our city ‘cheat sheets’ are versions of the notes i send to friends when they are going to a city i know and love. x laura aviva
A DAY OF PERFECT EATING
MANTEIGARIA Start the day standing at the counter with a coffee and pastéis de nata — a custard tart that’s a national obsession — while you watch more of the pastries being made on the other side of the glass wall in front of you.
CERVEJARIA RAMIRO This old cervejaria (beer hall) is a Lisbon institution. Order the incredible seafood: the clams bulhao pato are my single favorite dish in Lisbon, the carabineiros are amazing and I also love the percebes (goose barnacles – which my friend Peter describes as looking like “the harvested hoof-claws of baby dragons”). Finish off with what regulars call ‘dessert’ here — a prego (small steak sandwich).
Opt for the slightly experimental tasting menu at BOI CAVALO — or go even further at LEOPOLD. Both are innovative restaurants in the Alfama neighborhood making really great food from small kitchens, for small spaces.
Or embrace more of Lisbon’s stellar seafood with a Peruvian twist at A CEVICHERIA.
Also: TABERNA DA RUA DAS FLORES, with some big caveats. It’s a beautiful setting with lovely staff, and I’ve only ever heard raves about it. Our meal there was very meh (we didn’t finish a single dish), but I find the place and people so appealing that I’d give it another go.
AND THEN THERE’S:
MERCADO DA RIBEIRA (Time Out Market) Time Out Magazine opened this food hall some years back. While it’s definitely mass, they did a phenomenal job pulling together a wide range of Lisbon’s best — it’s 100% worth a visit. Especially: MANTEIGARIA SILVA for ham and cheeses, LA CROQUETERIA for croquetas (bacalao and chorizo, squid ink, or tradicional), O SURF & TURF (especially the ceviche with sweet potato puree), and AQUA for all things seafood.
Throughout Lisbon (and notably at ALCÔA in Chiado) you’ll see a variety of pastries with bright yellow fillings. Many have colorful names, like ‘nun’s nipples’. As the story goes, centuries back, the nuns used egg whites to starch their habits, and needed a use for all the excess yolks. And voilà: yolk-based pastries galore.
A CHARMED AFTERNOON ADVENTURE
Take a brief boat ride, via the commuter ferry, across the Tagus River to Almada. Once you’re off the ferry, a half-mile walk along the river leads you through a formal industrial fishing zone, past rows of dilapidated buildings covered in layers of incredible graffiti. At the end of the path, peeks of yellow signal you’ve arrived at El PONTO FINAL, set on its own private pontoon. With wide-open views of the river and Lisbon on the other side, it’s the ideal spot for a lazy lunch. Enjoy the deeply traditional Portuguese home cooking, then ask the wait staff to call you a cab to take you across the bridge to Belem and the MAAT MUSEUM. Cap the trip off with a stop at ANTIGA CONFEITARIA to pick up one of Lisbon’s most famous pastéis de nata before heading back in to the city. (Also on the way back: LX FACTORY).
Stroll through Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, at night. It’s touristy, for sure, but there’s still magic in walking up and down the endlessly revealing stairs and alleyways. Hear fado being sung through the windows of fado bars, and sneak precious glimpses of locals in their home turf. We were totally charmed by a woman selling home-grown shots of ginjinha (a traditional local sour cherry liqueur) from a table in front of her door.
FEIRA da LADRA This flea market in Alfama has been going since the 12th century. Every Tuesday and Sunday, there are treasures to be found. Just be prepared for some serious hunting.
It’s literally everywhere you turn: from the fully tiled facades, to the stair balustrades, to the graphics on the packaging of Portuguese products.
THE MUSEUM OF ART, ARCHITECTURE AND TECHNOLOGY (MAAT), mentioned above, was designed by British architecture firm Amanda Levete Architects. Part of a movement to revitalize the riverfront of Belém’s historic district, the building itself is spectacular, and houses compelling exhibits.
Also spectacular: the sweeping glass and metal arched structure of GARE DO ORIENTE, Lisbon’s main train station, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
For shopping, A VIDA PORTUGUESA is ground zero for made-in-Portugal design. Beautifully curated, beautifully presented. There are three outposts: the best by far is the one in Intendente (which is very close to Cervejeria Ramiro).
TO BRING BACK
Pick up some sardines and tinned fish with the best packaging ever. You’ll see these throughout the city, but the most iconic places to shop them are CONSERVEIRA DE LISBOA or LOJA DE CONSERVAS.
For gifts, get some beautifully packaged soaps from CLAUS PORTO or any of the brands at A VIDA PORTUGUESA.
Pegged to the Time Out Market food hall is the MERCADO DA RIBEIRA, the original produce market, open for the first half of the day. I have a slight obsession with piri piri peppers: I buy them here and smuggle them back by the kilo.
SANTA CLARA 1728 housed in an 18th century building, this 6-suite hotel is a gem. (The owners are also behind Casa Na Areia, Cabanas Norio, and Casa No Tempo, all of which I am harboring an obession for).
VERRIDE PALACIO SANTA CATARINA For a stay at the luxury end of the spectrum.
DEAR LISBON PALACE CHIADO Very well located and overall quite charming, but with some quirks.
THE LISBOANS A group of short- and long-term stay apartments with Portuguese design touches.
BAIRRO ALTO HOTEL It’s slated to reopen at the end of 2018.