I’ve visited Lisbon three times now – it’s safe to say I’ve fallen head over heels for its chilled out atmosphere with a cool city edge; in fact, I got engaged there last December!
After much deliberation, I’ve managed to condense an unforgettable few days in to this guide to the perfect 48 hour mini-break in Lisbon – which includes lunch cooked by a top chef, a private yacht, a rooftop swimming pool – and a tipsy tuk-tuk tour of the city, too!
Upon Landing, grab an airport taxi or an Uber (they’re really good value here) and head to your AirBnB or hotel. Dump your bags and freshen up, then book yourself another Uber straight to the Time Out Market Lisbon – here your weekend begins!
Whilst the original fish, fruit and vegetable market stalls of Mercado da Ribeira still exist on one side of this huge 19th century building, the rest of the space is now home to Time Out’s first permanent foodie venture – a total of 35 kiosks, all styled with the same upmarket-looking black and white signage, lining the edges of what is essentially a huge dining hall.
Most kiosks specialise in regional dishes and treats, including plates of sheep’s cheese and ham, char-grilled octopus salads, grilled sardines and of course, those delicious pastries, Pastel de Nata.
Five of Lisbon’s top chefs also have kitchens here, offering clever twists on Portuguese classics. I sampled a fresh sardine salad dish from Henrique Sa Pessoa – one of Lisbon’s most high-profile chefs. Safe to say, it was flippin’ delicious.
The great thing about this place is that every person in your group (however small or large) could theoretically order from a different chef – or, you could mix it up for each course. Get your orders in for a large glass of wine, then perch at the high wooden stools & benches and while away an afternoon sampling Portugal’s finest foodie delights.
The sights of Lisbon
After a long and leisurely lunch, jump in to one of the tourist Tuk-Tuks and take a (probably rather tipsy) tour of the city. The Portuguese are a super-friendly bunch, and I’ve no doubt that your driver will be as lovely as ours was – and more than happy to show you all of the local landmarks, sights and selfie-spots your heart desires.
Head back to your hotel / apartment to freshen up, and put on something suitable for rooftop cocktails, because that’s where you’re going. The Bairro Alto 5* Hotel roof boasts some great views over the city – if you don’t believe me, check out this virtual tour. Order a bottle of bubbly and the cheese board – a selection of Rabaçal, Niza and São Jorge cheeses, served with apple marmalade and crackers.
If you fancy a something with a bit more edge, try Park Lisboa – a leafy bar found on the rooftop of a gritty multistory car park. This place really is the epitome of cool and has a hip-hop playlist to match. The view at sunset is simply breathtaking.
There’s only one thing that can cure a sore head in Lisbon – a large coffee and a box of mini Pastel de Nata. For the best in the city, try Confeitaria Nacional. This place is a bit of an institution, where locals drop by, perch at standing tables to neck an espresso and scoff a pastry, before heading off to enjoy the rest of their day.
If you can’t make it there, head to the closest coffee shop or cafe – in truth these bitesized treats are great wherever you get them from; this is where they were invented after all.
Grab an Uber, or take the traditional route and catch one of the vintage looking trams on the Rede de eléctricos de Lisboa – you’re aiming to get as close as possible to the Belem Tower (below). This is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage Site. It’s also very photogenic!
From the Belem Tower, you can take the short walk to the Darwin Café – a beautiful contemporary restaurant boasting a delicious menu of Portuguese and European cuisine. Though the dining room is impressively and tastefully decorated with giant anatomical diagrams of birds, fish and insects, you’ll want to grab a table on the terrace for panoramic views to die for.
Make sure you try the Tentáculos de polvo – Octopus Tentacles on crushed sweet potatoes and shallots (below), or the Lombo de bacalhau – a thick, juicy cod loin, with a breadcrumb crust served with crushed potatoes and cabbage. Both are delicious, and very filling.
Lisbon by boat
After lunch, walk back past the Belem Tower to find the guys from Lisbon by Boat in the harbour (though you’ll need to have booked with them in advance). You are guaranteed to have a good time if you factor these guys in to your weekend – be that with a trip on a speeding rib or by chartering a private yacht* for the afternoon.
This is by far the best way to see Lisbon from the water!
We went for the private 10-man yacht and the speedboat rib; the photo below is taken from the rib, looking at the yacht.
A decadent dinner
You’ll be knackered after the boat, so don’t even think about heading out for dinner until after dark. We booked our dinner in arty restaurant-come-circus-school, Chapito. Here, you can choose from three different dining settings: a wood-burning grill, a tapas bar, or the upstairs sophisticated dining room which boasts amazing views over the Tagus river and city (below).
We went for the dining room, and I ate an outrageously delicious lamb rack on a bed of olive oil mash with LOADS of garlic.
An alternative option for dinner is The Decadente, an achingly cool bar and restaurant (and upstairs, a luxe hostel) offering a variety of typical Portuguese dishes and a great selection of local wines, cocktails and beers (this is actually where I got engaged).
The website says that it aims to be “indulgent, hip, cool and friendly“, and I reckon they’ve nailed it. They also have a private dining room for larger groups which is great if – like my friends – you like to end your night by dancing on the tables.
Assuming you’ve got to be up and out of your accommodation by 11am, you’re going to need to find somewhere for your final breakfast in Lisbon. Head back to the river for brunch at À Margem – a trendy, open-fronted cafe housed in a former shipping container and take in those views for one last time.
A quick dip
Alternatively, f you still have a few hours to kill before your flight, you can pay the 5* Altis Belem (just behind À Margem), a fee of around £15 to use their rooftop sun deck and mini-pool for a final few hours of sun-worship. You can use their posh changing rooms for a hot shower and a freshen up before you head off to the airport.
Also, see if you can sneak in a quick gelato from the shop outside the hotel before you jump in that taxi – try the Pina Colada flavour to eek out the last of the holiday vibes!
Catch your flight home. Be sad. Book another flight 🙂
Planning a Portuguese adventure of your own?