If you read my post about Porto, you know what big fans we are of Portugal. And as I said in my last post, if Porto has the Portuguese charm, Lisbon’s got her spunk.
I think we saw more of Lisbon at night than during the day. The city has a bridge like the Golden Gate in San Francisco, a statue like The Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and clubs that stay open till 6am rivaling those in Madrid.
Make sure to check out at least one club if you visit Lisbon. We partied at the popular club, Lux, right on the harbor (only about $15 USD per person cover charge and that included two free drinks). Compared to the States, that’s a steal.
Watching Fútbol In Portugal With The Locals
Adding to the energy of the city, we visited during a home-based qualifying match up between Portugal and Sweden for the World Cup. Every Portuguese person and a whole lot of visiting Swedes filled the streets and bars. We stumbled upon a little outdoor kiosk that set up a TV and heaters just for the game. So we sat down in the 30-degree weather, froze our buns off, and drooled over Cristiano Ronaldo (okay, maybe that was me more than Tom) with the locals before going out for dinner, drinks, and the club.
A Tasty Day In Belem
If history and monuments are more your thing, then don’t despair. Take the tram over to Belem. Grab a pastel de nata, a traditional Portuguese egg tart pastry, from Casa Pasteis De Belem touting to have the original secret recipe for the custard treat. We bought two each and then returned for four more (each). They were just that good!
And don't forget to sprinkle the cinnamon on top!
Next, you can walk off your pastries; there is a footpath nearby that follows the water's edge. We walked past many of the major monuments and a beautiful historic monastery, Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
Giving Portuguese Red Wine Another Chance
And don’t forget Portuguese wine. The Portuguese wine industry is bigger than just Port. When we first arrived to Portugal, we had tried some of the traditional Portuguese red wines; we swore them off and decided to stick to the whites, Vinho Verde (a uniquely young wine that’s slightly bubbly), and Port. But Alex, the owner of Grapes & Bites Wine House, convinced us otherwise. The Portuguese whites and Ports definitely still stole the show, but he did introduce us to some impressive Portuguese reds as well. Who knew?
We had planned to attend a Fado show on our last night, but as we sat at our table in the corner of Grapes & Bites enjoying the notes of a live acoustic guitar, with a new friend from Boston (also named Tom), we had the inkling that this night was going to be special, the sort of night that can’t be planned.
So with Alex at the helm, we skipped the show and took a journey through Portuguese food and wine instead. We finished our culinary tour with a glass of port in the living room of the attached hostel. Alex joined us, sitting down on the floor, cross-legged, and at ease with a cigarette in his hand. He talked about the port like you’d imagine him telling his best friends about the woman that just stole his heart.
So how did we find Alex and his wine bar? Earlier that night, we stopped in Enoteca De Belem to taste some wine. Hidden down a small street, it was voted one of the top 10 hidden gems in the world by Trip Advisor.
Periodically they host an art gallery opening in an old 1700’s chapel across the alley with free drinks and appetizers. It just so happened to be one of those nights. After we visited the chapel gallery, we talked with the assistant manager and chef, Nelson. Because their normal wine tasting was not available for the night due to the gallery opening event, he referred us to Alex. What a stupendously serendipitous night!
A Taste of Portuguese Hospitality
I hope that reading this post makes you want to visit Portugal. I know that writing it made me want to go back. And I’m pretty sure the people of Portugal want you to come too, or at least they make you feel that way. We thought Spain was friendly, but Portugal took it to a whole new level.
When Tom, I, and our new American friend, Tom, walked into a small bar and restaurant to get a late night snack before heading to bed, we met a Portuguese couple that invited us to sit at their table; they shared their food with us and bought us a round of a traditional Portuguese liquor (Ginjinha). It came across loud and clear that they loved their culture and loved sharing it with us.
Thank you, Diogo and Tania, for allowing us to finish our trip with a lovely taste of Portuguese hospitality. We hope to return the favor to you some day in California.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!