2016/04/08

3 days on a luxury stay in Lisbon

3 days in Lisbon as a first-timer

Back from my (second) short trip to Lisbon, Portugal's hilly, coastal capital, here are my tips what to do and where to stay & eat there. As a discerning traveler and foodie I am always on the lookout for good hotels and restaurants and this was not any different in this beautiful city, which is by the way the oldest city in Western Europe.




Alfama, oldest district, view of Tagus River

What to do in Lisbon

The capital of Portugal has plenty to offer for tourists. Not only is the old town very picturesque, but there also are beautiful places by the water. As to water, Lisbon is not directly situated by the sea, but at the mouth of the Tagus River. But for me it felt like being by the sea.

Lisbon is known as the city of the seven hills. That means it goes uphill and downhill all the times. But do not worry, there are a funicular system – consisting of 4 elevators – and a tramway network, both funny ways to explore the city.

You absolutely have to see the old districts of Lisbon. The oldest one is Alfama spreading from the Castle of São Jorge to the River Tagus. You would get lost in the charming labyrinth of narrow streets if you did not see the Tagus River all the time! Then Bairro Alto is another quarter worthwhile visiting. It is the place to go for shopping and entertaining. Lisbon’s city center is called Baixa. It is an elegant district built only after the big earthquake of 1755 in a grid pattern. Chiado, between the neighborhoods’ of Bairro Alto and Baixa, and where my hotel – see later on – is, consists of a mix between old and modern buildings and offers many shopping and eating out opportunities.

After having seen the old town, go to the water’s edge meaning to go to the banks of the Tagus River. I recommend using a taxi to go there. They are not expensive and plentiful. Maybe go to Belém first. This is the place where the Portuguese explorers set off on their journeys. There you find beautiful historical buildings, the home of the famous Portuguese pastry, Pastel de Nata, and a walkway by the water. Then also go to Parque das Nações, to Lisbon’s newest district, built on the occasion of the World Exhibition of Lisbon 1998. There are many new buildings, gardens and a walkway by the water as well. In case you are fan of aquatic life, visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, the second largest in the world.

Belém, district by the water

Where to stay in Lisbon as a luxury traveler

I like staying at good hotels. Whenever possible I opt for luxury accommodations, but only under the condition that they offer value for money.

When I was in Lisbon 9 years ago, my family stayed at the Four Seasons (TripAdvisor #15). This hotel is situated a bit outside the center and the old town. Although I was satisfied with the hotel, I decided to look for another hotel. This especially because of the location of the hotel, I wanted to be in the center and this preferably in the old town. In addition, I preferred to be in a smaller, more modern hotel. 

This time, it was not that easy to find the ideal place for our family to stay. First, I was a bit late and second, it was during bank holidays. Memmo Alfama in the Alfama district caught my attention (TripAdvisor #8) immediately, but unfortunately they were already fully booked. Finally, we settled for the Lisboa Carmo Hotel in the Chiado district (TripAdvisor #17). We enjoyed our stay there, although it does not qualify as ultimate luxurious, but is has been refurbished rather recently and its setting is fabulous.

Lisboa Carmo Hotel, Chiado district

Where to eat in Lisbon as a foodie

Wherever I go on, fine dining has to be part of it. When I go on vacation, I usually book ahead all the restaurants for the trip. This also was the case for the 3 days in Lisbon. When I went to Lisbon last time, I had dinner with one of the few Michelin starred restaurants, the Restaurante Eleven (TripAdvisor #185). I thought it was good at the time, but not that memorable. Today, it only gets 4 points out of 5 on TripAdvisor what makes me a bit suspicious as normally I consider 4 ½ points as necessary, but check it out. If you have something to celebrate, consider going to the only Michelin two-starred restaurant in Portugal, the Belcanto (TripAdvisor #2), the reviews are raving!

As far as my stay in Lisbon is concerned, I decided to be more modest food wise … As with a hotel, the search for good restaurants in Lisbon does not prove to be an easy task. First, it was Easter time (some restaurants were closed) and second, Portugal is not that well known for refined cuisine. Having said that we were happy enough with our choice – this time I strongly confided in TripAdvisor: 100Maneiras (TripAdvisor #81), where we had a partly adventurous but mostly well-prepared tasting menu (a bit too much seafood for my taste), SommelierLisbon (TripAdvisor #19), a trendy spot with fine food (tasty starters such as salmon tartar and foie gras, yummy steaks, delicious desserts like trilogy of chocolate and cheesecake), and Frade dos Mares (TripAdvisor #8), an excellent fish restaurant.
As a whole, we had good meals, but nothing that will remain forever in my memories. In addition to these dinners, we had a simple but exquisite lunch (And this for free!) in our hotel (Maria do Carmo, TripAdvisor #925,) and really tasty Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) in 
Manteigaria (TripAdvisor #1 Bakery).

Restaurant 100 Maneiras, tasting menus only

All in all, Lisbon is in any case worthwhile visiting, the historic districts really are a feast for the eyes, the neighborhoods by the sea respectively the river are charming and locals are very friendly. When it comes do dining, there is no shortage of good restaurants, although Lisbon cannot be called "the" foodie's heaven.

Pastel de Nata, famous Portuguese Pastry (from Manteigaria)


Date of stay: March 2016


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