Lisbon felt like a dream.
After spending 5 days in lively Barcelona, an incredibly fun trip that was filled with late nights and whimsy, we boarded a small plane to Lisbon, Portugal.
What greeted us was a city bubbling with old world charm, peppered with historic castles and churches, where the scent of the sea perfumes the air. Buildings and streets are accented with colorful doors and beautiful tiles, modern museums intersperse with medieval art, the people are warm and friendly, and the pastries… Oh the pastries!
I planned this trip at the beginning of the year and when friends and family found out that I was going to Lisbon, the first thing they all said was: you would love the Portuguese tarts. And I did. So much so that I ate one (sometimes two) every day.
The first photo is the famous Portuguese pastry pastel de nata. It’s a buttery, flaky pastry cup filled with soft creamy custard, with a slightly burned top. We went to Belem to visit Lisbon’s most well known and historic pastry shop, Pasteis de Belem. Every day, tourists and locals flock to the centuries-old bakery where pastry chefs (like the man in the above photo) diligently churn out the custard cups and other sweet delicacies.
It was raining and gray during the five days we were in Lisbon, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the city and admiring its beauty. I was particularly enthralled by all the colorful tiles, from centuries-old Moors influences. The intricate details and bright colors reminded me of the famed Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The above photo is from Casa do Alentejo, a former Moorish palace that’s now a restaurant.
We went to the Baixa district at the center of the city, the heart of Lisbon, bound together by squares. We went to Alfama, the oldest neighborhood, and saw the famous tram. We went to Bairro Alto and Chiado, filled with restaurants, bars, and shopping establishments.
I loved walking around the ancient castles, majestic and vast. We spent a couple of hours at the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which looked like it could have been the setting of Game of Thrones with its regal structures. The castle sat at a hilltop and offered sweeping views of the city (and plenty of opportunities for door frame shots).
We also went out of the city on a day trip to the coastal fishing town of Nazaré, the medieval village of Óbidos, and to Fatima (fun fact: my youngest sister is named Fatima!) This is the Batalha Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Obidos. Doesn’t it look like it came straight out of an old movie? It’s not exactly romantic, but it has a certain kind of charm.
My travel buddies, Fe and Mildred, and I spent our days in Lisbon walking up and down the hilly streets (Lisbon is called “the City of Seven Hills”), walking walking walking, taking pictures, drinking vinho verde, and stopping for mini breaks at little restaurants for some pastries, served with a little cup of Portuguese cafe.
I’m not a big coffee drinker but I couldn’t resist the appeal of a small cup of very strong cafe, served with each sweet pastry treat. Another delicious pastry that I tried during our vacation was this delicious soft sugar donut stuffed with dulce de leche. Portuguese donuts are softer, lighter, and fluffier than their American counterparts. They’re smaller, too (which was my excuse for buying two.)
We went to the Time Out Mercado Da Ribeira, Lisbon’s largest and most luxurious market. Think of a giant light-filled hall, lined with food shops and restaurants. My favorite meal there was this suckling pig sandwich. Tender and succulent pieces of roast pork, strips of crispy salty skin, garlic gravy, tucked into a crusty Portuguese roll. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I took some time to buy tins of sardines at the market. When I think of Portugal, the first thing that comes to mind is sardines or “sardinhas.” (I also think of Portuguese wine and Portuguese sausage.) I’ve always loved sardines. They remind me of my mom, who loves to make little sardine sandwiches with toasted bread and creamy butter (see my post here where I wrote about it, and my brush with greatness: the late Marcella Hazan shared this post on her Facebook page!) I’m saving my sardines at home for those days when I need some comfort, and a reminder of my lovely vacation in Lisbon.
Or I can just look through my and my friends’ photos, complete with posing with these gents. They did not look amused here but I assure you they were very friendly and were laughing with us and the other tourists who treated them like statues.
And last but not least, one of the best things about Lisbon were the ginja shots:
Ginja, or ginjinha, is sour cherry liqueur. It’s served as a shot, with a piece of fruit at the bottom of the glass. But in some places, it’s actually served in an edible chocolate cup! I love cherries and I love liqueur, so I am defintiely a big fan of ginja.
I’d love to come back to Lisbon some day and spend more time in this incredible European city.
Have you been to Portugal? What were your favorite places and food and drinks?