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Joana Freitas

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17 Highly Opinionated Tips on How to Tackle Lisbon

Walking shoes, chocolate sorbet, and more…

1. Egg tarts, aka pastéis de nata aka pastéis de Belém: They are VERY GOOD. Turns out there are really only two you need to try: the originator out in Belém and the mini-chain Mantegaria. Here’s some more egg tart info.

2. The pastries in general are incredibly sweet. Many have religious backstories — mostly, the nuns in the convents used egg whites to starch their habits and had to find a use for the yolks. Please also try this insane chocolate gelato at Bettina & Niccolo. It’s very special.

3. Get a porto tónico wherever you can as an aperitif before dinner. It’s just a little bit of white port, tonic water, and a dehydrated orange slice, but it feels very modern and refreshing and fun. After that, opt for the table wine. It’ll be good (and cheap).

Zé dos Cornos, a perfect tasca
Taberna da Rua das Flores

4. Tascas are the super casual neighborhood restaurants where the locals eat lunch every day. Almost every block has one. Absolutely go.

5. Here are the 38 restaurants you should consider for your trip. Make sure not to miss Taberna da Rua das Flores.

6. Bring good walking shoes. You’ll be using them to walk up and down a lot of hills.

7. Jose Avillez has a restaurant for every occasion in Lisbon. He has a high-end restaurant, a populist cantina, a charcuterie spot, a seafood place, and the list goes on. They’re all solid and reliable (especially useful on a Sunday or when a reservation falls through), but you can also find way more interesting food.

8. Everyone will tell you to go to (Bourdain-famous) Ramiro, and they are not wrong. But it’s packed all the time. If you do find time to go, please don’t try to go between 7 and 9 p.m.

9. For souvenirs, you’re going to want to go to the Conserveira de Lisboa and A Vida Portuguesa.

10. Don’t be turned off by an English menu; tourism has been booming in Lisbon for a few years now, so you’ll see English menus even at very excellent small, family-run restaurants. It doesn’t mean they’re subpar tourist traps. The restaurants set up in the most tourist-saturated zones with hosts out front pushing menus in your face? Obviously skip those.

11. Lisbon has well-provisioned kiosks located in parks and squares all across town. They just sell water, coffee, cocktails, and snacks, but they are wildly charming. Go find one, if only to feel like a local for a minute by relaxing in the park exactly like Lisboetas do.

A kiosk

12. You’ve probably heard of the Time Out food court, a collection of legitimate big deal chefs and purveyors in a boozy food hall near the city’s waterfront. It’s actually pretty impressive. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it’s also, as our favorite local guide Ansel Mullins notes, the least Lisbon-feeling place in the city. Treat it not as a destination, but as a convenience — it’s open on Sundays and holidays when many other restaurants won’t be.

13. You know what else is open at those times? The massive Armoreiras Shopping Center, a truly bonkers postmodern structure on the edge of the central city that gleams with ‘80s aspiration. A good place to get your phone fixed (how we ended up there), it also has not one but two huge food halls, full of vendors offering everything from traditional Portuguese food to poke. The food isn’t strictly as good as the food at Time Out, but for seeing how everyday people in a city eat, it’s way more informative.

Time Out Food Hall
The mall

14. If you like to have one or two Very Serious Meals while you’re traveling, Lisbon has some options: Try Avillez’s tasting menu spot Belcanto or João Rodrigues’s Feitoria Restaurante.

15. Just a short metro ride out from the tourist center is Avenidas Novas, a neighborhood full of residential high rises and remarkable modernist architecture (including several stunning churches). The neighborhood is anchored by the beautiful urban escape of Fundação Gulbilkan, where locals lounge on the grass, read books in the amphitheater, and eat gelato.

16. Something to keep in mind: Because of Lisbon’s colonial history, there’s so much more to the dining landscape than the local favorites of octopus and rice and sardines and pork and porto. It’s easy to try food from Cape Verde, Mozambique, China, and Pakistan, and even then barely scratch the surface of the options.

17. If you happen to be traveling with kids, check out Martinhal. They have a staffed playroom, babysitters, nighttime activities for kids, and all the equipment (high chairs, kids potties, cribs, etc.) you might need to go out and experience the city like the child-free person you once were.

Read next: Everything you need to know about egg tarts

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