August ended with a week long vacation in Portugal and it was the most scenic place we've explored in a while. After a 6 hour red eye flight from JFK we landed in Lisbon and took a 3 hour Uber ride to Porto, Portugal. The moment we approached Porto, I rolled the windows down to let the fresh river breeze brush my face. Porto has the prettiest narrow streets aligned with lime stone pavers and buildings covered with etched colorful tiles. Suprisingly, everyone spoke English which made it easier to navigate. We strolled the streets for a few hours and were able to figure out how to get around on foot. The gondola lift ride above the river is a must along with an evening sitting by the water to people watch. Let's not forget watching an authentic Fado performance to let the true sounds of Portugal sink in. Ubers are the easiest and most affordable way to get around the cities in Portugal.
Where we stayed: Porto A.S. 129
Porto A.S. 129 is a historic, quaint hotel in the center of Porto. Our room was on the top floor and filled with bright light and many windows. Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of Port and a Pastel De Nata (the famous Portuguese custard desert). The room was equipped with a complimentary bottle of Port and a fridge stocked with more goodies and chocolate. A full daily breakfast was also included and was very important in starting our day right. The best part of this hotel's location is that it is a few steps from the main rail station and key local restaurants.
Where we Ate in Porto:
The food in Portugal is very inexpensive and loaded with flavor. We didn't find one place that disappointed. Lunch time was a quick stop at the local deli for fried bacalhau empanadas. The Portuguese are known for their bacalhau (codfish) and sardines, both fresh and canned versions.
Concept31 - we ordered octopus, chorizo and grouper fish and the ingredients were fresh and simple. The food was clean tasting and we added a bottle of DoisPontoCinco Vinho Verde white wine for only $11 euros.
Rita Cozinha Regional is a family style restaurant way off the beaten path of the tourist area and we street hiked there and it was worth the time. We were treated like family by the manager and gracious staff. Anything here is considered authentic Portuguese cuisine so I recommend you order whatever they suggest. The Octopus with potaotes and the brazilian steak were very memorable.
CASCAIS PORTUGAL :
Cascais is a resort beach town closer to Lisbon filled with shops, restaurants, beautiful limestone alleyways and palm trees along the side walks. Take a stroll around the beach, relax and eat fresh seafood and a gelato from Santini and I guarantee you will be sucked in. We took a quick day trip to Sintra to visit the Castles with our tour guide in a TukTuk (which is a small golf cart motor vehicle).
Where we stayed: The Albatroz Hotel
The Albatroz hotel is perched on a small cliff overlooking the beach and is located in the heart of Cascais. The hotel is dressed with bohemian chic blue and white panache. We selected the 180 degree sea view room with 3 balconies, high ceilings and a huge white bathroom facing the sea. The best part is the complimentary sea view breakfast on their deck.
Where we ate in Cascais:
Mariscaria is one of the best seafood spots in Cascais. If you're looking for a romantic evening outside this is a great location to undwind and eat nice portions of grilled squid, prawns and grouper. Afterwards, head to super hip Hifen for creative cocktails facing the beach.
Santini is a great Italian Gelato place and our favorite flavors were the hazelnut and coconut.
Opiparo - we took a walk on the boardwalk to Estoril to eat with the locals at Opiparo which is well known restaturant nestled on the beach. We ordered fish, shrimp and squid soaked in broth and it was delicious. Again, no meal would be complete without a bottle of refreshing and light Vinho Verde white wine.
Sintra- The beauty continued as we took a tour with a TukTuk (which is a golf cart-like open taxi) going up hill on windy roads to see the jaw dropping castles and palaces of Sintra from unique angles only a local would know about. It was so fascinating to see these colossal structures and learn the history of how and why they were built so high up in the sky. Along the way we stopped to drink from a natural water spring that supposedly had mystic healing powers.
Piriquita Cascais - is the oldest cafe in Sintra and a must see for a cup of espresso and a warm Pastel de Nata.
Lisbon was the highlight of our trip as it was a quick 45 minute rail ride from Cascais. Our hotel, Corpo Santo, was a six minute walk from the rail and is centered in the historical district. It is a highly rated hotel that offers clean, modern rooms with a staff that is attentive and thoughtful. To boot, they offer free walking tours throughout the day. Our guide was Johanna and we learned so much on our walk.
Here's where she took us :
Praco do Comercio - the scene of where the King of Portugal was assasinated on February 1, 1908. Livaria Bertrand - the oldest library in Portugal; it opened in 1792 and you can smell the old wood when you step in.
Luvaria Ulisses - the oldest leather glove store in Lisbon (since 1925) it's a tiny hole in the wall but worth a visit.
Mercado de Baixia - an outdoor market selling sausages, honey, tea, Sangria and Portuguese delights.
A Ginjinha - we stopped here to try a shot of cherry liquor for $1.50 euros and it was worth the sip.
Santo Domingo Church - old town church built in 1241 but was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1531 and completely demolished by the second earthquake in 1755 and caught in a blaze of fire in 1959.
Where we ate in Lisbon:
Peixaria da Esquina - was one of our favorite places to eat in Lisbon. The waiter greeted us with a menu that was loaded with fresh fish we never tried. After skimming the menu we were shown the fresh catch of the day on a plate. We selected the turbot and the fried cuttle fish, and sautéed squid with fava beans. The food was delicious and I would revisit this place when we return.
Adega do Ribatejo- is located in one of the coolest areas we visited (Bairro Alto) which is filled with narrow rustic roads leading to many small authentic Portuguese restaurants. We were so lucky to stumble upon Adega where the family who owns and runs the place perform live traditional Fado music while you eat outside and people watch. They prepared the flame cooked chorizo table side and it was amazing along with the Bacalhau and shredded potato dish. It's not fancy but worth a visit if you want an authentic culinary experience in Lisbon.
Timeout Market Lisboa- is a hip local food hall filled with stations presented by reknown chefs. It's packed with people and you may have to scramble for a spot but it's well worth the wait. It is an affordable and down to earth way to sample some of the best stuff these chefs have to offer.
We try and take a guided bike tour in almost every European city we visit and we couldn't have been happier with this one from Marta at Lisbon Cycle. Marta is a native of Lisbon and was able to show us a true insider's view of her hometown. The path started at the roundabout at Marquis of Pombal Square known for the statue of the powerful Prime Minister who ruled Portugal from 1750 -1777 and resurrected Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755. Marta then took us to the following neighborhoods:
Principe Real - is the wealthiest area in Lisbon and is filled with trendy upscale restaurants and beautiful homes overlooking the neigborhoods Miradoura Sao Pedro de Alcantar and Sao Bento.
Bairro Alto - is known for its authentic local cuisine and the bustling night life that suddenly comes alive as the sun starts to set. The streets are very old and narrow but provide the perfect backdrop for an all night party. Although outdoor consumption of alcohol is the norm in the streets of Lisbon, it is somehow kept very civilized, and people can't help but enjoy the city's well known perfect weather.
Chiado - is the hippest and most fashionable district in Lisbon. Full of well known shops and scenic streets.
After exploring these beautiful neigborhoods it was time for lunch where the locals meet. Marta took us to Retiro Do Sentidos for comfort food in the center of Bairro Alto, which ended up being our favorite area.
CYCLE TOUR PHOTOS
Principle Real Neighborhood
Bairro Alto Neighborhood
Retiro Do Sentidos Restaurant
Principle Real Neighborhood
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