Where to stay and eat in Porto and Lisbon

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A quick pitstop by Barcelona (again) and then I was on my way Portugal. Probably the most consistent place I visited this trip. And by consistent I mean: food, transport, sights, sites, hostels, people – all brilliant.

I didn’t really know what to expect of Porto when I arrived, only that I really wanted a Portuguese tart ASAP. (On that note you should check out Confeitaria do Bolhao – it’s like 30c a pop so don’t blame me if you end up eating 20.) But what I did eat was Francesinha, Portugal’s national dish. Or as I like to call it: ‘a heart attack in a bite’. What it is, essentially, (I’m going to quote from Wikipedia): “a sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.” Told you.

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If you love Harry Potter (which you should otherwise why do you exist?), you need to visit Livraria Lello & Irmão, often noted as one of the world’s best bookstores and an inspiration for JK Rowling. It’s so beautiful that you’re not allowed to take photos inside the store because it’s that special. True story.

The city itself is pretty quiet – there aren’t crowds of tourists that you would otherwise find in Rome or Paris. We stayed at The Garden Hostel, which is right by Bolhao train station and close to a lot of the main attractions, including Cais da Ribeira and Dom Luís BridgeIt reminds me of Downton Abbey because of its winding staircase (I actually hum the theme song every time I climb them, much to the embarrassment of my friends). It’s really clean, gets a lot of light and serves breakfast.

Lisbon was absolutely incredible (the only photo I took is the featured image – I had too much fun!). I made great friends, ate myself silly and embraced the (very steep, hilly, hilly) city with open arms (and also sweated like a fat kid after a fun run – average temperature while I was there reached 38C – wooh).

I don’t know how we timed it so well, but we landed in Lisbon just in time for the Festas de Santo AntónioMothers, fathers, kids, grandparents – pretty much everybody flooded the city’s streets as Lisbon celebrated Saint Anthony. Beers and kebabs were being offered left, right and centre. Music echoed from the trunks of cars to the nearest cocktail bar. The city was pumping and everybody was out to have a good time.

Everything is dirt cheap in Lisbon, it’s ridiculous. I measure the affordability of a city by the price of its beer and at 50c a pop, I had my answer. If you’re after a fun night definitely head to Bairro Alto – it’s pretty much a neighbourhood of bars.

For good food you can’t go past Cabaças. My friends and I went there three times in the four days we were in Lisbon. One time we even waited up to an hour to get a seat. And it was totally worth it. You get to cook your own piece of meat on a stone grill, accompanied by a variety of sauces and chips. It’s dirt cheap and bloody delicious – ticking off two of my very important requirements. You may leave smelling like a charred piece of coal, but you leave feeling very satisfied. The service is great and there’s a guy there that looks like a Portuguese Colin Farrell. If you see him, you’ll know what I mean.

Lisbon does have a few tapas restaurants and we dined at Taberna da Rua das Flores at the recommendation of TripAdvisor. We had tried to go the first night but the queue was extensive and they didn’t take bookings. Bugger. So I definitely recommend heading there early – around 7pm or so – if you want to get a table. The best dish hands down was their seared tuna. We ordered about four different dishes but I could’ve eaten that one over and over again. Had a creme brulee for dessert and I highly suggest you don’t get dessert from this place. It was so bad and gluggy and my sugar topping didn’t even crack.

While you’re in Lisbon you should definitely trek out to Belem, home to the illustrious Pastéis de Belém aka the place where you’ll stuff your face silly with pastries. The prices are so cheap here you think there’d be catch, but there ain’t. I recommend eating in as you’ll avoid the ridiculous queues plus you’ll want a minute or two to compose yourself (and your food babies) before leaving. The signature dish/order/reason to live is their pasteis de nata – a custard filled tart. You should definitely order at least five.

I stayed at the Lost Inn Lisbon hostel and you honestly cannot stay at another place if you ever go to Lisbon. It’s cheap, it’ss so clean and it’s so well furnished. It’s more like a hotel if anything. The rooms get a lot of light, there are plenty of showers so you don’t have to fight with your friends and breakfast is inclusive. It’s close to all the main train stations and is smack bang in central Lisbon.

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