This is a list of 10 of my favourite things in Porto and Lisbon during my trip there in July.
A wise man once said, ‘When in Portugal and you see a sign saying miradouro, go for it.’ Okay, I may or may not have made that up. Lisbon and Portugal are peppered with miraduoros or viewpoints, which provide stunning views over the city.
2. Pastéis de Nata [Lisbon]
Portugal is synonymous with pastéis de nata, or Portuguese egg tarts. I love the flaky pastry base and slightly burnt custard filling. The texture of the custard is like crème brûlée. My favourite was the one from Manteigaria because I preferred the richer and more intense taste of its filling. Another famous place is Pastéis de Belém. However, the pastry base of the pastéis de nata that I was served there was rather thick and hard, which I did not fancy. The filling was also lighter compared to Manteigaria’s, which you may prefer if you have less of a sweet tooth. Pastéis de Belém may have some problems with consistency as I have a few friends who had similar issues with the pastry base.
Portugal has an abundance of fresh seafood! I grew up eating a lot of seafood because my extended family used to be in the fishing industry. This is why I am very sensitive towards the taste of seafood that is not fresh, especially shellfish.
Taberna dos Mercadores [Porto] – This restaurant is tiny so do remember to make a reservation. Almost every table ordered the same dishes which the restaurant is popular for – salt-baked fish and shellfish bread stew. I find Portuguese food often a little too heavily seasoned for my preference, so the shellfish bread stew was too much for one person (my mum is allergic to certain types of shellfish so I ended up having to finish most of the stew). It is a good dish for sharing. The salt-baked fish was very fresh. Uma [Lisbon] – The arroz de marisco (seafood rice) was the most flavourful that I have ever had and it came with a very generous portion of seafood. We liked it so much that we went there twice. I read some reviews complaining about the apparently rude service at the restaurant, but I experienced none of that. Do try to get there early to avoid waiting in the queue.
Cervejaria Ramiro [Lisbon] – This restaurant is very popular, even among locals, so a long queue is expected. The seafood (mostly shellfish) is served by weight and tasted very fresh!
Many of the buildings in Portugal are covered with beautiful and intricately-painted ceramic tiles called Azulejos. We really enjoyed visiting the National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) in Lisbon which had tiles of various designs and colour on display.
5. Fado [Lisbon]
Fado is a genre of traditional Portuguese music. It is characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics, which trigger the feeling of melancholy. We spent a night enjoying fado music at a restaurant and the experience made me realise that music truly transcends language. You do not need to understand the lyrics to feel the soul of the song. The restaurant that we visited was Restaurant O Povo, which serves good food at reasonable prices, and does not charge a cover charge for the fado performance.
6. Chocolate Cake
I don’t know what is it with chocolate cakes in Portugal, but the ones that I had were all really good, even those from random bakeries! I like my chocolate cakes to be really rich, moist and decadent.
Landeau Chocolate [Lisbon] – Quite possibly one of my favourite chocolate cakes ever. It was not overly sweet, it had the perfect chocolate intensity, and the mousse layer was light but still flavourful, which complimented the denser cake base beautifully.
7. Port Wine Tasting [Porto]
Porto is known for its port wines and a trip to the city would not be complete without a visit to a port wine cellar. We opted to visit only one wine cellar because we are not huge wine drinkers, and we simply wanted to learn about how port wine is produced and taste some different wines.
We visited Graham’s Port Lodge, which is a little more far off on the hill compared to the other wine cellars. Prior reservation is required for the cellar visits and the prices (including tasting) begin from €12.
8. Time Out Market Lisboa [Lisbon]
Some of the best restaurants, bars, and dessert in Lisbon are gathered under one roof at this market.Admittedly, the food that we ate there was not the best we have had. Café de São Bento is touted to serve the best steak in Lisbon. The sirloin tasted good, but we felt that it did not justify its steep price. The 24-hour confit suckling pig from Henrique Sá Pessoa failed to impress because the crackling was not crispy, but rather chewy. The burger from Honorato was decent. Alexandre Silva’s Cod with Potatoes and seafood rice tasted okay. Overall, the food from the market may not blow your mind, but it still tastes slightly above average and the convenience of having so many stalls to choose from makes this market worth the visit!
Sintra is perfect for a day trip from Lisbon. The two attractions that cannot be missed are the colourful Pena Palace and the ruinous Moors Castle. Sintra is an extremely popular tourist destination, so getting there as early as possible is vital to avoid the crowds.
10. GelatoI scream, you scream, we scream, for ice cream! Okay, Portugal is not the most famous for her gelatos, and of course they cannot be compared to the ones in Italy. But name me a better duo than a fiery summer’s day and ice cold gelato. I’ll wait. And some bonus photos!
Stay hungry and keep exploring! x