Baixa/Barro Alto
Walk down rua de la Madelena. Have a fresh cheese sandwich and lemonade at Fabrica Lisboa (121, R. da Madalena) – the lemons in Lisbon are deliciously sweet. Explore the side streets but don’t go too far off course. Head to the water and stroll alongside the boardwalk all the way to Cais de Sodre. Walk across the street to Mercado de Ribeira, you will find all of Lisbon’s top food picks under one roof. Leave some room because you will hit Gelato Davvero (Praça São Paulo 3). The unique & bursting flavors will make it so worth it (highly recommend citronella gengibre paired with ananas). Next, walk up to Bairo Alto, if you feel tired, there is a vintage tram to help you get down or up. You must try the Ginginha at de Carmo (Calçada do Carmo 37 A), a local cherry liqueur that is dangerously potent. Finish off at Taberna or By the Wine on R. das Flores. Two unique restaurants that will allow you to taste local wines and eats.
Circuit 2: Belem & Alcantara
Head out to Belem to explore the tower, stroll along the boardwalk and take advantage of the pop up rest stops where you can have fresh lemonade, orange juice and/or local wine. There is a famous pastry shop in Belem which is easy to find if you don’t mind queues. Walk or take the train to Alcantara to find LX Factory - an industrial lot taken over by local independent designers and craftspeople. Look out for “HelloWorld” street art at back.
Circuit 3: Principe Real
This neighborhood made me think of Outremont, Notting Hill, Park Slope. Start by walking in the Principe Real garden and perhaps do a bit of people watching with a café on one of its corner kiosques/terasses. Walk by the most enchanting facades with whimsical names such as “jasmin noir”. You must go to entretanto, an indoor market situated in a 17th century palace and classic example of residential architecture from Marques de Pombal. Another must is Embaixada, shops and restaurants that boast the made in Portugal stamp and exist in a 19th-century mansion, with Moorish influence. On your way down, drop by pharmacia for dinner - both in & outdoor experiences are sure delights.
Circuit 4: Castelo, Mouraria, Alfama
This is my personal fav since it offered the most different perspective. Perhaps because of the Moorish influence, the way it felt more authentic & raw and the sense that “new ideas” are thriving. Start by walking towards the Jardim Da Cerca Da Graca, a unique garden that plays with space. Look out for the Mouraria innovation center at the entrance - Nuno told me that this area is fast becoming a center for start-ups in Portugal. From the garden walk up to Miradouro da Graca for a breathtaking view from the highest point on the city! From there you can walk to some of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks such as the castle, the cathedral, the city’s oldest building. You will discover little markets, quaint cafes, restaurants that offer fado performances. You may cross deserted areas with historical remains covered with colorful designs or positive statements. St Vincent is Lisbon’s patron saint, do pass by to say hello at Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol, the view is spectacular. Look out for the street art that explains the history of Lisbon in greater detail. Rest up at Wine Bar do Castelo, Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão. Lots to discover on the way, whimsical alleys and shrines, once you made it your taste buds will explode with a wide selection of local wine, cheeses and meats. Walk back up to Miradouro da Graca to catch the sunset and if you are lucky, top your adventure up with a live music performance to go along with the majestic view.