The series “Holiday like a local in…” aims to show you a destination through the eyes of locals living in any European city. Discovering a place’s hidden spots, the things that are not included in any guide book, and the charming cafes with amazing views or the best known sights from a different angle are just a glimpse of what locals can show you.
Today we are going to discover Lisbon through the eyes of a local – Sandra, and an expat – Dhanish, from Tripper travel blog.
#1. Please, introduce yourself, your blog and the city you live in!
Tripper is a travel blog for independent travelers who love local culture and heritage. I (Sandra) do the writing and the social media juggling, Dhanish does the photography and designing part. He is grounded, quiet and patient; I am the talker, usually restless and with a fiery temper to match my ginger hair.
Although we live across the river from Lisbon, we see it everyday from our window and we visit often — after all, it’s just a 15 minute ferry boat ride away! I’ve lived in Lisbon or around Lisbon for the past seventeen years and Dhanish has been here for a few months. We both are having fun (re)discovering the capital of Portugal and we definitely have different views of it, which makes it fun!
#2. What do you love the most about Lisbon?
You can find so many little signs of all the influences Lisbon has had, from the Roman Empire to the Moors later and, I’ve said this many times, Lisbon is a lady. If you treat her well, if you pay attention, she will gladly show you all her secrets. And the city also has a lot of stories of devastation and reconstruction, like the downtown area that was completely renewed after the 1755 Great Earthquake, or Chiado that (literally) rose from the flames of a big fire in 1988 to become, again, the city’s shopping hub. I like that it has the ability to adapt and to reinvent herself, which is quite contrary to the National spirit of whining and lament…
#3. What are your favorite local meals?
Without hesitating for a second: roasted chestnuts in the Winter. I know it’s not actually a meal, but it has so much to do with the image I have of Lisbon.
Dhanish doesn’t like any seafood (which is a shame), so he could never indulge with me in a dinner of cod fish “pataniscas” and rice with beans. It’s my version of Portuguese soul food: deep fried, comforting and simple.
#4. What’s the best place to have breakfast?
Any corner-of-the-street small cafe is the best place to have breakfast. Having breakfast in cafes is a very common thing in Lisbon (and I risk saying, in all of Portugal). To start with, we serve very good coffee and we are very picky about the high quality of an espresso (“bica” as we say in Lisbon). To top that, we have a very strong tradition of pastries and sweets. So, you pair caffeine with sugar, what other boost do you need to start your day?
If you aren’t too sure of local cafes, there is a Portuguese chain called “Padaria Portuguesa” that is beyond your “foodporn” wishes. Their “pao de deus”, oh my god their “pao de deus”, I have no words… In English it (literally) means “bread of god”! It’s a round sweet bread, topped with egg cream and shredded coconut, that goes really well with cheese (or simple, or with butter, or with ham, or with whatever you want!).
#5. What’s the best place to have dinner?
When it comes to picking a spot, it all comes to three things: unusual location (we love being surprised), friendly service (as if a friend just had us over for dinner) and down-to-earth food (nothing fancy, just fresh and high quality ingredients cooked with love). The worst place to have dinner is in any popular street restaurant that claim to serve only “typical” food or have “authentic” live Fado music…
I have two favorites, although it doesn’t mean they are the only good ones; I just happen to like them for the three things I mentioned before: Osteria (for me THE Italian Restaurant in town) and Taberna da Rua das Flores (very small, very intimate, and very quirky).
#6. What are the top three attractions in Lisbon?
This is, by far, the toughest question for us because we both see the city from two very different perspectives. Dhanish immediately pin points the Belem area and the Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery and the big gardens near the river.
I like Belem, but I don’t fall in love head over heels with it. I do understand how it is rated as a top attraction, though. It is a beautiful part of the city, and it hardly feels like the city — before Lisbon grew, it was more of an outskirt area with big palaces and farms where the royal family lived.
We both love architecture and heritage, so we both gravitate towards the Alfama quarter: he, for the architecture style and the tile facades of the old buildings; me, for that too and the sense of a small community inside a big city, with friendly neighbors and small grocery shops.
Then, the mustard yellow trams are absolutely iconic. At least once, you have to tour the famous Tram 28. If you think it’s too crowded and not worth the wait, go for a ride in one (or all) of the three funiculars that have been working since the late 1800’s. It was an ingenious way of working around the hilly streets, and the rides don’t last longer than a few minutes, but you simply have to try it.
#7. Where can you get the best view of Lisbon?
Well, Lisbon is known as the city of the seven hills so pretty much every top of a hill gives you the perfect view of the city (for free). Because we enjoy offbeat attractions and places, our favorite view is from Senhora do Monte, a viewpoint in the Graca Quarter. It’s not that well known, which means it’s not usually crowded, and it sure is worth the climb up (and the occasional windy weather). The plus side? You can walk down hill, right into the heart of the Moorish Quarter, Mouraria, and not much people venture into that which is a shame.
#8. Your favorite cultural attractions or activities?
I know a lot of people think Lisbon is a dull, uninteresting city — I’ve read it somewhere recently. But the city does have more to offer than meets the eye, depending on what you are looking for specifically. My favorite cultural events are related to film (Dhanish hasn’t been in Lisbon for enough time to select a favorite, but I’m sure it would have something to do with design or photography): DocLisboa for documentaries usually in mid October, MotelX for the horror genre usually in early September and IndieLisboa for independent film usually by late April/early May.
#9. Are there any possibilities for exciting day trips from Lisbon? Where to?
Yes! Just name your poison! You can reach Cascais and Sintra by train, the first if you are more in a beach mood and the latter if you are more in a UNESCO World Heritage mood. Then, by train or car (although I’m biased on this one, I always recommend train rides), just a couple of hours away you can easily reach Evora or Coimbra — great food, great people and great heritage to soak in all the culture.
#10. What are the best traditional festivals or events throughout the year?
Lisbon is one of those cities that truly is a melting pot: there is a lot of people who migrated from other parts of Portugal, so that means you have many different cultural influences that just add to the city’s diversity. But, festivities wise, you can’t beat the Saints in June! In every corner of the city (especially the older neighborhoods like Alfama, Castelo, Mouraria, Bica) you can expect to find food stands selling freshly grilled sardines on bread with a nice chilled Portuguese beer and people dancing to some “pimba” music band playing live (even if that’s not the music genre they would usually listen to).
Then, for the book lovers, the Lisbon Book Fair has been happening for 85 years and it’s known different locations, but my favorite is the current one: Eduardo VII Park. This urban park is right atop the Avenida da Liberdade (the most central and busy Avenue of the city) and around May it fills up with all sorts of stands from Portuguese publishers, also has some free live music concerts and book signings. Too bad that the park is quite empty most of the year… Apart from some occasional free events like the final of an important Football match.
If you want to participate in “Holiday like a local in…” series on Travelling Buzz, send an email to: [email protected] with the city you live in. Currently wanted: Athens, Barcelona, Bosnia, Istanbul, Paris, Valencia, but always ready to include other European cities.