in love with lisbon
i try to limit the amount of times in my life when i’m a giant douche. but i can specifically remember one moment in havana, cuba, swimming in a rooftop pool at a private villa, sipping a beer, when i looked out over the city and said to a friend, ‘i am so over europe.’ immediately hearing these words come out of my mouth i called myself an epic douche and died a little inside.
but it’s kind of true. i’ve been to europe more times than i can count (poor me), and it is stunningly beautiful, full of history and culture, and truly the height of society as we know it today. still, i have been kind of over it. city, town, river, central square, cathedral, repeat. i didn’t have any real passion for european cities anymore, until i met lisbon.
lisbon, portugal is a breath of fresh air and a city that had me at first sight. reminiscent of san francisco (complete with its own golden gate bridge), the foggy city on a hillside tumbles down to the tagus river. its pink and white buildings are topped off with classic red tile roofs, while a maze of cobblestone streets weave between them. broad plazas open out to the river, while a trolley system clicks along through pedestrian avenues. a mix of old world europe and brooklyn hipster, lisbon is not as sought after as other cities in western europe, it remains insanely cheap, absurdly bohemian, and sublimely cool.
there are many things to say about lisbon, but for now let’s talk about its food. we ate in lisbon. we ate a lot. at a wide variety of restaurants and bars. here are the ones i would strongly urge you to visit:
fumeiro de santa catarina
much like spain, portugal has its own version of tapas culture. these small plates, known as petiscos, are meant for sharing. one of the hottest newcomers to hit the restaurant scene on the fringe of lisbon's trendy bairro alto and chiado neighborhoods is the rustic fumeiro de santa catarina. with a distinctly hip, vintage vibe, this nouveau tapas bar has a menu focused on smoked meat and fish.
if you simply cannot decide where to go and what to eat in lisbon, rest assured: you don't have to. take a trip over to the TimeOut Market Lisboa, in the cais do sodre neighborhood, a gourmet food hall concept opened in 2014. twenty-four restaurants, eight bars, a dozen shops, and a high-end music venue all come together under one roof to showcase the very best oflLisbon, including (you can find everything from steak and burgers to sushi and traditional seafood). best of all, it's very convenient for visitors who want to sample a bit of everything.
perched atop the miradoura de santa catarina—a hillside lookout that overlooks the city and river below—is Noobai Cafe, where a moroccan-meets-asia-meets mediterranean menu pairs perfectly with gorgeous sunset views from the open air terrace. i recommend the chicken salad with red curry and mango (and a pitcher of white sangria infused with basil and pomegranate). tip: catch the sunset at a happy hour on the miradoura de santa catarina. bring a bottle of wine and sit on the lookout over the river. it’s a popular spot with locals to listen to live music, drink with friends, and, of course, buy weed.
if a lingering brunch complete with bike culture and bearded hipsters speaks to you, it has to be Pois Cafe in the alfama neighborhood. floor-to-ceiling windows, an exposed stone wall, and dozens of young professionals in oversized chunky sweaters sets the vibe here. a menu of sandwiches, salads, and eggy brunch favorites dominate, along with coffees and cocktails.
and if you’ve had your fill of portuguese food, check out el clandestine, a mexican restaurant at the top of the bairro alto serving un-fucking-believable tacos and ceviche. a dimly lit and romantic restaurant accented by a wall decorated with a 3D neighborhood scene, this sexy spot is a rare find. opt for the tuna tostadas and the shrimp tacos.
tiny Nova Pombalina is a popular lisbon restaurant always packed at lunch time. here, locals stop in for quick leitao (suckling pig sandwiches) prepared in 60 seconds or less on fresh-baked [ortuguese bread with an amazing—and totally secret—vinegar sauce. the crew behind the counter is comprised of old school lisboans, who are quick to crack a joke and even quicker to toss a hot-and-crusty sandwich your way. pair with a pint of local beer on tap, or a fresh-squeezed juice.
this hidden gem off the famous pink street is hard to find. the address appears not to exist, but if you follow your gut up a flight of stairs you’ll emerge into a bordello-esque victorian speakeasy, complete with velvet wingback chairs, dangling chandeliers, and several day glow rooms committed to live music and art installations.
sunsets in lisbon are truly spectacular, and where better to catch them than on a roof. park is no ordinary rooftop, however. it’s at the top of a parking garage at the base of bairro alto. once inside, find a menu of delicious wines, sangrias, and small plates. get there early to score an outdoor seat overlooking the river, bridge, and sunset.