The Lisbon Guide: A River Run's Through It

By: Sarah

A boat sails along the Tagus River

A boat sails along the Tagus River

Much of Lisbon’s history has taken place within site of the Tagus River – the return of the caravelles with ships full of Brazilian gold and spices, the departure of the royal court as Napoleon’s armies advanced on the city, the tsunami that swept crumbling buildings into the sea immediately following the 1755 earthquake – and then there was me; wondering where to start exploring as I stared into the deep blue river.

A stroll on Lisbon's pink street

A stroll on Lisbon's pink street

The truth is that there is so much to do in Lisbon that I was only able to scratch the surface in one month. Day after day, I hiked the steep streets paved with slippery cobblestones and lined with purple flowering trees. Lisbon’s colorful buildings enchanted me with its blue-and-white azulejos (tiles) adorning everything from palaces to shop fronts and fountains.

The city is filled with colorful homes

The city is filled with colorful homes

To escape from the hot summer days, I would head to local cafes to enjoy Portugal’s famous pastry; pasteis de nata – crispy little tarts filled with egg custard – while washing it down with a cha (tea), a beverage the Portuguese are said to have introduced to England. To learn about the local culinary scene, I took a class with Cooking Lisbon and “mastered” the art of cooking “bacalhau à brás” – flaked cod mixed with crispy fried potatoes, parsley and whisked eggs and topped with black olives.

Portugal’s famous pastry; pasteis de nata – crispy little tarts filled with egg custard

Portugal’s famous pastry; pasteis de nata – crispy little tarts filled with egg custard

My love affair with local cuisine was enhanced during a food tour with Taste of Lisboa; a 3-hour culinary and cultural experience. During which I boldly tried fish egg sacks – not my favorite – and, to my surprise, bought two cans of Portuguese grilled sardines then ate an entire bowl of mussels (a dish I wouldn’t touch anywhere else). The seafood was pack with flavor. It became clear why Lisbon is the best place in Europe to enjoy fish and shellfish.

Staying positive while trying egg sacks!

Staying positive while trying egg sacks!

Lisbonetas are a kind people. Although they live in the south of Europe, the Portuguese don’t show the passionate temperament found with their Mediterranean neighbors. Instead they are calm; showing a uniquely Portuguese emotion called saudade – roughly translated to a yearning for something no longer at hand. Instead of talking about the hardships of life they sing about it. Fado is an elegantly melancholic music that deals with life’s great mysteries and passion – love, jealousy, death and betrayal. To witness this first hand, I went to Adega Macado, a dinner and show. Emotional singers performed to a 12-stringed Portuguese guitar spell bounding guests into the wee hours of the night.

Fado at Adega Macado

Fado at Adega Macado

The month seemed to fly by and soon I found myself back at the Tagus river; this time with a greater understanding of the Lisboa culture and history. Instead of staring into the water from afar, I hopped on board with Taguscruises and set sail as the carvelles did hundreds of years ago with ships full of Brazilian gold and spices. I was no longer that wide-eyed girl wondering where to begin; I had set course to become a local – a Lisboeta.

Sailing with Tagus cruises on the river

Sailing with Tagus cruises on the river

Visiting Lisbon? You’re not alone. There were more New Yorkers in Lisbon than any other place I had visited. Check out my suggestions on restaurants, things to do and places to visit on the right column. Enjoy and I’ll see you next month in Cyprus!

Eat:

An octopus dish at Adega Macado

An octopus dish at Adega Macado

  • Adega Machado - Fado (Portuguese singing) restaurant - adegamachado.pt

  • Allfama - Authentic Portuguese cuisine in a rustic atmosphere - tripadvisor.com

  • Pasteis de Belem - Try the original pasteis de nata - pasteisdebelem.pt

  • Moules & Beer - Hipster style restaurant with excellent seafood and craft beer - moules.pt

  • Pap'Açorda - Trendy restaurant with modern Portuguese cuisine - papacorda.com

  • Petiscaria Ideal - Chill neighborhood spot offering Portuguese classics - petiscariaideal.com

  • Time Out Market - Cafeteria style vendors representing the best restaurants in Lisbon all in one place - timeoutmarket.com

Drink:

A frothy basil cocktail at TOPO Chiado

A frothy basil cocktail at TOPO Chiado

Things to do:

A room filled with azulejo tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo

A room filled with azulejo tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo

where to stay in lisbon:

  • Airbnb - I loved my penthouse in Lisbon - great location & beautiful atmosphere - airbnb.com

Areas to Explore:

The beach in Cascais

The beach in Cascais

This article was written by Sarah Funk and originally published in w42st Magazine. 


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