London Fog trench (they have a ton of similar versions here as well–one of my favorite ever wardrobe staples–it’s very warm and has a detachable hood and liner! Runs big.) Everlane black cigarette ankle jeans (my fave black jeans–run TTS but if you’re in between, size up), & Other Stories Chelsea boots (I ordered my normal size but others have said they run short, so go up a 1/2 size to be safe.) Madwell backpack is old, but I love this one and this one (it’s a bit bigger than mine) too! I also love Longchamp’s backpack!
The first part of my Portugal guide is finally here! (Travel posts take FOR-EVER to write, and with all the holiday madness and travel, I wasn’t able to dedicate the time to it until now!) I hope it’s worth the wait! ❤️
In this post, I’ll be covering everything we did, and all our tips for visiting Lisbon!
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Portugal–I’d heard incredible things, but nobody had really told WHAT exactly made it so incredible. My best way to sum it up would be this: It has the romance of Paris, the hilly charm of San Francisco, with a culture and culinary scene I can most equate to Spain–but with even friendlier people (most of whom speak very good English).
Basically, you have to go.
To jog your memory, my friend (and talented photographer) Cassandra and I traveled there in partnership with Noken, which is a brand new travel app that we got to test-drive prior to their launch. It is essentially what our generation has been waiting for–an answer for both the “fly by the seat of your pants/can’t stand trip planning” crowd, as well as the “type A I have anxiety if I don’t have every detail in place before I leave” type of traveler.
Once you travel with it, seriously, your travel experience will NEVER be the same.
They just launched right before the holidays, and right now they have options for Portugal, Iceland, and Japan, with plans to add more countries soon!
First thing’s first, here’s how Noken works:
1. You sign up on their website, and set your travel dates and budget
(They can accommodate ANY budget!) pay upfront before you go (Noken’s fees are only $5 per person per day of your trip–the price of a latte!)
Their site is where you book and confirm major things like hotels, transportation, excursions and day trips. You have the freedom to pick and choose what you want to do and where you want to stay so you can mold the trip to your preferences.
2. That’s basically all that is required of you to plan your trip (outside of booking your plane tickets).
They do ALL the planning for you. Hotels, rental cars, train tickets, the best sights to see, where you’ll want to eat, and excursions, and figuring out how to hit everything in the most efficient amount of time–all with the expertise of someone who REALLY knows the city. Oh, and it even gives you DIRECTIONS that you can pull up directly in google maps.
ALL your confirmations, tickets, etc are in the app. Our confirmation for our hotel to make check in a breeze? In the app. Our train tickets to Porto? In the app. Yep. It’s a game-changer. Oh, AND the app works on airplane mode ??
3. You’ll receive a customized app before your trip with each day’s itinerary planned for you, from breakfast through going out at night.
Additionally, they’ll include a bunch of “before you go” information in the app that answers literally every question you may have about traveling to that country. What do you need to pack? Do they have uber there? Do you take cabs? What’s the public transportation like? Do they take credit cards most places? Is it easy to find Wifi? What about tipping? How do I say “Hello” and “Thank You” in Portuguese? Do most people speak English? Are there any local food specialities I can’t miss? ALL of these things are answered with Noken!
4. On your trip, you also have access to real-time support via the app
See that little bubble in the right-hand corner in the screenshot below? That’s a chat box you can open anytime to ask questions from their staff. We were confused about our train times, and they got back to us with clarification. It was so nice to have!
You get it, right? It’s freaking amazing. It’s life changing. That being said, let’s jump into the full Lisbon guide!
Where to stay in Lisbon: Lisboa Carmo Hotel
We LOVED both of our hotel experiences in Portugal–both are owned by the same company (it’s called Lux Hotels, they own a bunch of hotels in several cities!) and I’d highly recommend them! In Lisbon, we stayed at the Lisboa Carmo Hotel. The prices are super affordable (starting at under 80 Euro per night, depending on the season), super clean, great service, and the decor was adorable. (I’m kind a of a snob in that I really only like staying at really cute beautifully decorated hotels, and this lived up to my expectations ?) They even had Nespresso machines in each room which was a great touch!
Must-do’s in Lisbon:
Time Out Market:
The first spot we hit upon checking into our hotel was Time Out Market, and it was a great place to kick off the trip! Yes, that’s Time Out as in THE Time Out–which is really cool because I used to be a writer for Time Out Chicago ?
Essentially, it’s just what it sounds like–a GIGANTIC market full of vendors of all sorts–flower vendors, butcher shops, you name it–but then you hit the massive restaurant mecca–with dozens of restaurants and tables upon tables of communal seating. It’s basically every foodie’s dream. They’ve got lot’s of Portuguese specialities, but also pizza, burgers, ceviche, you name it!
I will say, it gets VERY. BUSY.
I would highly recommend visiting this spot on a weekday at an off hour. (No doubt, why Noken chose this as our first stop, to avoid the peak crazy hours!) Even then, it was super busy (it was overwhelming trying to find a spot to sit), but I can’t imagine what it would be like at 5pm on a weekend.
We split a burger and fries from Ground Burger (we were starving and it was the shortest line ?) it was really good! Then we tried Tartar-ia on Noken’s recommendation–we ordered their specialty of the day vegan tar tar–I honestly don’t remember what was in it, but it was good! They also recommended Manteigaria Silva (known for some of the best charcuterie in the city!) Henrique Sá Pessoa (they say their roast suckling pig is the best in the city. Honestly that’s not my cup of tea, but it sounds like the #1 place to take your husband ?) and Santini for legendary handmade ice cream (an 80 year tradition!)
After a visit to Time Out Market, you’re in a prime location to explore Belem–the area along the water where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic. This is where most of Lisbon’s famous landmarks are–including Belem Tower, and the beautiful historic monastery. Noken gives you a list of the best ones to hit as well as a little description and history behind them! So cool! Unfortunately it was POURING rain that afternoon, so we didn’t feel like it was a good idea to venture out that way, and instead, stuck to exploring the Baixa and Chiado areas–where local shops could provide much needed cover ?(Monuments aren’t exactly our cup of tea anyway, but if that’s your speed, definitely make time to explore Belem!)
Baixa and Chiado districts:
coat is sold out but similar here
Noken’s description of these two Lisbon districts summed them up perfectly: “They are like chic cousins of Lisbon’s large extended family of districts. They flow into one another, but Baixa is comprised of wide avenues, grand plazas, and popular tourist attractions, while Chiado is popular for shopping and cafe-going.”
Sights to see in Baixa:
There’s the beautiful and historic square “Praca do Comercio”–which has been the commercial center of Lisbon for centuries, and originally the site of the Royal Ribeira Palace until it was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1755. Don’t miss the view through the Arco da Rua Augusta–which looms over Lisbon’s main plaza, created as a tribute to Lisbon’s recovery after the 1755 earthquake, fire, and tsunami. You can take the elevator to the top for 5 euro!
By far, my favorite part of this part of the city though, is the view from the historic Elevador de Santa Justa bridge. (The designer was a student of Gustave Eiffel!) You can pay to go up in the actual elevator, but the free view is just as good if you enter via the steps to Bellalisa Restaurante, behind the Convento do Carmo! (That’s where the photos of me on the stairs were taken!)
Alfama was one of my favorite parts of the city and definitely goes on the “can’t miss” list. Noken describes it as, “Full of crooked cobblestone streets lined with historic houses, Alfama bears the authentic, gritty character at the heart of Lisbon.” The biggest draw to this neighborhood is definitely the architecture as well as the beautiful viewpoints and lookouts that give you some of the best views of the city. To me it felt like an old world, European San Francisco!
To get here, you MUST take the tram! The trams that run through the city are absolutely adorable, and a beautiful way to see the city. (You definitely feel like you’re transported back in time, they are OLD!)
Ride the tram early to avoid the crowds, and keep your belongings close–trams are notorious for pickpockets. Take the tram at Martin Moniz, and make sure you’re getting on tram 28 (we made the mistake of getting on the wrong tram–which was 110% my fault ?You can pay in exact change or buy a ticket from the little magazine stand (or in the station), which is the best way to go if you plan on taking it home!
Unfortunately, again, it was DOWNPOURING (like so hard that we could barely see, haha) so our Afalma visit was limited to an hour or so in the morning, but you can easily spend hours just exploring here! Our favorite breakfast of the trip was here as well, so scroll down and make sure to hit it before you set out exploring!
One thing we really wish we’d had time to do was check out a restaurant with live Fado music (a form of Portuguese music that you’ll typically find in pubs and restaurants–it’s known to be incredibly beautiful with a melancholic undertone). Afalma is known for Fado restaurants in particular, but you’ll find them around the city! Condé Nast has a great roundup of the best Fado spots in Lisbon that you can check out.
What to eat/drink in Lisbon:
Overall, I would say the food in Portugal is quite similar to Spanish food. Because it’s right on the water, seafood lovers will fall in love with the cuisine. They are also known for their cured meats and cheeses, as well as delicious wine, like Vinho Verde–a white wine for which the country is famous for. I really loved all the red wine we had as well–I couldn’t tell you what it was, we always just asked for our waiter’s favorite “Vinho Tinto” and they never steered us wrong!
That being said, here are some of our favorite things and places to eat/drink while you’re in Lisbon!
Pasteis de Nata:
I am not a pastry person in any stretch of the imagination–but I DREAM about Pasteis de Nata. (So many of you told me on Instagram that I couldn’t miss them, but I was skeptical.) They are DIVINE.
They’re these little egg custard filled tarts that Portugal is famous for–you’ll find them EVERYWHERE about the city. Most famous is the Pasteis de Belem, which is a famous bakery–rumored to be the most reviewed restaurant in the world–it’s been around since 1837! We grabbed the above at Podaria do Bairro, which has a several locations around the city and is a great place to stop in for coffee and a pastry! If you leave Portugal without trying one I will be MAD AT YOU.
Al Fresco Sangria at Quiosque do Carmo:
This was one of my favorite moments of the trip–there is this tiny little kiosk bar in the square next to our hotel, and they were serving up some incredible looking fresh sangria, so we had to oblige ?Lot’s of locals and tourists alike enjoying a break in the rain–is there anything more charming? If you happen to wander by, you definitely need to stop for a drink!
This is actually where the photos of the city above were taken–my favorite view we saw of Lisbon! (It’s right next to the elevator I mentioned above!) Grab a Sangria alfresco and enjoy the sunset or come back after dark for a nightcap and beautiful nighttime views of the city!
Tapas at Carmo:
We ate at Carmo on our first night–and by the time dinner rolled around, we could barely keep our eyes open, so we chose it on the hotel’s recommendation, but mostly because it was a mere few feet from the hotel ?It was also one of the few places open for dinner at 5pm (we were STARVING and exhausted and couldn’t make it any later without falling asleep, haha!) We had the most adorable waiter, and the food and wine were amazing! They have a little bit of everything, so definitely order based on your tastes as well as the staff recommendations. I honestly don’t remember all that we ordered but the one thing that stood out was this ridiculously amazing (but simple) mushroom appetizer. I would kill for those mushrooms right now ?
Breakfast at do Vigário in Afalma:
Whenever I travel in Europe, I miss breakfast as we know it in the states. I do not eat sweets for breakfast–pastries do absolutely nothing to stave off my hunger, and all I ever want are good eggs and toast. We definitely found that at this adorable spot–it was some of the best breakfast I’ve had ANYWHERE–even in the states, and the teeny tiny restaurant was as quirky as could be. I absolutely loved it.
Maria do Carmo: (Hotel Restaurant)
Our last night in Lisbon was after a VERY long day traveling back from Porto, so we were too exhausted to go anywhere else but the hotel restaurant–as it happens, it was one of the best meals of the trip ?The decor is absolutely adorable, and they had amazing live music–it wasn’t overly busy, and our bartender/server was an absolute gem. I would call this modern Portuguese cuisine, which is exactly what we were in the mood for–it really hit the spot!
Other Lisbon restaurants/bars Noken recommended:
Taberna da Rua das Flores: An old school tavern serving delicious small plates. This is one of the most popular spots for tapas, so Noken suggests getting there early.
Cervejaria Ramiro: Classic seafood joint established in the 1950’s. Come for the authentic, buzzy environment and try the shellfish.
Café de São Bento: A hidden steakhouse in an intimate lounge setting, serving up Portugese-style steak drenched in pepper sauce. The menu is limited here, so make sure to come with carnivores.
Gin lovers and less: Drink and dine among beautiful architecture in this space founded by gin fanatics in 2012. Cocktails are pricey but the cool vibe is worth a visit.
Park: We were dying to go here, but sadly the weather wouldn’t cooperate. This is a rooftop bar on the sixth floor of a car park. It has a pnaoramic view of the city and the 25 de Abril bridge.
Fado Na Morgadinha: Noken describes this spot as, “with its charming (maybe tacky?) decorations, this restaurant involves all guests in its Fado performances.
The Old Pharmacy: A wine bar that was once a pharmacy. The interior hasn’t been touched and now wine bottles line its medicine shelves.
Shopping in Lisbon:
My friend Valerie, who is a travel writer, told us we could NOT miss this charming Portuguese pottery shop. We wished we had packed larger suitcases so we could’ve taken more beautiful pieces home with us! If you’re looking for a one of a kind souvenir, this is a great place to stop. I picked up two little espresso cups here and they were the perfect piece of Portugal to take home. They have two locations as well.
Probably my favorite store in Lisbon, A Vida Portuguesa is an authentic gift shop in a beautiful vintage setting that has a little bit of everything. Locally made soaps, books, doo-dads and best of all–textiles. Cassandra and I stocked up on locally made rugs to the tune of 25 Euro each! This is a must-see, and they have a few locations spread throughout Lisbon!
Trips from Lisbon:
Depending on how much time you have and how much you want to accomplish, there are a lot of great places to visit from Lisbon. We took the train to Porto (which is only about 2.5 hours)–I would HIGHLY recommend not missing Porto. I’ve been asked which city I like better, and I honestly can’t decide. They are so different. Lisbon is bustling and big and Porto is tiny, quaint and charming. Stay tuned for my full Porto guide coming next!
So many of you recommended to take a trip to Sintra, but sadly we didn’t have enough time! Sintra is known for it’s castles, colorful palaces, and beautiful gardens. It’s a quick day-trip from Lisbon!
You’ve likely seen photos all over instagram of the gorgeous Portuguese coast–that’s Lagos, located in Southern Portugal. You can rent a car and drive there in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. (Don’t worry, Noken handles all those details for you–all you have to do is show up!) You can spend a few days at the beach and Kayak to explore sea caves!
What to wear?
I’ve linked everything that I wore in Lisbon above, but overall, I’d say to keep these tips in mind when visiting Portugal in the cold season:
- Plan for rain: It rained pretty much the entire time we were there, aside from one day in Porto. Definitely plan for damp weather, and bring a small umbrella that you can stash in your bag (the hotel gave us umbrellas, but they were the giant kind that were impossible to carry.)
- Bring layers: A medium-weight coat will be the warmest you’ll likely need (weather was in the fifties) but there were times when layers were necessary. I typically like to keep to a cohesive color scheme (you’ll notice that everything I brought was a shade of mustard, camel, or black, haha!) and use accessories, like scarves or berets, to liven up your outfit.
- Casual attire: Portugal is is a pretty casual country. Now, I can’t say we went to any clubs or any upscale restaurants, but I think a pair of nice black jeans, black boots, and a blouse will work pretty much any country.
- Bring comfortable shoes you can get wet: I lived in my flat Chelsea boots the entire time we were in Lisbon, due to the rain. They’re very durable stiff leather, so they’re naturally water resistant (as opposed to a soft, buttery leather). Enduring the rain made them even more comfortable! I’d also highly recommend any pair of Blondo boots–they’re waterproof suede and their hsoes are very comfortable!
Stay tuned for my Porto guide coming soon!
Huge thanks to Noken for choosing Cassandra and I as partners to promote the app launch! It was an experience we’ll never forget! I received a travel stipened from Noken in exchange for promotion, however, all experiences are 110% my own!
Also P.S. Noken please launch in more countries ASAP because I never want to travel without you again ?
All photos by Cassandra Eldridge