Portugal is on everyone's hot list right now, which means soon enough it will become another beautiful location overrun by demanding tourists that don't understand why everyone doesn't speak English. Thankfully, Lisbon isn't there yet, but it is definitely close. And why wouldn't it be? It has all of the trappings of an idyllic vacation: amazing food, warm locals and loads of beautiful things to stare at.
One could spend the entire trip staring at the azulejo'd facades of the buildings and still not get enough, but once you pry yourself away from the reality that the work and time it took to hand-paint each tile, and then place it on each building, is more involved than anything you've ever accomplished, you'll be famished.
Food is really the only thing that matters in life, and Lisbon is overflowing with delicacies. The diversity of seafood is incredible, and the caliber of preparation by restaurants throughout the city makes it really easy to throw all caution to the wind and experiment. This doesn't mean it's all amazing, but it's all at least pretty good. But, we are in a world of winners and losers, so a few standouts:
Cervejaria Ramiro: This was the first stop upon landing and the last stop upon departure. It is nothing fancy (although the second floor is beautiful). One always assumes that they send tourists upstairs when restaurants start gaining popularity, but in this case we happily obliged with being shipped upstairs for the meal. Surprisingly, this seafood institution provides menus on ipads. Do not let the hokeyness of this deter you from the incredible selection they have to offer.
The large tiger prawns and crab roe are standouts, as well as the garlic shrimp, which leaves plenty of garlicky-oily goodness to scoop up with the loaves of bread that are provided when customers first sit down. Order some white wine, preferably from the Douro region, and dig in. And remember to soak it all in, as the Portuguese, like most Europeans, know the truth about wine, that wine is for the people and therefore should be priced as such.
Speaking of liquor, a must try on your trip to Lisbon is ginjinha. It's similar to a brandy and is infused with a local cherry variety. Our favorite spot to imbibe is A Ginjinha. It's a small shop with a counter and no seating. Pretty straightforward: Order a shot. Sip. Repeat. Feel free to indulge at any time of the day. 9 a.m. seems to be a popular time.
Fortaleza do Guincho: if you're feeling uber indulgent, treat yourself to the Fortaleza do Guincho, a Michelin star restaurant set in an old fort about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon. The service is incomparable and the food truly reflects the history of food throughout Portugal with heavy seafood influences.
Hotel Farol: Lisbon is fantastic and if you have a week to stay, there's plenty to see. We recommend however, getting out of town for a day or two. Nearby Cascais provides a brooding, rocky beachside refuge from the city hustle. A 30 minute drive from Lisbon, the area is known as the Beverly Hills of the region. Here is where you'll find the million dollar price tags which no doubt will start popping up all over Lisbon proper soon enough. Along the drive to the town center you’ll find Hotel Farol.
Farol means lighthouse and yes there is a lighthouse on the premises that will look perfect in all of your selfies. The lobby is modern and art-deco with a black and white motif throughout. The artwork sprinkled throughout the lobby is avant-garde and sexual. Think Eyes Wide Shut.
An added benefit: you can take the artwork home with you as it's all for sale. Hotel Farol is a five minute walk from the town center, making it an ideal spot to be far enough away from the bars and restaurants but close enough to join the ridiculously fit locals power walking into town.
The Good: Lisbonites are so proud of their city and are quick to share their top five with you as you explore.
The Bad: Lisbon is hilly, very hilly. Because of this, drunken nights in Bairro Alto can get complicated, but on the upside exploring the city is definitely a workout.
The Ugly: You have to go through customs and immigration before you leave the country, which can mean an extra hour or two added to your airport time. Keep that in mind before you have to sprint to your gate as you leave the country. It'll leave a bad taste in your mouth. Trust us.