Lisbon is just full of colour, one of the first things you will notice are the beautiful tiles you see on streets & walls. They are called Azulejos, glazes tiles and they have long played a role in Portugal’s cultural history. The National Azulejo Museum housed on once-sacred grounds, delves into their rich legacy, wooing visitors by some 300 beautifully ornate patterns. Highlights include the blue, green, yellow, and white azulejo with an armillary sphere—the so called “heaven and earth machine,” an astronomical instrument that appears on the Portuguese flag. There’s also the must-see Our Lady of Life panel, rumoured to have been made by painter Marçal de Matos in the late 16th century.
So that was our bit of culture done, we decided to explore the city. Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes as the hilly terrain can be hard on your feet. Our first stop was the Time Out market, which is great for a quick food stop but felt a little touristy to me. Some of the capital’s most interesting historical monuments lie along the Tagus River in the Bélem district, your can see the 16th century Mosteiro dos Jeronimos & the Bélem Tower, then hop on a tram and hop off at the Café Pastéis de Belem, named after the tarts also know as pastéis de nata whom is thought originated here in 1837, from a secret recipe from the monastery near by. I love them as they are served warm with a dusting of my favourite spice, cinnamon.
We them headed for LX Factory, it is a vibrant urban hub, brimming with everything from architecture to music, art, fashion & great food too. I love all the cork shops where you can buy literally anything made of cork, clothes, shoes, bags, and there are so many pretty places to take pictures.
We ate at Central Da Avenida, sitting outside where you get to really people watch & feel the energy. We started with their house cocktail, Portuguese port & tonic, which was very refreshing & then we moved on to Vinho Verde, Green wine which is the indigenous wine of Portugal, it is a crisp aromatic, low alcohol (thank goodness as we drank a lot during our short stay!) wine. Contrary to it’s name it is a white wine, it is called green because it is young & comes from the Vinho Verde region in the historic Minho province in the far north of the country. I love fresh fish, and that is pretty much all we ate, AMAZING fresh sardines, grilled octopus & prawns in rich tomato sauce, though I also had some amazing cured black pig too. After our early supper we moved into one of the many live music venues, it’s a wonderful way to spend a warm evening in Lisbon.
The hotel we stayed at is the beautiful Pestana Palace, a stunning hotel housed in the Alcântara district (walking distance from the LX Factory) it was the home of The Marquis of Vale Flor, and is room after room of beauty, grandeur & art. Famous people who haves stayed there are Madonna, Prince, Catherine Deneuve, Artic Monkeys & Ricky Martin to name a few. The breakfast was a total feast & we ate outside facing the beautiful grounds & sculptures.
We took a 30 minute ride cab ride, taking the scenic view to Cascais to see the stunning buildings both medieval & modern along the way. Cascais is such a pretty seaside town, walking along the lanes & to the square of Baia de Cascais outside Museu da Vila, where the beautiful black & white tiles are laid in waves & almost look like they are moving.
Head for the Mercado da Vila, where you can buy fresh flowers, wonderful fruit, veg, herbs spices, you name it and all so fresh, but what really was wonderful was the fish market, and right outside it is Marisco na Praca restaurant where you order your fish by the kilo & it is just the freshest fish you will ever eat in your life! We had oysters, baby crayfish which were so delicious & sweet, octopus salad & a whole line caught seabream cooked on the grill, but my favourite were the clams tossed in olive oil, garlic & parsley, too good for words. Of course it was washed down with a jugs of sangria & vinho verde.
Our last evening in Lisbon was spent walking around & watching all the street performers, I loved the dancers outside Café a Brasilera we then made our way to Park rooftop bar, (which is quite strange to get to as it on top of a carpark), it’s very young & buzzy & we watched the sunset over the city.
Just a walk away from the tourist hub of the theatre part of town, is a real gem of a restaurant, Campania do Largo, here we feasted on local dishes and finished with a truly wonderful local cheese board.
My girlfriends & I only had 2 nights to spare, I feel you need at least 3 to explore this wonderful city. We left Lisbon, wanting to come back, loved the food, the wine & the beautiful Architecture.