Tucked away on the southeast corner of the European continent sits the ancient port city of Lisbon, Portugal. This rugged, grande dame feels deliciously medieval, filled with spectacular viewpoints and charming nooks and crannies.
The streets are hilly and riven with narrow, winding alleyways housing all manner of independent shops and eateries. You’ll love it.
Visiting Portugal is no longer as inexpensive as years past, but doing so remains well below the prices of other European food and wine capitals such as those in Switzerland. Delicious restaurants and stylish hotels abound in every corner.
Lisbon Art Stay is a bohemian, artsy hotel well-situated in the Santa Justa neighborhood in central Lisbon, right near the popular Baixa and Chiado districts. It sits on Rua dos Sapateiros—Shoemakers Street—a quiet side lane off Rua Augusta, the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. It’s also not far from the river.
As soon as you walk in the door, the hotel exudes a positive, welcoming vibe.
The great wooden front desk is immense and would be imposing, except that it’s so welcoming, adorned with a large, bright painting and a vintage crystal chandelier. The lobby offers niceties like a water station and a platter full of Portugal’s national treat—the irresistible custard pie called Pastel de Nata.
Pro-tip: The much sought-after Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, one of the best places to sample Portugal’s famed Pastel de Nata, is literally around the corner on Rua do Loreto.
Individual Studios and Apartments
The property comprises four buildings housing various-sized rooms and 2- and 3-bedroom apartments with full kitchens. The hallways are filled with color and each door is painted with a large portrait of a famous artist, musician, or personality.
This eclectic hotel is ideal for tourists, travelers, business travelers, artists, and digital nomads. It’s stylish and has an onsite restaurant hosting live music nightly and a hip, newly-renovated rooftop bar.
The rooms are warm, with colorfully painted walls, bespoke light fixtures and mirrors in vintage frames. Beds covered with soft blankets are topped with fun throw pillows. The apartments are spacious, with high ceilings and plenty of light.
Be sure to confirm the size of your room if you book a studio, as they can be small, and ask for a kitchenette if you want one.
Ruby Rosa Speakeasy Rooftop Bar
What better way than the rooftop to celebrate Lisbon’s views? Lisbon Art Stay’s Ruby Rosa Rooftop Speakeasy Bar is deliciously louche.
You feel as though you’re walking into a house of mirrors filled with plush chairs wrapped in deep, rich tones. The speakeasy is full-on baroque flair and comfort with a wrap-around patio on the outside offering panoramic cityscape views of red-tiled rooftops, meandering streets, and twinkling stars after sundown.
Their mixologists are top-notch,and it’s a beautiful spot to get your evening going or wind it down. Savor a classic Knickerbocker or sip a new creation like a Too-Mushroom. Mocktails are on the menu too along with a handful of tasty small plates.
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Lisbon’s dining scene has a deservedly good name; here are a few options to get you started on the right path:
A petisqueira, or snack bar, is Portugal’s version of a tapas bar. You can’t ask for a better specimen than Ourives, located at Calçada de Santo Andre 11 in the Graca neighborhood.
Their small plates are well-executed, and the service is impeccable. (I was staying across the street and came back time and again).
Don’t miss the Gambas ao Alho–tender, juicy garlic prawns sauteed in olive oil. The cheese plate, Tabua de Queijos, is an excellent mix of hard, medium, and soft cheeses served with bread.
And the wine! Oh my.
They offer a selection of Portuguese wine that is sure to please, and at great prices. And, of course, you can take the bottle home. Ourives is an old jewelry shop, and as a pleasing final touch, your bill comes in a vintage jewelry case.
Comida de Santo
Sticking with the Portuguese theme, but moving to post-colonial Brazil, Comida de Santo was a massive and somewhat unexpected treat. They serve recipes from Bahia, an Afro-Brazilian cultural powerhouse of a state on the country’s northeast coast.
My meal was incredibly delicious from the first bite of a savory crab dip spiced with “one-drop” Piri-Piri do Diabo hot sauce, through to the last bite of a scrumptious dessert creation made with sugar, egg yolks, butter, and shredded coconut, called Quindim.
Comida de Santo is family-owned and operated and has been in business since 1981. This gem is found in the Principe Real neighborhood on Calçada Engenheiro Miguel Pais.
Peixola was another incredible foodie experience. The setting is a 30-seat sushi-style counter, but the menu features a range of seafood dishes. The manager steered us in the right direction throughout the evening.
I started with fresh and briny oysters and moved to a Peruvian ceviche made with a sauce that had its own unique flavor twist. I was even tempted to order another serving.
The Black Tiger Shrimp with Truffle Puree and Kimchi Mayonnaise made me glad I didn’t. Here again, the dessert menu was fresh and creative. I “oohed” and “aahed” my way through an absolutely divine caramel gateau with a side of raspberry gelato.
Peixola is in the Bairro Alto/Chiado district on the main thoroughfare of Rua do Alecrim.destinationdining