48 Hours in Lisbon
Travellers from Hong Kong may feel a sense of deja vu when they visit Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, for the first time. The ruins of Castelo de São Jorge and the remnants of the Carmo Convent bear an eerie resemblance to Macau’s fort and the St. Paul Cathedral façade. When it comes to food, however, don’t expect anything like the African chicken or crab in a pot that you’d find at Fernando’s, because the food in Lisbon is definitely a cut above. Home to some of the finest surfing in the world, Portugal’s seafood is spectacular, while carnivores will be astounded by the variety of pork available, including suckling pig, delicious chouriço and pata negra that will give Spain a run for its money. If you have a short weekend in Lisbon during your European holidays this summer, make sure to make time for these places below.
If you arrive at Lisbon around dusk, head for Chapitô. Located atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, Chapitô is a multi-purpose venue in the neighbourhood of Alfama which houses not only a performance space, but also a jewellery shop and even a clown school. Tapas are served at the restaurant on the top floor, and we loved the octopus carpaccio, topped with delicious, golden potatoes. Although they are available only at dinner, ask nicely and the friendly waiters should be able to rustle you up a plate even at lunch. No matter what time you arrive though, you are guaranteed one of the very finest views of Lisbon and a great introduction to the city.
7 Rua Costa do Castelo, Lisbon. Tel: 218 875-077
One of our favourite neighbourhoods in Lisbon is Belém, with its famous Hieronymites Monastery, built in the 15th century. The second most famous building, at least for hungry tourists, is Pasteis de Belém. Opened since 1837, this gigantic patisserie is home to the Portuguese egg tart (known as pastel de nata), which follows an ancient secret recipe that was handed down by the priests. Open daily from 9am, this is the perfect spot to grab a bite for breakfast.
84-92 Rua de Belem, Lisbon. Tel: 213 637-423
Hopefully, you would have spent all morning walking off the egg tarts, and will be appropriately ready for lunch at Belcanto. The restaurant has been open since 1958 in the historic centre of Lisbon, and has consistently been the place to dine for Lisbon’s elite. In 2011, José Avillez, one of Portugal’s most prominent young chefs, took over the restaurant and renovated the space and modernised the food to such a degree that it garnered itself a whole new (and younger) following. The lunch set averages around 65 euros for three courses, plus wine. We were absolutely blown away by our starter, “the hen that laid a golden egg in the garden”. A soft-centred egg surrounded by morels and truffles, this was a beautiful start to the meal. For mains, we tried a slow-cooked lamb leg, which was luscious; and a skate à la Jackson Pollock. So attentive was the service that when one of the rather more uncultured members of our group asked under her breath who Pollock was, a waiter immediately placed a small miniature easel with a reprint of his Number 8 painting on the table.
10 Largo de São Carlos, Lisbon. Tel: 213 420-607
Cervejaria Ramiro is not large, nor is it remotely fashionable, but there is no denying that everyone there is having a spectacular time. The clams here are some of the finest, in a buttery lemony broth that will have you licking the plate. If you like prawns, the carabaniero are a must-order. These blood red Mediterranean shrimps are each as large as a tube of toothpaste, and the meat is cooked just perfectly with the right amount of smoke. The best part however, must be placing a piece of the buttery bread on your plate, and squeezing out all the unctuous shrimp brains onto it and placing the whole thing into your mouth as quickly as you can.
1 Avenida Almirante Reis, Lisbon. Tel: 218 851-024
Every good tourist buys something for the folks back home, and there is no finer souvenir from Lisbon than tinned fish. The seafaring history of the country ensures that when it comes to preserving seafood, the Portuguese know what they’re doing. We were charmed by the fact that Lisbon had a plethora of stores that specialised in only one product, from button shops to a whole boutique dedicated to briefcases. For tinned fish, the Conserveira de Lisboa is the emporium to head to. Opened since 1930, this charming shop is filled to the ceiling with every kind of tinned fish, from sardine eggs to smoked baby octopus.
34 Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, Lisbon
If you need something small before you board your flight, we highly recommend Fragoleto, easily the best gelataria in Lisbon. Serving Italian-style ice gelato in exotic flavours from goats’ cheese to Indian chai, the ice cream here is addictive, and we are not exaggerating when we say that we visited this little store every single day of our visit. Our favourite flavours were the refreshing lime and basil sorbet; as well as the decadent gianduja chocolate and coconut swirl.
80 Rua da Prata, Lisbon. Tel: 218 877-971
Hop over to Spain with our 48 hour guide to Barcelona