Lisbon. Never thought too much about it. Despite the fact that I am Brazilian (and a colony!) I just wasn't sure. But, for my first trip (ever) with girlfriends, this was the city chosen (as a coincidence I was told I was a 'must-go' as a translator!). Well, the city is very enchanting.
We stayed in a classic hotel (Avenida Palace) right next to the Rossio Square (great location to explore the city). Really attentive and friendly service. Nice breakfast if you care for good coffee (if not, a Starbucks sits beside the entrance anyhow). This hotel carries the old charm, décor, furniture and style of an era, hard to find somewhere else.
First excellent tip for this trip came from the transfer driver: drink GINJINHA. And he kindly gave us the most popular place for it - A Ginjinha - which sits across the Rossio Square (the same of our hotel, did I say great location already?). The Ginjinha is a typical Portuguese liqueur, sweet enough to allow you to forget you are drinking alcohol, so be careful.
For food and nice ambience with a modern twist I would recommend two things. The first is the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, a big warehouse type area with more than 30 shops of food, drinks and typical Portuguese produce. This is an additional area to the original fresh fish/fruit/flower market located in the same spot. Don't forget to stop by A Vida Portuguesa to buy very original gifts or by Conserveira de Lisboa with its beautifully packaged sardines. Not to mention all the tapas you can get (like the cod croquetas or the pork risoles).
The second nice place(s) to go for food is(are) José Avillez's places. ANY of THEM. He is a Portuguese Michelin star chef (his looks alone could make you go there!) who owns many different places in town and in Porto (another Portuguese city). Although Belcanto is his Michelin star restaurant we opted for his more relaxed and understated Cantinho do Avillez. We do not regret it. This place had amazing ambience, great service, super décor and delicious food and drinks. Special side note to the dessert called Avelã (or hazelnut in three different textures), I could have eaten maybe 3 of it.
We hopped from Cantinho to another one of Avillez venues: Minibar Teatro. Packed as the restaurant, great décor, super drinks (the food looked amazing but we had just come from dinner). The only downside - at least to a non-local - was the music which seemed 'very concept' (and non-commercial as described by the DJ).
If you have time to visit one tourist spot (two if you consider the famous bakery/pastry shop in the same area) go to the Torre de Belém, an World Heritage icon in town. Tram 15 will take you from Praça Figueira (town center) to the neighborhood of Belém where you can visit the tower and stop by the (in)famous 'Pastéis de Belém', the Portuguese custard crunchy (warm when in the spot) pastry. I learned they make 20000 of these beauties a day (all sold).
There are many cute shops in town. And some of the stores still retain the old character, décor and street sign (typo lovers paradise). Two immediate favorites I knew of before I went and was even more impressed when I visited:
A Vida Portuguesa - so much to see at this store, so much care goes into the curation of the products and into the packaging. Simply lovely, a must go! The gallery below tells a little bit of the story:
Vista Alegre is the second must go store in Lisbon. Tram 28 (famous on its own because it is a tram that drives around nice areas of the city) will take you to Largo do Chiado where one of their shops is located. With a long lasting history in amazing porcelain and crystals Vista Alegre is still going strong by having updated and modern takes on their craft. It is a great place to get that nice gift or interesting piece for you house.
As a last note keep your eyes wide open for the beautiful architecture, tile buildings, trams and charming narrow streets.
All of this in less than 2 days. I can only imagine all of the things we can discover next time.
Hotel Avenida Palace - Rua 1 de Dezembro, 123 (Rossio)
A Ginjinha Café - Largo de São Domingos, 8 (Rossio)
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira - Avenida 24 de Julho (Cais do Sodré)
Cantinho do Avillez - Rua dos Duques de Bragança, 7 (Chiado)
Minibar Teatro - Rua António Maria Cardoso, 58 (Teatro São Luiz, Chiado)
Other José Avillez places here
Pastéis de Belém - Rua de Belém, 84-92 (Belém)
Vista Alegre - Largo do Chiado, 20-23
Another option for great Pastéis de Nata try Manteigaria.
For all things eggs (desserts) try Casa dos Ovos Moles.
P.S. Pics not marked as Carpe Digi are from http://www.joseavillez.pt/ and from http://www.myvistaalegre.com/int/