Man, we love Lisbon. So much in fact that we go there once a year and stay for at least a week. Lucky for you too, because that means we have loads of great tips for you. Besides the obvious, of course. Which is getting as much Eurovision as possible and hunting down as many of those amazingly hunky Portuguese people as possible. We skipped the hotels, that are bound to be fully booked, but here’s a sample of the rest:
Nice areas to hang in besides the arena:
Barrio Alto and Principe Real: Barrio Alto is one of two old towns in Lisbon. It’s a great area for some nighttime shopping (shops stays open until very late, beware of shopping expensive designer clothing while drunk), for great bars and restaurants or simply for getting a take-away drink and hanging out in Rua da Atalaia with the rest of the under 30s. If you are a wee bit over 30, you might prefer the bars in Principe Real, which are a bit more hipster and civilized, but not always as fun.
Bica: That’s actually just the street with the elevator from Barrio Alto to Cais do Sodre, but it’s packed with little bars where you can buy a cheap beer, take it outside, sit down in the stairs and talk to people. Also, Salvador filmed his postcard here last year, so he might show up.
Baixa and Chiado: As close as you get to a city center and has it all. Shop in large chain stores or small independent stores, find great restaurants, drink wine and do all other things you usually do in a city center. Only with less stress and more beauty.
Alcântara: A really nice area to go out at night. Move away from the river and you’ll encounter a little (!) less tourists, a litte more cosy local places and loads of great food and wine. Or go clubbing by the docks if you wish, but we did NOT recommend that.
LX Factory: A former factory area turned into a very pleasant collection of little shops, bars and restaurants. A little on the touristy side, but they’ll at least be the hipster tourists, and it is still a nice place to go both daytime and nighttime.
Best stuff to do besides Eurovision-related events:
Visit art museums: Lisbon has a vast number of great museums, and if you enjoy art, you could stay forever. Berardo has the most impressive collection of contemporary art and Gulbenkian is an amazing space for modern art and sculpture. Also, check out the new MAAT, where you in addition to seeing some great exhibitions on art, architecture and technology, can take a stroll on the roof by the river Tejo.
Hang out at a miraduoro: The very best thing to do in Lisbon, is to hang out at the various miraduoros, which are basically squares with great views and a small bar/kiosque that’s often high quality. Find yourself a nice chair, order some sangria and read your newspaper, watch people or catch up on Eurovision, as they always have wi-fi. Our favorite is Sao Pedro de Alcantara in Pricipe Real, where it is also nice to watch the castle.
Drink wine: You do want loads of it. We prefer the one from Alentejo, but that’s up to you. Go to BA Wine Bar do Barrio Alto, they know their stuff and will gladly share their knowledge and give you a good pour if you promise to cheer for Norway in Eurovision.
Sail into the sunset: In Alcântara there are loads of boats that will take you sailing on the river Tejo. Try to find one that will actually unpack the sails and book it for around sunset. There is no better way to watch the city than from the river, while you think of all the great men and women that arrived that way in their huge sail ships. If you don’t get those sails working for you, you can always watch the sunset from the castle or the rooftop cocktail bar of Hotel Barrio Alto.
Watch a football game: On the 5th of May, you can watch the neighbour fight between Lisbon’s two amazing football teams; Sporting and Benfica. We prefer the latter, mostly because it’s traditionally the working class, they have a team song that sounds like fado and there’s always a real eagle to start the show. Maybe it rises like a Phoenix?
Best restaurants besides the one at the press center:
Taberna Portuguesa: Run by a handful of hipsters dedicated to Portuguese culture (who isn’t?), this is an old school Lisbon restaurant with a set menu that is in danger of including blood sausages and offal and various sea food, as well as a happy crowd, low prices and wine by the pincher. It is always perfect, but prepare to wait for a table.
Sea Me: When in Lisbon, eat sea food, and at Sea Me you can have loads of that plus great service, wine and vibe. Pick a fish and some seafood in the counter and have them cook it for you. And do not miss a load of percebes, the fantastic goose barnacles that are a lot like oysters, only uglier and yummier.
Cantinho do Avillez: There are quite a few new places popping up by chef Jose Avillez, but we always seem to get back to this one. Picture a nice bistro place with simpler and cheaper food than his Michelin starred one, and imagine why we could sit there for hours sipping perfect wine.
Alma: Portuguese star chef Henrique Sa Pessoa ran Alma for quite a few years before suddenly closing it down, which left us in quite some distress. But now it is up again in Chiado and already has its Michelin star in place. We haven’t been to his new place, but if it is anywhere near the former, you should get your reservations. Besides, we have met Henrique a few times, and he’s worth the visit alone. And the empty bank account.
Time Out Market: The food market of Lisbon has this neighbour market with loads of food stalls and a bar and tables in the middle. The food stalls are run by some of the best restaurants and chefs in Lisbon, including the aforementioned Avillez and Sa Pessoa, so get your samples a few places and indulge.
Best bars and cafes besides EuroClub:
Pois Cafe: A super nice cafe by the entry to Alfama. Bring a book, place your tired, hungover ass in a deep sofa, get a healthy, wonderful brunch and stay there all day. Or at least until rehearsals start.
Tartine: Our favorite bakery in Chiado that serves all the Portuguese cakes you should be craving. Plus a very decent breakfast and lunch.
Le Chat: A spectacular glass building with a glass balcony high above the river Tejo. Get your cocktails and watch the busy harbour. Skip the food.
Pensao Amor: What used to be a brothel is now turned into a pretty swanky bar with its own erotic library room and a sex shop. Maybe it is still a brothel, come to think of it. But it serves some pretty great pisco sours, you can party all night and there’s nothing like buying sexy underwear and a vibrator at 1 am.
Hot Club Portugal: One of the best jazz bars in Europe. If you do get sick of that Eurovision music or at least need a break. Just don’t tell Salvador you found real music.
Best shopping besides merch at the arena:
A Fábrica dos Chapéus: If you can only buy one thing in Lisbon, it’s a vodka shot at EuroClub. But if you buy ca two things, then buy a hat. Luis makes the perfect hats in his shop in Rua Rosa and there’s a style for even the most extravagant queen, not to mention the gentlemen that surrounds her.
Flea markets: There are several flea markets in Lisbon and lots of great stuff to hunt down while there. We prefer the one that fills the entire Avenida Da Liberdade every second weekend of every month, meaning in the actual final weekend. If that’s too stressful, there’s also Feira da Ladra every Tuesday and Saturday in Campo de Santa Clara, Alfama. Ah, the glitter you could get.
Second hand stores: There are plenty, but none better than A Outra Face da Lua, that serves all genders and sexualities. They also have a fab cafe that serves great lunch, smoothies and sangria, so you can stuff your face with hummus if the dress is too big or drown your sorrows if it’s too small.
Embaixada: A kind of shopping gallery in a neo-Moorish building that feels like an Arabic palace and has all things great, mostly from Portuguese designers. Also, it is in Principe Real where there are plenty of other independent little stores around.
A Vida Portuguesa: A shop dedicated to traditional Portuguese stuff, from kitchen ware to toiletries to food to textiles. Make sure to buy some great soap and your favorite bordalo pinheiro items here. There are several of these shops, but we prefer the one in Rua Anchieta, Chiado.
Bertrand Chiado: Of course. The oldest book store in the world is situated in Lisbon. In Chiado, to be precise. Be aware, though, you shouldn’t go there just before rehearsals or finals as you might not get out again for a while.
Best escape when you are sick of it all or did something very stupid at EuroClub:
Swim at Costa da Caprarica: The most beautiful beaches near Lisbon lies at Costa da Caprarica. Take the boat from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas and the bus to Caprarica and then you can take a little train on the beach through the dunes until you reach the beach you like the most (they are numbered) and get off while the train is moving. Stop number 19 is a gay nudist beach. You may prefer that one. Or you may not.
Ride cable cars past the press center: Due to the arena area being a former Expo area, there are many weird things there. Like a cable car that takes you along the river for a little while. You can ride in it and watch the press center and get some peace and quiet. But betcha there will be some journalists wanting to make interviews in some of them, though.
Watch the city from Cacilhas: If you ride the ferry over to Cacilhas, you might want to stay there. Turn right immediately after you arrive and walk along the quay for 15 minutes or so and you’ll reach two amazing little fish restaurants where you can dine outside and watch the city from across the river.
Be a queen in Sintra: Sintra is a beautiful town with a Disney-like castle on each hill. What better place to go for the queens of Eurovision?
Visit the old library in Cohimbra: One of the oldest libraries in the world lies in the beautiful city of Cohimbra. And it’s just as beautiful as you can imagine. You are welcome to visit, but not so much touching involved. #metoo
Things you might as well miss in addition to Denmark’s Eurovision entry:
Fado clubs: It’s not that we don’t like fado. it’s just that if you want to listen to good fado, you really need to know where to go AND be lucky. We always seem to end up on the tourist fado places with set menus AND be unlucky. Just take our word for it and stay away.
Alfama: Every tourist guide from here to Cape of Good Hope recommends going to the very picturesque Alfama. But of course, tourist guides love tourists. We do not. If you love street vendors, pushy restaurant owners and tourist menus, though, this is totally for you. Or if you want a great view, but you might as well go to Graca then.
Pestana CR7 hotel: We all love Ronaldo, of course. We wouldn’t be let into Portugal if we didn’t. But do we really love his style? And do we want a hotel or bar that is plastered with his style as well as pictures of Ronaldo and charges extra because he owns it? No. We do not. Go see a football match instead.
The 28 tram: The number 28 tram is the epitome of Lisbon, and it’s beautiful to watch it while it climbs through the Lisbon hills. But you do not need to ride it. it is cramped and slow moving due to all tourists believing they just HAVE to ride it. Let others do the job.
Cascais: Everyone think they have to go here to take a swim. So the beach and city is packed. And the most dominating language is English. No thanks.