5 things not to do in Lisbon

     Lisbon is a city plenty of charm, history, great food and amazing attractions. But like any other city, it has its tourist traps. Avoid them and make the most out of your time in Lisbon.

     1- Feel like a sardine in a can, inside Tram nº 28 – This tram line was originally designed to provide public transportation for those who live in the historical neighborhoods but got so popular among tourists that only few locals dare to get on-board. Fight for a place inside this tram might be worthy, but only if you can get a seat. If you’re standing, you’ll only be able to see other tourist’s armpits and the chances of being pick-pocketed are quite high.

      2- Wait in line for Santa Justa Elevator – Historical elevators make part of this city, specially long ago, before cars made part of the daily life. Santa Justa is a true gem of architecture but after you’ve taken a couple pictures, walk along Rua do Carmo and feel the atmosphere of this hipster neighborhood. Listen to Fado from an old-fashioned car that sells Fado cd’s, do a little shopping and finally turn right at Calçada do Sacramento to reach the top of the elevator and get amazed with the views.

      3- Go to Belem in the morning, specially on Sundays - St Jerome monastery is a world heritage site and a definite MUST if you’re visiting Lisbon. Unfortunately, it still is an active church with masses on Sunday morning, during which you can’t visit the church. It’s hard to explain the limited visiting times or the chaos around those times. Skip all this and if Sunday is your only day available, go there after 2pm. It will be completely different.

      4- Eat or have coffee at any food chain - I know it works for everywhere in the world, but in Lisbon this is a specially big mistake. Coffee and food definitely make part of our culture and not only you’ll be loosing the opportunity to try our exquisite pastries and excellent coffee, but also spending more money.

      5- Have dinner before 8.30pm or sit for a meal in Rua Augusta  - In Portugal we don’t have dinner before 8.30, sometimes 9pm. If you do find a restaurant with their doors open before 8pm, it will certainly be a touristy restaurant. Just like the restaurants always open in Rua Augusta, they may be good or within your budget, but may also serve you something different than authentic Portuguese food.

      6- Avoid hotels anywhere near Avenida Almirante Reis – This tip is just a little bonus. Even though you may find cheap and modern hotels around this neighborhood, I’d avoid them. Those hotels may be nice, but the area is one of the least pleasant and the subway works with limited times.

5 dishes that you should try

    We all know that one of the best ways to get to know a country is taste its traditional dishes and flavors. Portugal is not an exception and despite its small dimension, traditional dishes vary a lot from the south to the north. While the south prefers lighter meals, the coast has mostly fish and the north eats mostly meat.

    Bacalhau: codfish is considered our most famous and traditionaldish and can be served in 365 different ways, one per each day of the year. Bacalhau com Natas (with milk cream), Bacalhau à Brás (smashed with smashed french fries and onions) and Bacalhau com Broa (roasted with corn bread on top) are the best choices.

    Grilled fish: a great option for those summer lunches when you don’t want to feel stuffed and too lazy to walk around. Normally is grilled on the coal, which gives it a special flavor, and comes with boiled potatoes and vegetables. May sound too simple but together with some green wine will be unforgettable.

    Carne de Porco à alentejana: is a traditional dish from the south. Consists of fried pork cubes accompanied with fried potatoes and clams. The combination may look strange but definitely tastes good. Lemon and persely are perfect to add more flavours.

    Alheira: a sort of sausage invented by the Jews to pretend they were eating pork, includes different meats, bread and herbs. Comes with french fries and an egg on top.

    Arroz de marisco: a rice stew with lots of different sea food, clams and crab. In a good one you should have a bad time to find some rice on it. Normally one portion is enough to feed one family.


Happy mothers day!

In Portugal we celebrate mothers day on the 1st Sunday of May, which is actually today.

Instead of dedicating a post to all the mothers, I decided to dedicate this post to all the sons and daughters who are in Lisbon right now and that would like to buy their mums a little something. Here goes the list:
Filigree: it’s a very special and traditional way of working the silver or gold. Can be used in necklaces, medals, earrings, … and it’s traditional to the north of Portugal (specially Minho region) but can be bought everywhere.
Tiles: Lisbon is definitely famous for tiles and it’s production dates back to the Moorish times. Hand painted or printed with Lisbon landscapes, big or small, rolled in bubble wrap or in your jeans, they’ll make all mums happy.
Cork items: known mostly for being used as bottle stoppers, floors or shoes insoles, cork is more resistant than leather and today is used to produce all types of fashion items. Purses, hats, key holders, umbrellas, Ipad cases… sky is the limit!
Bordalo Pinheiro Ceramics: ceramics are another tradition of Portugal and these specific ones make part of our history. Bordalo Pinheiro was a great ceramist and though he already died, the factory is still alive and produces great quality ceramics shaped like cabbage leaves, other vegetables or even animals. You can find them in nice souvenir stores, everywhere.
Plane ticket! If you loved Lisbon, I’m sure that your mother will love it as well. Why not inviting her and do a city-break or vacation together? While here, experience a tile painting workshop and take a really special souvenir back home.

5 things that are different (on the table)

After all these posts about food I decided to clear some doubts and talk about 5 things that are different, on the table.

Appetizers: When you sit at a restaurant they’ll bring you immediately some bread, olives and butter. After you’ve order they may also bring you wonderful small appetizers to eat while you wait. Though they may seem a courtesy, they may cost you almost as much as the meal itself… and they also fill you almost as much as the meal itself!

If you don’t want any of those, just don’t touch them or tell the waiter that you don’t want them right away.

My fish wasn’t clean: in Portugal you can eat excellent fresh fish everywhere. The only thing that may look weird for you is that the fish never comes clean. Why? Portuguese people love to eat fish and also to know which kind of fish it is, and how fresh it is as well. This way, we like to clean it ourselves and refuse to eat just a fillet. At pricey restaurants they may clean it for you, but they’ll bring the cooked fish first, show it to you, and then clean it in front of you.

Eat without rushing: for us eating out is meeting with friends and talking about everything. We like to take our time during the meal and restaurant owners understand this. Don’t get surprised if the service isn’t really quick or if they don’t bring the check just after you finished to eat. If they would rush us out of the place no one would go back there.

Tipping: for us, tips are a reward for a good service and not part of the waiter’s wage. There’s no rule but we tip about 10% of the check, which may double when the service is outstanding. Since it’s not mandatory it’s never included in the bill.

Taxes included: In Portugal all prices MUST include taxes (vat, for instance) and when they don’t, they have to state that.

Read more about Eating habbits here.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!