lisbon 101: an introduction to portugal

theromanticFrom the beginning of our adventure abroad, I knew that while the hubs was the one slaving away toward his MBA, I’d be educating myself in other ways. I practically majored in European Geography this year. Among some of my most anticipated classes, an Introduction to Portugal was at the very top of the list.

Naturally, we put it off to the very last minute, and finally, in late June, we made it. While the wino was driving up the coast for the Jersey Shore, directly across the Atlantic, we left for Portugal.

Thanks to striking air traffic controllers in France, it took a fifteen hour travel day to get us to our destination. But eventually, we made it. Tired, hungry, and immediately scammed by a crooked cabbie, it didn’t matter, because we were in Lisbon.


THE PLAN // In total, we had about one full week in Portugal. With the help of Mrs. O, we had an itinerary that included highlights of Lisbon, Alentejo, and the Algarve. We didn’t leave much time to spare in between.

Because the entire point of Alentejo and the Algarve is to sit back and relax, we knew we could handle a jam packed few days of urban hiking and city exploration in the Portuguese capital.

Lisbon - Sightseeing

WHERE WE SLEPT (ROUND 1) // Upon arrival, we booked it to the Memmo Alfama — a new design hotel comprising of a series of small, fully-renovated buildings. The gorgeous views over Lisbon’s historic Alfama district offsets the modern and minimalist decor. On night one, we enjoyed this view, over a few glasses of wine and light bites to erase the stressful travel day that was finally (FINALLY) behind us. We soaked in the view a few more times during our quick stint, including each morning over breakfast. On our final afternoon, we soaked it in once more… over cocktails while the World Cup rumbled in the background.

Memmo Alfama

The location was more than ideal, and we were able to walk almost everywhere we needed to go. Our room was much larger than I imagined. I had read that some of the rooms can be pretty tiny, so if you’re contemplating an upgrade, it’s worth it. There are a fair share of big name luxury hotels in Lisbon. Instead, we wanted to focus on local companies and traditional Portuguese hospitality. The Memmo Alfama certainly fit the bill, and I’d stay here again in a heartbeat.

WHAT WE SAW // We kept trying to put our finger on what other cities were like Lisbon, and we really, really couldn’t.

Lisbon - Summer Culturally, it wasn’t really too comparable to anywhere else, though visually, some streets felt a bit like Barcelona, and there was an air of Marseilles whenever the water came into view. The hubs said he’d even throw a little bit of Rome into the mix. However you look at it, everything added up to some really stunning strolls around the city.

Lisbon - Corridors

Exploring Lisbon

WHAT WE ATE // I mean, what didn’t we eat? On our first full day, we met up with Célia and Filomena, the ladies behind Eat, Drink, Walk Lisbon. Though we had a quick bite at the hotel, I was glad we arrived a little hungry.

Eat Drink Walk Lisbon

We kicked off the morning with tiny shots of ginja de Óbidos — a cherry flavored liquer served best in a chocolate cup. Then, we walked over to the O Mercado de Lisboa. I, um, ate mine before taking a photo? So, that’s why it’s pictured in a glass… but you get it. Despite my usual reservations about cherry flavoring (it always tastes like cough syrup, no?), this was delicious. I didn’t even hesitate when they offered me a refill. Though, I probably should have because like I said, I was running on a near empty stomach here. The alcohol + cherry syrup sugar rush + dark chocolate caffeine boost meant I was a little hyper/giggly for the next 20 minutes. Luckily, the hubs was on hand to keep me under control.

Realizing that I like ginja wasn’t the only lesson of the day. I ate, drank, and walked away knowing that I do not enjoy eating percebes (barnacles, fo’ real)…


Clearly they were trying to convince me that locals love the things, and the hubs was totally on board. But me? Yeah, no thanks …However! I love sardines! I also have kind of a thing for their Portuguese packaging, because seriously, how pretty are these?

Lisbon - Sardines

The tour capped off with a wine & port tasting, as all Portuguese food tours should. Thanks to Célia and Filomena, we got the very best introduction to Portuguese food that you can ask for. We even made a few return trips to the market, despite our limited time. Our tour lasted from about 11:30 AM to 3 PM, and costs €60/person.

Lisbon - FOOD

Other must-eats that weren’t on the tour but absolutely, positively, cannot be skipped? Traditional custard tarts from Pastéis de Belém (take the tram for the full experience), lunch at Cervejaria Ramiro (clams, yes, but Mrs. O advised we try the steak sandwich and seriously: never would have ordered it and now I’m not sure how I’m living without it?), and Gelados Santini for ice cream, because… ice cream.

WHERE WE SLEPT (ROUND 2) // After our whirlwind roadtrip, we capped off our getaway with one last night in Lisbon at the Hotel Portugal. Another brand spanking new boutique hotel, this one is located in the center of downtown Lisbon. We’re big fans of staying in two different areas of a new city. The Hotel Portugal allowed us to further explore the area around the Rossio, hike up to the São Jorge Castle, and shop around the neighboring Chiado.

Hotel PortugalEach room is inspired by traditional blue and white tiles that can still be spotted around the city, and ours boasted absurdly high ceilings, two showers, and a very futuristic interactive-TV-inside-a-mirrior situation that I’m just pretty sure I need in my home, ideally hooked up to the hubs’s cell phone.

I didn’t doubt that we would love Lisbon! It was the very best bookend to a fantastic week spent exploring a new-to-us country and culture. Stay tuned for details from our time in Alentejo and the Algarve!


the romantic

Thank you to the Memmo Alfama, the Hotel Portugal, and Eat, Drink, Walk Lisbon for partnering with me during #LTcoast2coast. All opinions are my own. If you don’t believe me, then scroll back up and look at my percebes-eating face. That can’t be faked. 



  1. September 2, 2014 / 15:16

    When we went to the Alentejo, they kept on trying to coax us into eating gooseneck barnacles. Our getout was that we’re vegetarian. Thankfully, we filled up later at a great veggie-friendly restaurant, Ritual, in Vila Nova de Milafontes. We weren’t so lucky in Oporto. Chestnuts and port was not such a winning combo, especially when eaten/drank to excess.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..El Caserio de San Jose de Las VegasMy Profile

  2. Simon O'Reilly
    September 2, 2014 / 19:39

    Excellent! I am as you liked my second home City and that you did take all the advise from Mrs O, she knows you know!

  3. September 3, 2014 / 04:07

    Amazing post 😉
    Next time you can discover the movie locations in Lisbon (
    All the best,

  4. Dahlia
    September 4, 2014 / 05:21

    Lived there for a few months. Portugal is amazing in and out! Would love to live there again, whenever I have the chance in the future. The food, people, places to visit, churches,views are simply the best!

  5. September 4, 2014 / 07:29

    Lisbon looks like a lovely, laid-back city – can’t believe I’ve still never been to Portugal! I love the look of that pool at the Memmo Alfama overlooking the river and the red rooftops.


    Sometime Traveller
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