My grandparents loved Portugal, frequently returning to the sunny charm and accessible beauty of the little country in Spain’s shadow. And when we went in December, I really felt like we were having a VERY similar experience to what they were having in the 70s. In all the best ways. Why haven’t tourists flooded in the way they have to bigger cities?
Tim’s theory: Portugal needs a better marketing team.
Lisbon is Europe’s cool as hell little sister, just as rad as her more famous siblings like Paris and Rome, but perched on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula and off the beaten path of the tourist routes. She’s keeping it low-key and under the radar, which means less expensive errything and a vibe that can’t be beat. We bopped around with two of our besties Mike and Aimee back in December– yo, BUY YOUR TICKETS and get to Portugal, guys. Here’s how we recommend you tackle Lisbon:
Stay in 1908 Lisboa. An old condo building to Lisbon’s glitterati (the concierge told us wild tales of all-night bacchanals in the 1930s), this converted historic building is now home to impeccable rooms, a well-stocked bar and sunset hill views that make you feel like you should just abandon everything about your life and start a new one in the European mountains.
You can journal like Tim, or you can drink wine and make eyes at the historic buildings out yo’ window, up to you.
Mike and I had kept a secret for SIX MONTHS (a record for me) of a big plan to surprise Aimee and knock on their hotel room door with her having no idea we were in the same country… but a poorly timed text 24 hours beforehand ruined it all, kill me. 36 hours in Lisbon with these two, activate.
If you’ve never had a pastel de nata, prepare to rearrange your life to accommodate an hourly search. Little egg tarts that we’re pretty sure form 50% of Portuguese calorie intake, a quick doppio espresso, bam. Here’s a list of the top places to find them in Lisbon, but in our experience we never met one we didn’t fall in love with, so wander through the back streets (back, all right) (is this a good time for a BSB reference) (yes duh) and find any hole in the wall that calls your name– the grandma there will def hook you up.
I forgot to mention the breakfast at 1908 Lisboa, where you can slowly start your day in a bright design haven and pretend like the pints of Portuguese wine your body is still sifting through from yesterday never happened.
Take your mildly hungover little butt down to the waterfront and check out the Fundação José Saramago: downstairs is a Lisbon historic overview, a modern marble building set on top of the ancient Roman ruins that surrounded the city. Upstairs is a bookshop and museum dedicated to one of Portugal’s most beloved sons and winner of the, the writer José Saramago.
Keep wandering. Ancient churches, secret rooftop gardens tucked into side streets, and a food culture that keeps it classic.
For two people highly dedicated to a neutral palette in our wardrobe and home, the tile work of Lisbon (and Mexico for that matter) presents a real conundrum. I want to be surrounded by the elaborate handpainted tiling that defines the buildings here, but colorful shit usually isn’t my jam. Is Lisbon… changing us?! Also, I need to get a laundry line.
Zoom in to see the two men that Aimee and I dubiously selected for marriage, celebrating life from our hotel room balcony.
Dusk. Port and cigarettes. If you only smoke in Europe, it’s actually healthy, mmk?
Good day, sirs! Mike and Aimee abandoned us for American shores, so we drowned our sorrows by exploring our dream come to life LX Factory: a formerly abandoned factory complex, completely revamped to host boutiques, bookshops, art studios and cafes in the gritty Alcântara neighborhood. Yes, this place is a bit hipster, but I’ve decided to stop poo-pooing that term and come to grips that WE ARE HIPSTERS and we LIKE HIPSTER SHIT. Sue us, ya know? So we like good coffee and good design. And our real dream is to own a business in an old cement building, so our imaginations were running wild here.
That’s a good boy.
Chocolate cake and overpriced olives. But worth it to gather inspo.
Font nerds rejoice, Portugal in general hasn’t yet ditched their classic mid century signage in favor of cheap and shitty new advertising, like so many places in this godforsaken world of bad fonts have.
Reading a book at sunset on the water. Sometimes I’m confronted with the ways I’m not living my best life, this guy was one of them.
If we are’t eating, we’re thinking about eating.
And yes, the iconic streetcars are still ubiquitous, making runs up the steep seven hills of Lisbon as consistently as they always have.
Other places we recommend:
Restaurante Bastardo: “The illegitimate son of Portuguese cooking.” Bomb food overlooking the Praça Rossio square (amazing people watching).
Benamor 1925: like so much in Lisbon, a historic business that has kept their formula simple and classic. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix your lotions and body oils and face creams. Beautiful packaging and the perfect gift to bring home en masse, and keep a few for your bathroom counter
Pharmacia- Chef Felicidade: this was recommended to us thirdhand, and for good reason. Ignore the reviews about the service– if you’re an American who travels expecting the rest of the world to conform to our speed and self-importance, just stay home.
Lisbon– we’re torn on whether or not we want you to stay quietly humming along under the radar and keep your charm, or burst onto the scene and be recognized more widely for how badass you are. Grandma was so right about you.