If it feels like everyone you follow on IG was in Lisbon this year, you’re not alone. The Portuguese capital is having a moment—deservedly so. Lisbon offers the best of Europe: charming streets, colorful buildings, history, culture, art, wine, food (the egg tarts alone are worth the voyage!) at a fraction of the price of other popular urban destinations like Paris or London. And with TAP Air Portugal offering 57 weekly flights from the U.S. to Lisbon starting at $360, including nonstop options from New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, and Miami, getting there is quick and painless enough to make it possible to see the city in as little as a long weekend. Here’s how to make the most of however much time you spend there.
São Jorge Castle
No trip to Lisbon is complete without a hike up to Castelo de São Jorge. This is the spot where those famed snaps of the sun setting over red roofs and the Tagus River are born. The city views are what get most tourists up the steep hill, but the castle itself, first fortified by the Romans during their rule in the 1st century and further constructed by the Moors in the 11th century, among others, is remarkably well-preserved and worth a visit. On the way down, you can weave through a maze of cobblestone streets in Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest and arguably most charming neighborhood.
Time Out Market Lisbon
One of the best parts about visiting Lisbon is the food, and the Time Out Market lets you try a little of all of it, under one very large roof. But this isn’t your standard food hall where anyone can nab a stall; this market only features the best of the best. Every vendor has been tested and rated at four or five stars by an independent panel of experts from Time Out Lisboa. With more than 40 choices, you’ll never try it all before you get full, but one stall to put on your must-list is Croqueteria. The goat cheese with caramelized onion and the codfish and carrot gratin were *chef’s kiss*.
Solar Antique Tiles
Solar Antiques is the city’s oldest and largest antique store and world’s largest antique tile dealer. Since the 1940s, this family-run business has been dedicated to the conservation of tiles and the heritage they represent. They sell individual tiles, from the 15th to 19th centuries (the older the tile, the higher the price), as well as slabs of tiled walls and tiled artwork. Between the knowledgeable staff and ancient floor-to-ceiling tile, you’ll feel like you’re in a museum, except you can take a piece of history home with you.
It’s hard to decide which is more beautiful at Encanto—the space or the food. Or maybe the drinks! Let’s just go with all of the above. Encanto is the latest offering in José Avillez’s growing empire of restaurants in Lisbon. The chef’s goal is to make Portugal a top gastronomic destination, so there’s no need to fly off to Paris for the weekend just to eat quality food, and he’s well on his way with prior experience working at Spain’s famed El Bulli, multiple Michelin stars, and dishes delicious enough to make you forget France exists. After the success of Belcanto, which focuses on Portuguese tradition (and made the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurant list), and Páteo, which is dedicated to seafood and fish, Avillez turned his attention to vegetables. Encanto, a vegetarian restaurant, offers a tasting menu of 12 “moments,” that feature ingredients from small local farms and are each gorgeously presented with decorative touches made of leaves, seeds, algae, flowers, and more. In a city that loves its Iberian ham, it’s nice to see vegetables given the star treatment.
VDB Bistronomie is an unassuming, family-run eatery with the creativity of a Michelin-starred restaurant at a fraction of the price. VDB is firmly committed to using seasonal, local ingredients, so its menu changes often, sometimes weekly. But no matter when you visit, you can trust that the offerings will be spectacular. The dishes are small, almost like tapas, so feel free to order every item on the menu and dig in. The cured fish was especially tasty, as was the beef tartar, which was topped with plump blueberries when I visited.
Visiting Lisbon made me realize that while I have eaten many imposters in my life, I’d never had a truly authentic pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg tart. Eating a pastel de nata here is an education on how they should be: crisp on the outside, flakey as you work your way toward the center, creamy and gooey at the center, and topped with both powdered sugar and cinnamon. While most city guides recommend the famed Pastéis de Belém, and the tarts are indeed amazing there, I found the lines to be shorter and the tarts just as delicious at Manteigaria, which has several locations throughout Lisbon.
By the Wine
This bar is perfect for drinkers who’d like to test out different wines from across Portugal. At By the Wine, while you can of course buy bottles, the real selling point is the impressive number of options you can try by the glass. Grab a spot at the long wooden bar under the arched ceiling packed with green glass wine bottles, order some lightly effervescent vinho verde and a cheese platter of local soft cheese, and enjoy.
Bar 1855 Gin Garden
Bar 1855 Gin Garden is a quaint little oasis tucked inside the Martinhal Chiado. The restored 19th-century building has been outfitted with splashes of vibrant color, lush plants, and even an antique car to add to the chill vibes. You can curate your own G&T, sip on an espresso martini or a pink lady, or one of the options on its low-alcohol and alcohol-free cocktail menu (try the virgin apple highball). There is also a selection of tapas, and you grab a bottle of premade negroni or old-fashioned to go.
Mini Bar has it all: inventive bites from Avillez (get the golden hummus egg!), artsy cocktails, rich, sexy décor, and live music and/or a DJ to dance to until the wee hours three nights a week. It’s a unique and special place, hard to describe, and best experienced in-person. (Trust us.)
Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Luxury Hotel & Apartments
Martinhal’s luxury apartments offer the service and convenience of a hotel with the space and amenities of an Airbnb. The hotel’s 37 serviced apartments, located in a restored 19th century building, each include a washer/dryer unit and a full kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher, and enough pots, pans, and cutlery to cook a proper meal. The ample spaces are great for families—the bright furnishings were designed with children in mind (you won’t find a single sharp corner!)—but they’re also ideal for Americans working remotely who might need to spread out from one another for Zoom calls. The hotel is located in the heart of the city’s trendy Chiado neighborhood, home to many of the city’s best restaurants, and an easy walk to neighboring Barrio Alto and Principle Real.
You can live like a local at The Lisboans. The boutique hotel, located in Alfama, is set in a factory that has been converted into 15 apartments that the owners have artfully furnished with local brands, makers, and artists. The kitchenette is stocked with basic breakfast items, and each morning, you’ll find a tote bag on your door with fresh juice and pastries. Nearby, you’ll find Prado, the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant, located in a well-designed cavernous space, and Prado Mercearia, a grocery store, wine bar, and deli in one.
The Ivens Hotel
Nineteenth-century Portuguese explorers Roberto Ivens and Hermenegildo Capelo were among the first Europeans to explore the African continent. The duo spent 42 days lost in the jungle and returned with drawings, sketches, maps, plants, rocks, and fossils that, according to hotel lore, now decorate its walls. The Ivens Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is located at the corner of Rua Ivens and Rua Capelo in Chiado. It features 87 rooms, including 10 suites, that are elegantly designed with lush tropical plants, furniture that wouldn’t feel out of place in a (chic) safari camp, and antique drawings and wallpaper featuring parrots, beetles, macaws, and elephants harkening back to the explorer’s adventures.
Kayla Webley Adler is the Deputy Editor of ELLE magazine. She edits cover stories, profiles, and narrative features on politics, culture, crime, and social trends. Previously, she worked as the Features Director at Marie Claire magazine and as a Staff Writer at TIME magazine.