I must admit, I was pretty friggin’ nervous about going to Lisbon. Lisbon was definitely not on my initial list of cities I was hoping to visit while abroad, but when my friend Noelle decided that she was going to study abroad there, I figured it would be worth the trip. However, as the weekend came closer, I kept second guessing my travels. I knew nothing about Lisbon or Portugal other than it was a pretty small country, Lisbon is a costal town, and they speak Portuguese there. On top of my anxiety, I hoped searching various tags on Instagram would give me deeper insight into the city or things I had to do, yet I was completely lost.
Believe or not, Lisbon quickly became my favorite weekend, thus far, while being abroad. The city is so colorful and full of life — it is truly so unique and unlike any other city I have been to before. Since the expectations were low, I was so amazed at how incredible Portugal is, and I would definitely recommend thinking about going here (or just actually going) because it will really change your abroad experience, or just general travels if you are not doing study abroad.
We headed up to Made Petisca for brunch, only to realize that they do not offer their brunch menu on Fridays, only Saturdays and Sundays. The Portuguese seem to get late starts to their day, so the restaurant did not even open until 1 PM. Coming from London, this was so odd to me, but I followed along. Madame Petisca sits upon one of Lisbon’s hills and has some of the most amazing views. The whole restaurant is surrounded with glass, so even if seated inside, you can still get an amazing view of the coastline. Definitely make a reservation if trying to go for brunch.
The portions in Portugal are also very small, as compared to the States or UK, but the food is still very filling nonetheless. I got the beef strips, which were really tiny cubes, in a white wine sauce, and we split sweet potato chips. Noelle got scrambled eggs with asparagus. Alex got these two little veggie burger that looked like the real life version of the Pretty Patties from Spongebob. I think Alex won this meal, and I really wish I had ordered those lil patties.
Noelle and I wanted to get a quick bite after she back from class on my first day there, so we headed a little down the hill. We ended up sitting in A Maria Não deixa, as we promised that we would be out by 10 PM for their “big party” (it was like 5 PM). The staff was super friendly and easy to work with.
The meals are like tapas and meant to share, so Noelle and I got chorizo croquettes and sweet potato chips. Because I have assimilated (or have tried to, but have probably failed in doing so), I was expecting sweet potato fries. However, the chips were super good, lightly fried and topped with chili flakes. I feel like we could have probably really killed it on the food, should we had eaten a real meal there.
Believe me when I tell you that this was the best gelato I have has since I have been to Europe. The shop is so tiny and cute, very well decorated. Gelato Therapy definitely gave you that modern yet classic feel to it. The gelato options were in these bins, topped with silver lids. The flavors were incredible, and I tried the Persian Pistachio flavor, but opted for the Oreo flavor.
The gelato was light and felt whipped. The Oreo was more mixed throughout, rather than your average cookies ’n creme. The taste reminded me straight of the Oreo flavors from Mad Martha’s in Martha’s Vineyard, except that Gelato Therapy was still next level.
We struggled a little to find The Decadente, so once we finally did, we were so ready to sit down as we say waiters running out of the kitchen with incredible looking dishes. The Decadente is in the bottom of a hotel, which I learned used to be a Swiss Embassy back in the day. The restaurant was pretty packed, but we ended up getting to sit on their back patio area.
The menu was incredible, and I decided to order this Linguine Nero with tomato and prawns, tossed in a spicy sauce. The other girls got a penne dish that equally looked delicious. My meal was so tasty, perfectly portioned. I think this was definitely the first time I had eaten a black pasta, so it was fun to experience that.
I am sure that any person who has been to any major city is familiar with Time Out. Time Out has different versions of their magazine for different cities, including news, stories and reviews of people and places in said city. In Lisbon, however, they have their very own market! The concept is super rad, and I wish we had something like it in London or LA. It’s a huge indoor market, lined with stalls of local food vendors of all different sorts, and the middle is filled with long wooden tables, making it look almost like a beerhall.
Noelle opted for a burger, and Alex chose a veggie flatbread. I decided to get the prawn Pad Thai from Asian Lab, and it was probably one of the best Pad Thai’s I have ever tasted. The dish was light and not smothered in too much sauce. The prawns tasted so fresh, and I finished the meal not feeling overstuffed or fatigued by the food. I do with it were a little spicier, but what can you do. The concept of the Time Out Market is quite fascinating to me, and I hope to see them bring it to other cities soon.
Never did I think I would be eating Mexican food in Portugal, and pretty good Mexican at that. Noelle, Alex and I wound up getting dinner at El Clandestino my first night in Lisbon. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, as it was poppin’ at 9:30 PM. Note to the wise: Definitely try to make some reservations for dinner in Lisbon because a lot of places were packed.
We each got a small margarita. El Clandestino had hella cool options, so I chose the hibiscus flavor. Noelle and I both got these little chicken and cheese quesadilla/taco things, which were pretty good. I forgot that other places in the world are not like El Cholo and put enough food fora starting village on your plate, so it was refreshing to not be overwhelmed with all of that food. It was a quick, easy, inexpensive dinner in a great and colorful environment.
What a meal to end my weekend in Lisbon with! Anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I love pizza, and after falling in love with Franco Manca, it has been difficult to find a pizza that is up to par. We headed down the hill for a final supper, of sorts, at Popolo. Popolo is a very modern, hip pizzeria, with so many different variations on Italian classics.
We had to wait a good while for a table and finally sat with hungry bellies. We each got a different appetizer and pizza. I went for the classic Caprese to start followed by a sweet pizza. The pizza was topped with walnuts, grapes and goat cheese slices, which created this amazing sweet and savory taste.
Right in the center of Lisbon, Praça do Comércio is a huuuuuuge square right on the water. Thesquare is lined with a long yellow building with a giant (and beautiful) arch right in the middle of it. Also, there is a huge sculpture/statue in the middle of the square that includes many elements (like elephants). The area is very lively and there are lots of people walking around and making their way downtown. Perfect spot for pictures!
Thank god that the museum was free because there was not too much there. One other hand, most of the museum was primarily in Portuguese, which made it hard for us to follow. It was like a huge abandoned DTLA showroom building that became a museum. There were definitely some cool things in there, but I had lost interest quite quickly. Museu do Design is a quick, free activity if you are running out of things to do but is nothing extraordinary.
Again, we ended up at a museum primarily in Portuguese, and we also kind of popped in by accident as we were trying to find the prison museum. The space was very small and carried various depictions of Santo Antonio (St. Anthony) in a variety of classical and modern ways. I think my two favorite depictions were the one that was completely pink and the tile painting things. (Tiles are a huge things in Lisbon, I came to find.) The museum was free which was nice, but it is probably not somewhere I would be dying to return to.
We finally found the prison museum! The museum is much more vast, yet still mainly in Portuguese. There were better English translations past the first floor. The building, which used to be an actual prison, is about four of five floor of different artifacts and pieces. I think the creepiest thing was that they kept some of the cells and have some plastered people sitting in them. Still, it was very interesting to walk through and learn a little bit more about the legal system, resistance and liberty in Lisbon as well as the affects of various movements like Communism.
My favorite parts were two very different things. First, there is a room on the third floor, I believe, that celebrates the 25th of April (which is also what the bridge connecting Lisbon to Almeda commemorates), recognizing the Carnation Revolution. The room delivers amazing artifacts and information, but the best part is the carnation wall. It was almost like a sign of light in such a dark place. Second, if you go alllllll the way to the top floor, there is a little café with amazing views of the coastline. Definitely head up there to check that out. I never thought I would step into another prison after visiting Alcatraz this past fall, but I can say I am glad that I did.
One of the other USC boys in Lisbon found this little town called Cascais, which is about a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon. We ended up going after the Time Out Market on my last full day in Lisbon, and what a way it was to end the weekend with. I felt like I entered some sort of time vortex that put me in a completely new country. However, it was still Portugal, and it was still freaking beautiful. Cascais kind of reminded me of Cannes or Nice and was sort of like one of those or Mallorca to Portugal. We walked all the way along the coast for about 20 or 30 minutes, gawking over how beautiful everything was. I was just really excited to see the beach and palm trees for the first time in over two months. I guess you never really know how much you take those things, especially just sunlight, until you move from Los Angeles to London.
We ended up at Boca do Inferno right at sunset. This was probably one of the best things I have ever seen in my entire life. It was one of those top life moments, like the Sunday of my first Coachella or dancing under the Eiffel Tower in Paris last summer, that I will hold with me forever. The cliffs were massive and the water looked so crisp and clear. Cascais and Boca do Inferno are very much worth the (small) trek, and I am so grateful that we found out about it. The icing on the cake, however, was the delicious fist Pastel de Nata I tried on our walk back at Sacolinha. I cannot express how incredible this exeperience was, and I feel like I gleam every time I think or talk about it.
I kept hearing Noelle, Alex and the boys talk about this infamous “whore house,” so we ended up finishing our night here on my first night in Lisbon. Basically, Pensao Amor used to be a brothel back in the day but now is a bar right on Pink Street. We entered without any hassle (I love Lisbon) and went up right away to find a room with a bunch of couches surrounding a stripper pole, situated right next to the bar’s library (where people where actually sitting and checking out the books). We kept going through mazes of rooms until we found the biggest one which had a large bar and dancefloor. We went one more room past it where there were more couches so we could sit and rest our legs from trekking through those Lisboa hills.
Pensao Amor was such a sight to see, and the aesthetic and feel of it reminded me a little of The Box, just a little less exclusive. We also tried to see the tarot card reader, but she was being a little sketch, so we passed. Should I have spent more time in Lisbon, I feel like we would have very likely returned to the “whore house.” Oh, and make sure to check out the lil decorations in the bathrooms.
Noelle kept dragging on about how she would not go back to Urban Beach, but lo and behold, we decided to end our Friday evening here, along with the other SC boys and their friends from UDub. Urban Beach is, you guessed it, right on the beach and is quite massive. The whole building is lined with glass (that I am assuming they open up when it is warmer, like Reina in Istanbul), so you can see right out onto the beach and water. There are a couple different rooms, but we stayed, for the most part, between the main room and the one next to the room called “Box,” which was BUMPIN’ some dancehall, reggae and moombahton, aka my absolute favorite.
Urban Beach was honestly so much fun, and it was kind of your typical Mediterranean beach superclub, reminding me a lot of the discotheques in Cannes. The later timing in Lisbon was driving me crazy, so it was so strange to me that we ended up at Urban Beach from 2-6 AM, as everything in LA shuts down at 2 AM. All in all, it was a pretty lit night, and we definitely woke up for BOR in the morning…
Barrio Alto is the main area in Lisbon of bars (duh). There are a bunch of little spots, most serving drinks from 1€ shots to massive “XXL” cocktails. We would hop between a couple of these, as it was closer to the top of the hill and right where the boys were living. Barrio Alto is a great place to start your evening.
Two nights in a row, we ended up stopping here. In Lisbon, everyone seems to just drink in the street (as most of the bars are pretty tiny), so when you go to Solar da Ribeira, there are probably a thousand people crowded in the street right outside. This is definitely quite a scene, as people are everywhere and drivers are instantly regretting trying to turn down the road.
Place was the finally spot on my last night, and girls, thankfully, did not need to pay to get in. When you go to clubs like Place or Urban Beach, they give you a card when you go in which will get you so many drinks. When you leave, you check out with a cashier to pay the 8€ or so.
Place was just another typical dance club, but the music was really good. We did not end up staying too too late, but it was still very fun.