Lisbon is one of my very favourite cities. Although I only lived there for six months, whenever I see photos of it I’m filled with home-sickness. When James and I decided to spend two months in the Algarve, I knew a romantic weekend in Lisbon was on the cards. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine our holiday with a Christmas shopping trip.
I booked us into a hotel that I’d always wanted to stay in, he sorted out the train tickets, and we were all set! I’ve written about the perfect weekend in Lisbon before, but some things have changed since then. Our Christmas weekend was damn near bang on perfect, so I thought I’d write a new post instead of updating the old one.
We stayed at the LX Boutique Hotel in Cais do Sodre. We were greeted with a big plate of pasteis de nata and a bottle of port, which we could help ourselves to after checking in. We were offered a free room upgrade: the catch was that the lift was broken and we’d have to walk up the stairs to the top floor. Fine by us! Our room had amazing views out towards the Tagus River, where we could watch the cruise ships rolling by.
After freshening up we decided to head for our absolute favourite restaurant: A Taberna da Rua das Flores. You can’t book a table, so show up early! I think we arrived about 7:45pm and if we’d been a minute later we’d have missed out on a table. The restaurant has a kind of tapas style to it, so you pick a few dishes and share. The menu changes regularly and it’s always a little bit unique, often it’s Portuguese cooking with an Asian twist. Our meal was fantastic: especially the desserts. Mine, fresh cheese with honey and toasted almonds, was unbelievable.
After dinner we did what any self respecting Lisboeta would do: we went up the Bairro Alto and settled ourselves into a seat at our favourite mezcal bar. A few cocktails later we decided to head to another bar, where they were doing shots of mulled wine and playing heavy metal. On the way back to our hotel we stumbled into a very trendy bar that reminded us of somewhere in Kreuzberg, then stood at the window enjoying the warm evening breeze. Yes, in December!
We started the day at the Mercado de Ribeira, which is a new addition to the city and a heaven for foodies. It was fairly quiet in the morning, but we did drop in to Aloma to sample the best pasteis de nata the city has to offer (sorry Belem!). Afterwards we wandered to our favourite travel book shop in Santos, and then up to Principe Real and generally all over the place taking in the street art, statues, and gorgeous buildings. We ended up having lunch in a little hole in the wall curry place: it actually looked like a regular Portuguese cafe from the outside.
As you can probably tell from my photos It was a bit rainy and minging so we retreated to the hotel for a bit where we lounged around in bathrobes and watched gems like ‘Storage Wars’ and ‘Catfish’. We don’t have a TV at home so this was a right treat.
As part of our hotel package we were entitled to a platter of free ‘welcome’ sushi in the bar, so we decided to go enjoy it before deciding on a restaurant for dinner.
The bar area is very opulently decorated and, luckily for us, is home to the best sushi restaurant in Lisbon. We grabbed a window seat and asked for our freebie (shy bairns get nae sweeties) and watched the pouring rain splashing off the pink street below us. The sushi btw? OMG. Phenomenal. So good that we asked for the menu when the waitress came to clear our plates. Same again after our second round: this time we decided to be brave and try the salmon and camembert (!) roll. I’m glad we took the risk. I’ve never tasted anything like it.
The rain let up a little, and we decided the perfect end to the night would be walking back down to the Mercado and having some bubbly and oysters. We also had a seared scallop with mango salsa and little pastries with mussels in them.
We moved to another stall and had a biiiig slice of cake, and another stall for a madrona and passion fruit cocktail.The market has a great buzz at night, and is a dangerous place to be if you’re on a budget or a diet. You can flit around from stall to stall sampling the wares until you get bored. Everything we had was high quality and tasted phenomenal.
We took the tram out to our old stomping ground of Alcantara to visit one of our favourite little corners of Lisbon, the LX Factory. Once an industrial factory area by the river, the old warehouses are now home to trendy cafes, vintage clothes shops, quirky homeware stores, art galleries, start-ups, and one of the world’s most beautiful book-shops. On Sundays there’s a flea market, and as we were in Lisbon for Christmas shopping we decided to have a browse. Afterwards we decided to go for lunch: our first choice was our absolute favourite gem, Aquele Lugar em Alcantara, but it was closed so we ended up in our favourite pizza place, A Mesa, instead. We munched on a bacalhau pizza and sipped on Super Bock.
On Sunday night we decided to go and see some fado. For some reason we acted like a couple of idiot tourists and went to a fado and dinner show. DON’T DO THIS. It was the most expensive meal we ate on the trip, the food was disgusting and the wine was overpriced. And I spent most of the next day suffering from food poisoning so there’s that. If you want to see fado, grab dinner somewhere else then head up to Alfama. Most of the cosy bars up there have fado singers performing, and you won’t get burned for €100+.
On Monday morning we got up and took the train back to the Algarve. Aside from the sad fado blip, and the fact that we barely got any shopping done, our weekend in Lisbon was all I could have asked for.