Tag Archives: Portugal

Portugal: Lisbon, Sintra, and Evora

One week in Portugal in November: Lisbon, Sintra, Evora, and a wine tour in the Setubal Peninsula. Crazy castles, a cathedral made of human bones, delicious food and wine, and beautiful historic architecture.

 

We have several friends who have done a big trip around Spain and Portugal, or Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, etc. All of them spent most of their time in Spain, and allowed just a couple days for a stop in Portugal. All of them came back saying they wished they had spent way more time in Portugal.

We were looking for somewhere to go for a one week trip over Thanksgiving week, and Portugal’s food, low prices, and gorgeous historical buildings lured us in. There aren’t any direct flights to Portugal from Seattle, but it was 100% worth the layover and a little extra travel time . Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe–we got a great apartment on HomeAway for only $66.00 USD per night. The food was some of the best we’ve ever had, and everyone was really friendly. English is widely spoken and we had no trouble getting around. If you know some Spanish you will be able to decipher some of the signs and restaurant menus that are in Portuguese, and some phrases and words are similar to Spanish. Don’t try to speak Spanish though, most people we met spoke English as a second language over Spanish.

If you are visiting Lisbon or Sintra, you should be prepared for the hills. If Google Maps tells you your route in Lisbon is “mostly flat,” it’s lying. What it means is that your route goes up and down like a roller coaster, including one or two blocks with the steepest hill you’ve ever climbed in your life. If you’re not good with lots of hiking, don’t stress. Uber is available in both Lisbon and Sintra and is really affordable. There were several times when we were tired and called an Uber back to our apartment from wherever we were in the city, and the cost was only $3.00 USD. If you are in good shape to walk, then it just means you can justify eating more pasteis de nata.

Day 1: Arriving in Lisbon

We took an overnight flight from Seattle to Amsterdam with Delta, and then had a short 2.5 hour flight with KLM from Amsterdam to Lisbon, arriving Friday afternoon.

One thing that made the 10 hour flight from Seattle to Amsterdam tolerable was getting to see the northern lights over Canada from the plane! Horrible photo, I know. It doesn’t nearly do it justice for how gorgeous it was.

northern lights
Northern lights from the plane!

For our arrival in Lisbon, we had arranged for an airport pick up with Welcome Pickups, which from my research was only a tiny bit more than getting a taxi, and delivered door to door service. We were even able to share our pick up with our apartment host so that they would get a notification when we were picked up and could track us on the way to the apartment. Our driver was there waiting for us when we got out of customs and everything went really smoothly.

Our apartment was on the third floor of a very classic building on a small street in The Santa Catarina neighborhood. It had a fantastic view.

Lisbon Portugal apartment
Our apartment building in Santa Catarina neighborhood in Lisbon
Lisbon Portugal apartment
View from our apartment building in Santa Catarina neighborhood in Lisbon

We really liked the Santa Catarina neighborhood. It is very close to Bairro Alto, the nightlife district but far enough away to be quiet. It also felt pretty local and wasn’t as touristy as the historic Afalma neighboorhood.

After we checked in and unpacked, it was time to venture out to find sustenance. It was 5:00, so a bit early for dinner by Portuguese standards (most restaurants open for dinner at 7:00 pm and people often don’t go out to eat until 8:00 or 9:00). We had read about Time Out Market which was only a short walk away from our apartment, and it sounded like a perfect way to get an introduction to Portuguese food.

Time Out Market Lisbon
Time Out Market Lisbon

Time Out Market is a large and busy market full of many food stalls, wine shops, flower vendors, bakery stalls, etc. During the day there is a food market side as well. Many of the reviews I read about Time Out Market said it was touristy and expensive. It is. However, expensive for Lisbon basically meant that the prices were comparable to Seattle. In addition, the market has many food stalls from Lisbon’s top-rated chefs to give you a quick and less expensive sampling of their cuisine. All the food looked amazing.

After doing a loop around the busy market looking at all the food stalls, we pulled up a stool at Sea Me, as I was lured in by their octopus hot dog.

Sea Me, Time Out Market Lisbon
Sea Me food stall, Time Out Market Lisbon
octopus hot dog at Sea Me food stall, Time Out Market Lisbon
Octopus hot dog at Sea Me food stall, Time Out Market Lisbon

The octopus hot dog was two perfectly cooked octopus tentacles on a bun, with lettuce, tomato, and garlic sauce. It was delicious. Paddy had a salmon dish that was also outstanding.

As much as we wanted to eat everything in the market, we only had room for one more small thing after that, so we tried some croquettes and beers at the Croqueteria, which were also delicious.

Not sure what to do for breakfast the next morning, we picked up 6 mini pies from Chef, a stall in the center of the market (they were amazing).

Mini pies at Chef, Time Out Market, Lisbon
Mini pies at Chef, Time Out Market, Lisbon

We ended our tour of Time Out Market with some wine tasting at a little wine shop and bought a bottle of wine to take back to the apartment. Lack of sleep and jet lag were taking their tolls, so we made it an early night.

 

Day 2: Exploring Castelo de Sao Jorge and the historic Afalma neighborhood

After a full night’s sleep and eating our mini pies, we ventured out and found some excellent coffee around the corner from our apartment at The Mill.

Flat white at The Mill, Lisbon
Flat white at The Mill, Lisbon

Once we were fully caffeinated, we called an Uber to Castelo de Sao Jorge, one of the largest tourist attractions in Lisbon.

It was recommended in online forums that I read to Uber to the castle, tour it first thing in the morning, and then explore the historic Afalma neighborhood below (walking downhill). I would whole-heartedly second that recommendation. Uber was really inexpensive (only $2-$7 USD per ride just about anywhere we wanted to go in the city), and it’s best to explore the City of the Seven Hills by starting at the top of a hill, and working your way down.

Castelo de Sao Jorge has had a long and interesting history. The Castle was originally built by the Romans in 200 BC, later occupied by the Visigoths between 480-714 BC, and then the Moors from North Africa from 714-1147. It was later taken over during the Christian Crusades, and became a power stronghold for Portugal through the middle ages. In 1755 it was destroyed by the big earthquake in Lisbon and wasn’t restored until 1938.

Admission is €10 per adult, and most of your visit to the castle will be exploring the exterior grounds. There is an interior area that has been turned into a museum with excavated pottery and other items from throughout the castle’s history, Roman times to the middle ages.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon

There is a great view of the city from the castle, and a family of peacocks roaming the grounds.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon

After exploring the castle, we walked into the Afalma neighborhood, which is the oldest part of Lisbon. This is the only area in Lisbon that remained mostly intact after the 1755 earthquake leveled the city. It is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets with azulejo-tiled buildings and cobblestones.

Afalma, Lisbon
Afalma, Lisbon
Lisbon street
Lisbon street
Street art in Afalma, Lisbon
Street art in Afalma, Lisbon
Street art in Afalma, Lisbon
Street art in Afalma, Lisbon

We stopped by the Fiera da Ladra flea market (also called the Theives Market), which is only open on Saturdays and Tuesdays. It was fun to walk through, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.

Feira da Ladra flea market Lisbon
Feira da Ladra flea market Lisbon

For lunch we found a fantastic tapas restaurant in a little alley in Afalma called O Cantinho da Rute. When we asked the owner what he recommended, he said “everything.” While that didn’t help us narrow down our selections, he wasn’t lying. Everything we ordered was fantastic. We had dish with sliced potatoes and hard-boiled eggs with paprika, garbonzo beans with chorizo in a paprika sauce, and prawns drenched in garlic paprika butter. I think they just have a vat of clarified garlic paprika butter in the kitchen that they ladle onto everything. Get bread to mop it up, it is delicious.

For dessert we tried the Portuguese ginjinha, a liqueur infused with sour cherries. It was served in a small cup made of chocolate. Most restaurants have ginjinha, or you can find small places serving it from a tiny counter bar off the street. Be sure to order some with dessert, or any time. The Portuguese even drink it in the morning.

Lunch at O Cantinho da Rute in Afalma
Lunch at O Cantinho da Rute in Afalma
Lunch at O Cantinho da Rute in Afalma
Lunch at O Cantinho da Rute in Afalma
Ginjinha in a chocolate cup
Ginjinha in a chocolate cup

After lunch, we walked until we got to the Se Cathedral, another one of the big tourist attractions in Afalma. Entrance is free, but be respectful if there is a service taking place, and be sure you are modestly dressed. The cathedral dates back to the 12th century.

Se Cathedral Lisbon
Se Cathedral Lisbon

When we got out of the Se, it was starting to rain and we were tired. We called an Uber to take us back to the apartment, which only cost €2.50.

That evening Paddy wanted to find some rock bars to have a drink at. It was really early at 6:00 PM, and not much in Bairro Alto was open yet. We stopped into a tapas bar for a cocktail, then found The Cave. We were the only customers at such a premature hour. Punk music was playing, and they had mediocre sangria. Goths, punks, and metal heads may feel at home here.

The Cave Lisbon
The Cave bar, Lisbon

We walked around Bairro Alto looking at restaurant menus and finally decided on Cervejaria do Bairro. I tried a traditional Portuguese bacalhau dish (salted cod) with potatoes and greens, and Paddy had the veal. We shared a sardine dish for an appetizer. If you eat seafood, don’t leave Portugal without trying a bacalhau dish and a sardine dish. These items are staples to Portuguese cuisine.

The food at Cervejaria do Barrio was good, but the atmosphere was bland and this meal was probably my least favorite of the trip. Since it was a good meal, that says a lot about Portuguese food.

Bacalhau at Cervejaria do Bairro
Bacalhau at Cervejaria do Bairro
Sardines at Cervejaria do Bairro
Sardines at Cervejaria do Bairro

We had a couple more drinks after dinner at Wasp, a rock bar with a bit more of a classic rock theme. This and The Cave fulfilled Paddy’s rock bar requirement of the trip.

 

Day 3: Day trip to Evora

One of the number one things on my list for our trip to Portugal was Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of the Bones) in the town of Evora, about 1.5-2 hours outside of Lisbon. This was an easy day trip, and you can either take the train or a bus. The bus has more frequent departure and return options, but we preferred the train.

I purchased train tickets from the Entrecampos station in Lisbon to Evora online before we arrived on https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/buy-tickets. Note that you need to create an account and enter your passport number when buying train tickets on the site. You can also buy them at the train station. You will show your tickets to the train conductor while in transit, so keep them where you can access them easily.

Paddy on the train to Evora
Paddy snoozing on the train to Evora

Evora is a small medieval town with a lot of history. It was occupied by the Romans, then the Moors, and then a Portuguese monarchy in the middle ages. Much of Evora’s medieval buildings are still standing, as well as one ancient Roman ruin in the center of town. Evora looks very different from Lisbon. It is less hilly, and the town sticks to a uniform white and gold color on all of its buildings.

Medieval church in Evora, Portugal
Medieval church in Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal

Our train arrived at 11:00 AM, and we proceeded immediately to Capela dos Ossos, a short walk from the train. It was Sunday, and the attached cathedral had a service in session so we just visited the chapel and museum.

Capela dos Ossos was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan friar, using the bones from local cemeteries. It was meant as a contemplation about life and death, believing our time on earth to be one stop on the spiritual transition. At the entrance is an ominous engraved scripture that reads “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” or “We bones that are here, we are waiting for yours.” Some find Capela dos Ossos very morbid. I’m always into the macabre, and seeing human bones does not bother me so much.

Capela dos Ossos, Evora Portugal
Capela dos Ossos, Evora Portugal
Capela dos Ossos, Evora Portugal
Capela dos Ossos, Evora Portugal

The attached museum had mostly medieval art and was mildly interesting but the chapel was the star attraction. We really lucked out on our timing–there were only a few other patrons in the chapel when we were there, but when we walked out there was a huge line to get in. Go early if you can.

We were really hungry, and I had read about a restaurant in Evora specializing in suckling pig called O Parque dos Leitoes. It is on the outside of the town wall near the train station.

We didn’t expect O Parque dos Leitos to be as fancy as it was, but they were able to squeeze us in without a reservation. If you come here, dress up a bit and make a reservation if you can.

O Parque dos Leitoes specializes in pork. In many forms. Legs of cured Iberian ham hang on the wall near the entrance, sliced very thin and delicate and served as an appetizer.

Iberian ham at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora
Iberian ham at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora
Iberian ham at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora
Iberian ham at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora

Many small dishes are already on your table when you arrive, and they are not free. They are all listed in the menu, and you tell the waiter which ones you would like to keep (if any). We had the octopus salad. Given the level of white tablecloth fanciness, it felt like ordering wine with lunch was the right thing to do.

We ordered a dish with Iberian black pork medallions, and the suckling pig. Everything was delicious, and the suckling pig skin was crispy and almost candy-like. Both pork dishes were extremely tender. The suckling pig came with potato chips, which I found odd. I would have preferred a vegetable side to go with all that rich pork. The black pork medallions came with tomato bread pudding, which was pretty good but very carb heavy.

Suckling pig at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora
Suckling pig at O Parque does Leitoes, Evora

There were some mouth-watering pies and cakes in a glass case near the entrance, but we were too full for dessert. If you stay a night or two in Evora, go here for dinner and be sure you arrive hungry.

Re-fueled (perhaps a bit too much), we waddled up the gradual hill back through town to the Roman temple ruins.

Roman ruins in Evora, Portugal
Roman ruins in Evora, Portugal
Roman ruins in Evora, Portugal
Roman ruins in Evora, Portugal

It was Sunday, and many of the shops were closed. Most of the ones that were open were tourist shops. We enjoyed just walking around the narrow streets, and listening to a group of singers outside the Sao Joao Evangelista church.

Singers outside Igreja de São João Evangelista, Evora
Singers outside Igreja de São João Evangelista, Evora

There was an hour and a half to kill before our 4:45 PM train, and it was starting to rain a bit. We walked around in search of a bar or cafe we could go in and have a glass of wine at, but not much was open. We eventually resigned ourselves to waiting at the train station kiosk, but happened by a funky little cafe/bar in the Alkimia Madeirense restaurant right near the train station. It was a beacon of light and we warmed up with Irish coffee until it was time for the train.

*Self-catering tip: One of the best things about the Entrecampos train station in Lisbon is the large Lidl grocery store attached to it. We were tired and still a bit full from our huge lunch, so we thought we’d get some wine and snacks and have a quiet night in. We walked out with two bottles of local wine, bread, cheeses, cured salami, cucumber, tomato, several savory pastries for breakfast, a salad mix and two liters of water for under $18 USD.

 

*Note on Lisbon groceries: It was actually pretty difficult to find a real grocery store in our neighborhood. There were lots of mini marts but Lidl was the only store we found that was a full size grocery store. If you plan on cooking in your apartment, it’s worth an Uber ride there and back to do one big stock up trip.

 

Day 4: Day trip to Sintra

The castles of Sintra, particularly Pena Palace, are the most visited tourist attractions in Portugal. Whenever I am set on visiting a very touristy site, I always do a lot of research on how to make it the least horrible experience possible. Based on my research and experience, here is the wisdom I will bestow upon you for Sintra:

Tips for visiting Sintra:

1. If you want to see more than two attractions in Sintra, plan on staying at least two days there. You won’t be able to see them all in a day trip, even though many of them are close together.

2. If you’re visiting Pena Palace, go there first, and go there right when they open. Also, try to visit in the off season if possible. It was packed enough for us in November, I can’t imagine it in June.

3. Buy your tickets online in advance for Pena Palace. If you don’t get your tickets in advance, there is an automated ticket machine that had no line that takes cards with four digit PIN numbers only. Otherwise, be prepared to stand in a long line at the ticket counter, and then another long line to get in.

4. Don’t even think about walking to the castles from Sintra town. We did not make this mistake, but from what I read, many others have. It is a huge hike up a mountain. Take an Uber or the tourist bus.

5. If you’re doing a day trip from Lisbon, take an Uber. I read a lot about how easy it is to take the train from Lisbon, then the tourist bus up the hill to the castles. When I added up the cost of an Uber to the train station in Lisbon, then the train tickets for both of us to Sintra, then the tourist bus tickets up the mountain to the castles, it worked out to be almost the same as an Uber ride. The Uber picked us up at our apartment in Lisbon and dropped us right off at the entrance to Pena Palace. It was $30 USD each way. Quick and easy.

Pena Palace:

We had a fantastic Uber driver to Pena Palace. I was worried we might get someone grumpy about driving 40 minutes out of town, but he was very talkative and gave us lots of tips for visiting Sintra.

We hadn’t bought tickets in advance unfortunately, and when we arrived there was already a long line at the ticket booth before it was even open. Our Uber drive suggested that we walk a little ways back down the hill to the tourist office and get our tickets there and walk back up to avoid the line. We were about to do that when we noticed two ATM-style ticket machines with no one using them. We walked up to them and got behind one other tourist who successfully purchased tickets. You just need a credit or debit card with a four digit PIN number to use the machine. We were stoked that we didn’t have to wait in the long line.

What we didn’t know, was that you can opt for shuttle tickets up to the castle from the entry gate, which we did not opt for. There is, of course, a line for said shuttle as well. Given that and that we were out of shape yet able-bodied, we climbed up the steep hill to the castle. I had to take a few breaks. But we made it.

The palace is a thing to behold.

Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra

Pena Palace began as a monastery in the 1500s, later built into the colorful Disney castle type structure in the 1800s by King Ferdinand. Following the death of King Ferdinand, the palace was opened to the public as a museum in 1911. It was classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape along with the entire town of Sintra in 1995.

You can tour just the castle grounds and the surrounding park by itself, or you can tour the grounds and the castle interior. The castle interior requires a full ticket and your ticket will be checked again at the castle entrance if you have opted for this option (don’t throw it away).

The interior of the castle was interesting, but the exterior was the most amazing part. The level of detail and eccentricity was mind-boggling. There were so many details to look at, and each part of the exterior was different.

Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra

Pena Palace is the busiest tourist attraction in Portugal, but it is cool enough to be worth braving the crowds.

There are several other attractions in Sintra: The Moorish Castle, The Palace of Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira, Queluz Palace, The National Palace of Sintra, and several other parks and gardens. We knew we’d really only have the time (and energy) for two attractions, so after reviewing our options, we chose Quinta da Regaleira as our second stop. Quinta da Regaleira is not far from Pena Palace, it is at the bottom of the mountain near town. We were able to get an Uber pretty quickly from outside the main entrance of the Palace down to Quinta da Regaleira.

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is also a palace, along with a chapel in a gothic architectural style. However, the palace is less the main attraction than the property itself. There are lakes, grottoes, tunnels and caves, and various towers and structures around the property. It is gorgeous and very unique. Plan on spending some time outdoors here exploring.

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Grotto at Quinta da Regaleira
Grotto at Quinta da Regaleira

One of the most interesting parts of the property at Quinta da Regaleira is the Initiation Well, an inverted tower. I had seen pictures of it but didn’t know what to expect until we were there. A sign told us it was one-way only, single file entrance through a tiny door in the side of a rock formation at the top of a hill.

After waiting for several young ladies holding up the line to get the perfect Instagram photos (insert eye roll here), we began our descent down the spiral tower, not having any idea where we would end up.

Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira

We ended up in a series of underground cave tunnels. It took us a few minutes to figure out the best way out, but it was fun! Such a crazy, unique place. Apparently the tunnels and well were used for Tarot initiation ceremonies…whatever those entailed.

Caves below the Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
Caves below the Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira

We had worked up an appetite by the time we had finished touring Quinta da Regaleira, and fortunately it was only a short walk from there to a tapas restaurant I’d scoped out online.

Tascantiga did not disappoint. Sort of like sushi restaurants, they provide you with a paper menu with quantity boxes and a pencil to fill out your selections. Most dishes are small and meant to be shared, so you can order several of them. The atmosphere was cute, with mis-matched dining chairs and cheerful colors. There was an outdoor patio for nice weather.

Everything was delicious, and we wished we could have tried more of their dishes. If you’re visiting the attractions of Sintra, this is a great lunch stop.

After lunch we felt like we had done a major hike up a mountain from all the climbing up hills and stairs and walking around the palaces, so we called an Uber back to our Lisbon apartment for a nap.

 

Later in the evening, we went for dinner at Os Bons Malandros in Bairro Alto. We were the first people there when they opened at 7:00 because we’re American and we eat early like that. We took the advice of the owner and many reviewers on Tripadvisor and ordered the avocado tuna dish, the prawns, and a dish with goat cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry with red pepper jam. Paddy ordered a steak which came with potatoes and creamed spinach.

The tuna that everyone raved about on Tripadvisor was even better than I expected it to be. I was expecting a straight ceviche-style tuna with avocado, but it was sort of a hybrid ceviche/Hawaiian poke flavor. There was a refreshing lime flavor as well as a sesame oil flavor that was not too overpowering. It came with two “mojito balls” on spoons to give a burst of mojito flavor prior to eating the tuna.

The prawns were the best I’ve ever had, and that’s not an exaggeration. They were HUGE, and tasted like little lobsters. Cooked perfectly and very tender, with a very flavorful sauce. Paddy also enjoyed his steak, and the goat cheese…well, how can you go wrong with goat cheese in phyllo pastry? It was delicious.

As it was early on a Monday and there weren’t many customers, the owner chatted with us a bit and was very fun to talk to. He recommended some fantastic local port wine for dessert.

Go here for a quiet, relaxing dinner and be sure to order the tuna and the prawns.

Marinated tuna tartare with avocado at Os Bons Malandros Lisbon
Marinated tuna tartare with avocado at Os Bons Malandros, Lisbon
Prawns at Os Bons Malandros, Lisbon
Prawns at Os Bons Malandros, Lisbon

A trip to Portugal isn’t complete without listening to some live Fado music. Fado is a traditional Portuguese style of music, usually involving a singer and a guitar or two, signing mournful, soulful, melancholy songs. Being fans of Anthony Bourdain, we followed in his footsteps to A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto.

The secret’s out at A Tasca do Chico, so be prepared to wait in a line at the door. The place is tiny, and people are packed in like sardines. The doors are closed during performances, which last about three songs before the doors open again, giving people a chance to leave and others to come in. We waited about 15 minutes before we were ushered in by the doorkeeper. He didn’t speak English but we deducted that he was telling us to go to the bar. We ordered glasses of wine and then he told us to stand near the door (the only available standing space) while the guitar players and singer set up. The doors closed, and the music began.

Fado at A Tasca do Chico, Lisbon
Fado at A Tasca do Chico, Lisbon

The music was beautiful, and the place was really cozy. Had we had a seat and had there not been a line of people anxious to see the Fado performances outside in the rain, we could have easily sat and enjoyed the music all evening. But we wanted to give others a chance to enjoy it, so we left after the three-song set.

There were lots of touristy places in Lisbon offering Fado, and this place may not have been as touristy prior to Bourdain’s visit, but it was touristy now. However, it still wasn’t cheesy touristy. It still had the cozy charm that I’m sure brought Bourdain’s crew there to begin with. If you’re willing to wait and squeeze in like sardines to see some Fado, it’s worth a visit.

Bairro Alto at night, Lisbon
Bairro Alto at night, Lisbon

Day 5: Lisbon’s pink street, a tiki bar, and a lot of rain

We were glad we packed our three gung-ho sightseeing days into the first three days, because when we woke up Tuesday morning, it was absolutely pouring rain. In addition, Paddy woke up with a sore throat. We felt like a lazy day was in order.

Rainy day in Lisbon
Rainy day in Lisbon

Eventually, we ventured out into the city. We had raincoats and we were from Seattle after all, so what was a little rain? We treated ourselves to Thai foot massages at Siam Thai Massage in the city center. Our feet were rejuvenated after all that walking, and it was a good rainy day activity. (Note–Siam Thai is cash only).

We walked around the commercial shopping streets a bit until we found ourselves at the Praca do Comercio, the large main square on the River Tejo.

Downtown Lisbon
Downtown Lisbon
Lisbon's shopping streets
Lisbon’s shopping streets

Under normal circumstances, the Praca do Comercio would have been a nice place to stroll and have a cup of coffee in the sun. However, the rain was relentless and we began to get a bit wet, despite our raincoats. We did a little shopping at a shop selling port wine and canned sardines, and then called an Uber back to the apartment to dry off.

Praca do Comercio, Lisbon
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon

That evening we had a dinner reservation at Le Petit Cafe in Afalma, which ended up being the best meal of our trip. If you are looking for a romantic dinner spot with excellent Portuguese food, Le Petit Cafe is your date spot.

I had one of the two best octopus dishes I’d ever had in my life (the other was in Tulum, Mexico). It was so tender and flavorful. We shared a chocolate mousse for dessert.

Le Petit Cafe, Lisbon
Le Petit Cafe, Lisbon
octopus lisbon portugal
Octopus at Le Petit Cafe, Afalma, Lisbon

If you’ve read much of our blog, you know we can’t resist a tiki bar, so after dinner we took an Uber to the one tiki bar in Lisbon, Bora Bora Polynesian Bar. It was very early at 8:30 PM, and we were the only people in the bar.

Bora Bora Polynesian bar, Lisbon
Bora Bora Polynesian bar, Lisbon
Bora Bora Polynesian bar, Lisbon
Bora Bora Polynesian bar, Lisbon

The waiter kept giving us weird looks while we walked around taking photos. We initially thought he didn’t like us much, but it turns out he was just a little odd and socially awkward. He was actually a really nice guy and gave me a daisy “for the lady” and told me that the Bora Bora dated back to the 1980’s. The decor was very classic mid-century style tiki bar, I would have guessed the 1970’s. A few workers were carrying in buckets of ice and they seemed to be preparing for a busy night. I would love to go back late on a Saturday night to see what kind of crowd parties here. There was a second room downstairs as well that we didn’t get to see.

The music was wildly inappropriate for a tiki bar (Meatloaf?!?) but the decor and elaborate tiki mugs were on point. The drinks were a little sugary. The menu didn’t list what was in the drinks, so we asked the waiter to identify the less sweet ones and we went with those. Paddy had a Mai Tai, and I had the Fire’s God. Mine came with dry ice “smoke.”

Mai Tai at the Bora Bora tiki bar in Lisbon
Paddy drinking a Mai Tai at the Bora Bora tiki bar in Lisbon
Fire's God and Mai Tai at the Bora Bora tiki bar in Lisbon
Fire’s God and Mai Tai at the Bora Bora tiki bar in Lisbon

Overall, it was pretty awesome. I’d like to come back and see it when it’s busy. They really do need to work on that music though.

Not ready to call it a night yet, we took another Uber down to the infamous “Pink Street” in the Cais do Sodré neighborhood. The neighborhood used to be the red light district in Lisbon, but got a makeover in 2011 complete with a street painted pink. I’d read about a bar called Pensão Amor that sounded really funky and wanted to check it out.

Pink Street, Cais do Sodré, Lisbon
Pink Street, Cais do Sodré, Lisbon

The entrance to Pensão Amor wasn’t well marked, but we heard a band playing upstairs in a building where Google Maps said it should be, so we walked up the stairs. I instantly knew we were in the right place.

Stairwell art in Pensão Amor, Lisbon
Stairwell art in Pensão Amor, Lisbon
Stairwell art in Pensão Amor, Lisbon
Stairwell art in Pensão Amor, Lisbon

Burlesque comic-style graffiti art covered the stairwells between multiple levels in the building. Each level had something different going on within the burlesque theme. There was a sex shop selling toys, a disco ball room, a room with cozy alcoves, tiger print fabric wallpaper and a display case of vintage perfume bottles and other trinkets, and the main bar with a live band. It was hands-down the coolest bar I’ve ever been in.

Pensao Amor, Lisbon
Ceramic dildo display at the sex shop level of Pensao Amor, Lisbon
Pensao Amor, Lisbon
Pensao Amor, Lisbon
Pensão Amor, Lisbon
Pensão Amor, Lisbon

There was no cover for the band, we walked right in. In the back room of the main bar were tables an chairs that looked like the set up from an 1800’s Victorian brothel. It was adorable. The band was awesome–they were from Brazil. The bar patrons were a young, artsy set and we felt right at home. It was a great evening. If funky, artsy bars are your thing, visit Pensão Amor and see what they’ve got going on. Live music, burlesque shows, open mic nights–who knows. Whatever it is, it will be worth checking out I’m sure.

Day 6: LX Factory

We slept in a while after a late night out, and Paddy was still recovering from a sore throat. We had a lazy morning, with coffee and croissants at a little cafe down the street. In the afternoon we took an Uber to LX Factory in the west part of the city.

LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon

LX Factory is an industrial part of the city that was taken over by artists and turned into a creative area with shops, galleries, restaurants and bars, and music venues. I think it’s probably most active in the evening, but it was fun to visit during the day. There are a lot of awesome murals, fun shops and some great restaurants.

LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon
LX Factory, Lisbon

At the recommendation from our friends who had recently visited Lisbon, we had a tapas lunch at A Praça. We second that recommendation.

Tapas at A Praca, LX Factory Lisbon
Tapas at A Praca, LX Factory Lisbon

After exploring all the shops, we ended our tour of LX Factory with a shared piece of chocolate cake and lemon tea at Landeau Chocolate. Their cake has been written up as some of the world’s best chocolate cake, so we had to see what the fuss was about. I have to say, it’s pretty damn good. Layers of fluffy light chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and a fine dusting of dark chocolate powder on top.

Chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate
Chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate

Paddy’s throat was still bothering him, so we picked up some groceries at Lidl and had another quiet evening at the apartment.

Day 6: Wine tour in Setubal region

I had booked a private wine tour through Tripadvisor for our last day. It ended up being a perfect, relaxing way to end our trip. Our tour guide Rodrigo picked us up around the corner from our apartment in the morning, and we drove south to the Setubal peninsula. Rodrigo was a great tour guide, and told us a lot about Lisbon and the Setubal region.

Our first stop was José Maria Da Fonseca Wines in Azeitao. José Maria Da Fonseca winery is a family-run winery that was founded in 1864. We took a tour of their cellars, featuring some of the largest wine barrels I’d ever seen. The oldest vintages were covered in cobwebs and we could only view them through a locked gate. It was quite a contrast to the newer wineries of Eastern Washington back home.

José Maria Da Fonseca winery Portugal
The oldest vintages in the José Maria Da Fonseca winery cellars
José Maria Da Fonseca winery Portugal
José Maria Da Fonseca winery Portugal
José Maria Da Fonseca winery Portugal
José Maria Da Fonseca winery Portugal

The tour ended with a tasting of two of their wines in their gift shop.

Our next stop was another family-run winery, Quinta de Alcube. This winery was in a much more rural setting in the Arrabida Mountains on a small farm. We were able to sit and relax and taste wine while talking to Rodrigo (and the winery cat, who was also very talkative). The wines were really nice, and it was refreshing to get a chance to see some of the beauty and charm of rural Portugal.

Quinta de Alcube Winery
Quinta de Alcube Winery
Quinta de Alcube Winery
Quinta de Alcube Winery
Quinta de Alcube Winery
Quinta de Alcube Winery

Rodrigo took us to another stop before the last wine tasting,  Azulejos de Azeitao azulejo tile factory. It wasn’t so much a factory as an artisan tile shop. Artists roll, cut, fire, and hand-paint the traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles in this small shop. We were able to get a demonstration of how the tiles were made, and see artists painting the tiles by hand. They have a shop selling the tiles individually if you would like to take one home as a souvenir.

Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Kilns at Azulejos de Azeitao
Kilns at Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao
Azulejos de Azeitao

Our last stop was a wine shop in the town of Palmela. Rodrigo ordered us a cheese platter to go along with our tasting, which was welcome as we were a little buzzed and getting hungry.

Palmela, Portugal
Town of Palmela, Portugal

At the end of our tour, Rodrigo offered to drop us back at our apartment, or if we were hungry for lunch he recommended a food market a lot like Time Out Market but for locals called Mercado de Campo de Ourique. We felt like we could use another snack after all that wine, so we opted to check it out. Located in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood in Northwest Lisbon, this is a great spot to sample local Portuguese cuisine in a non-touristy setting. It is smaller than Time Out Market, but had some very tasty-looking food options. We had some codfish croquettes that were delicious.

Later that evening, we had our last dinner at a restaurant right next door to our apartment, Fumeiro de Santa Catarina. We didn’t have a reservation, so we went right when they opened at 7:00 and were able to get a spot on the end of a large party table who didn’t have a reservation until 9:00. The place is tiny, so reservations are recommended. Several people were turned away after we were seated.

Fumeiro means “smoked” and that is what their specialty is. Dishes are tapas style, meant to be shared. We ordered a few dishes, but our favorites were the smoked octopus, and the scallops. Everything was delicious. I couldn’t resist the chocolate mousse swimming in port wine for dessert. It was our last meal in Portugal, after all.

Scallops at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon
Scallops at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon
Smoked octopus at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon
Smoked octopus at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon
Port wine chocolate mousse at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon
Port wine chocolate mousse at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Lisbon

Our flight home was at 5:00 AM the next morning, and we had arranged for  Welcome Pick Ups to pick us up at 2:00 AM to give us piece of mind in case it was tough to get an Uber. They showed up right on time and we would highly recommend them.

We absolutely LOVED Lisbon and Portugal. Paddy is ready to pack his bags and move there. The people were very friendly, the prices were affordable, and the food was some of the best we’ve ever eaten. Not to mention all the gorgeous architecture and historical buildings. We can’t wait to go back and visit Porto and some more of rural Portugal.