First post of the year ! Super excited to see what’s in store for 2018 in terms of sustainability both worldwide and for the blog ! Also, whether you’re a new reader or were already here last year, thank you, thank you, thank you for caring about the planet and being here today, makes me feel so grateful !
One of my main resolution for 2018 is to discover and travel more (I know, plane emissions and i’ll make a post about what you can do about that, promise !) so I thought it’d be perfectly in the theme to write the first post of the year about my latest escapade to… Lisbon ! We spent Christmas there with the family and while a lot was closed due to the holidays, we still managed to discover some little gems and feel the incredible vibe of this sunny city.
Let’s start with neighborhoods and then move on to food and shops shall we ?
The neighborhoods of Lisbon
Between authenticity and buzzing modernity
First up is Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon, full of colorful and ancient houses spanning from the Tejo river to the San Jorge castle. But beware, be prepared to walk steep streets and stairs and wear good shoes ! No heels around Alfama unless you want to take them off after 10 mn and finish your walk barefoot or in a tuk tuk.
There, you’ll find one of Lisbon’s main attraction: the San Jorge castle that has one of the best view over the city (go early if you want to avoid the crowd), the Feira da Ladra (flea market) that takes place on Tuesday and Saturday where you can find everything from old antics in perfect condition to a lot of junk and finally eco friendly products such as these jewels below made from old nespresso capsules ! Yes to that ! Mostly inhabited by the locals but full of tourists wandering the place, it still has that magical feel about it, a bit like it hasn't changed in centuries and will remain the same for decades to come.
The best way to navigate the neighborhood is to take the 28 tram and get off to walk around (beware, the tram is pricey) before stopping in one of the area's little cafe or wine bar. If you're looking for the perfect view point, stop at Portas do Sol, a balcony type area with seats and a breathtaking view of Lisbon.
Take the tram/bus/tuk tuk or even the train and head to Belem, in West Lisbon for a taste of history, culture and art. There you’ll find the Museum of electricity, of carriages (I know, had no idea that was a thing either), the Berardo museum of modern art, the gorgeous Jeronimos Monastery Abbey and the famous Belem tower which defended the city in the 16th century.
Belem is so large that you can actually spend a whole day here. If you don’t have the time but still want a glimpse of the major attractions, hire an electric tuk tuk and ask the driver to give you a tour (a hour is usually 25 euros for two people and you get photo stops in front of the major monuments). That’s what we did and we eventually came back a few days later to visit some specific museums. Once again, the early bird gets the worm and getting there by the opening of the museums could truly enhance your experience.
Baxia & Chiado
Where we were staying. Perfectly located close to Alfama and major public transports that enable you to reach every part of the city, these are the most central districts of Lisbon. You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and buskers singing, dancing and performing. It’s definitely one of the most touristy areas but it’s great to use public transports and reach other more quiet and authentic parts of the city.
Among other, you’ll find the famous Lisbon elevator, which if you ask me is not worth paying for (just go behind it and keep going uphill and you’ll have the same view for free), Praca do Comercio, a stunning square with an imposing statue and an arch showing you the direction to Rossio square, one of the most populated area of Lisbon, full of locals and tourists alike. Note: many air b n b are located in that area.
This hilltop neighborhood above to the west of Chiado is where you’ll want to be/go to socialize and have a taste of the vibrant portugese nightlife. Trendy restaurants and rooftop bars as well as small hidden wine bars and clubs make up this fun and modern neighborhood. Quick warning though, this is definitely not the place to stay if you’re an early sleeper as the noise is apparently quite significant at night.
But don’t miss the Carmo Convent located in the area, it’s a daytime attraction that’s really worth it if you’re into history and ruins and makes the perfect instagram spot haha.
While not technically in Lisbon, this little sleepy town, former fishermen village turned into refuge for wealthy Europeans is only 40 mn away by train and totally worth a one day escapade. Everything can be done by foot, the beaches are very pretty and there are some very nice restaurants to try (just avoid the ones trying to catch you with promotions, I wouldn’t recommend those). However, I was quite surprise to find some very high end shops and brands in the main street in what is supposed to be a « typical portugese village » but then figured it out when I heard more english and french than portugese. But still, super cute if you want to escape Lisbon for a day or if you’re traveling along the coast.
Where & what to eat in Lisbon
First of all I’ll start by saying that despite most of what I had read on the internet and the fact that I truly loved Lisbon, eating vegan in the city isn’t that easy. The traditional portugese cuisine is mainly made of meat of all kinds and fish being near the sea. So if you go to a real typical restaurant, chances are you’ll be left with rice and salad (not complaining, both were good but it’s a bit like when you go to a bar hoping for a well done caipirina but knowing you’ll probably get an average margarita and then you end up with an ok beer).
So below are a few places I tried/were recommended to me that serves vegan food in the city (we ate at home several times as well). Enjoy !
I arrived in Lisbon at 9 in the morning following a very , very, very early flight from Paris and I was starving. I headed straight from the airport to this cute little crepe cafe that was recommended to me and turned to be in the perfect location close to my apartment and 5 mn away from the metro station cais do sodre (only one change from the airport).
While quite surprised at first that there were no seats, I was warmly welcomed and introduced to the menu by the lovely woman working there. I ended up having the morning crepe of the week or month I can’t remember and when specified that I was vegan she suggested to add vegan cheese. I.WAS.SOLD. The crepe is made in front of you and god it’s delicious. Super tasty, full of ingredients (mine included spinach, vegan cheese, garlic and others), it was the perfect breakfast thanks to the juice it came with. Moreover, the place is super committed to eco-friendly practices including no plastic and promotes local farmers market, yoga classes etc. My jam !
On day 2, we hired a tuk tuk to take us around the major sightseeing spots of the city and asked to be dropped at LX Factory, Lisbon’s hip, artsy, urban complex, west of the city that gathers artists workshops, organic restaurants, upcoming fashion brands and so on. If you’ve ever been to Les Grands Besoins in Paris, it’s exactly the same vibe.
There, I had heard there was a restaurant that offered excellent vegan options. Walking in, there’s a super chilled atmosphere, very zen with books you can borrow, plants and waitresses wearing a white blouse , I guess to emphasize the « I’m here to make myself feel better » concept. They offer a really affordable menu daily (I think it's a bit above 10 euros for an entrance, a meal and a drink), including one that is entirely vegan. On the day we came it was veggie spicy soup with a chickpea and rice curry and I have to say, everything was delicious. My mum ordered some wine because, well you know, we’re half french after all, and it was fantastic. There is also a small eco friendly shop next door and the whole place to wonder around after your lunch so big yes to the therapist !
Ao 26 vegan food project
I was planning on going on my last day, before flying back to Brussels but unfortunately when we showed up it was closed.. I was so disappointed as I had heard such good things about the place but I guess that’s life ! Anyways, I can’t say much about the food as I havn’t tried it but put it on your list if you’re in town, apparently it’s a must do if you’re a vegan in the city !
Mercado da ribeira
Whether you’re going to Belem or strolling near the Tejo river, you can’t miss it. The Ribeira market is a huge black warehouse on the side of the main street that offers plenty of eating choices. A bit like the inside market in Barcelona, there are food stalls for pretty much every food wish including some dedicated to selling portugese specialties (didn’t try those as they mostly contained fish) and the hardest part, after choosing what you’ll eat, is to find available spots on the long wooden communal tables where you’ll enjoy your meal.
As a vegan, I tried tohe « asian food » stall which was good but not amazing but I saw on the menu of several others some salads that seemed pretty good and even a « vegan cevice ». I know right ! So I would definitely suggest walking around and don’t feel pressured to find a vegan option straight away, read menus, take your time and enjoy this typical portugese lunch
Located in the Chiado neighborhood, the place isn’t easily noticeable if you don’t walk beyond the main shopping street. Once you come across the restaurant, you’ll first notice that it’s a bit more high end than the others listed here so probably ideal for a diner. The menu includes meat and fish but also a long list of vegetarian options which can almost all be made vegan. So the perfect place to invite your family/partner who are always septic about eating vegan to come along with you. Food was good, wine also and overall an enjoyable evening.
What you can expect at non vegan restaurants
As you may have noticed in this post, a major part of my family is NOT vegan, nor vegetarian and it can sometimes be hard to find places that cater both diets. So, in minority, I had to tag along several times to « typical portugese » restaurants where there were no options for me on the menu. However, Portuguese are REALLY nice, like shockingly nice for someone who lives in Paris. So, often, they’ll do everything they can to find you something to eat even if it’s a salad.
What I ended up eating in those places consisted in, you guessed it, salad (very well seasoned most of the time), veggie with rice kind of stew (really good as well), fries (classic vegan nightmare) and more salad. Nothing crazy but enough to keep me fed for the day.
My favorite place in the city had to be LX Factory. I really loved the vibe of the place, creative, open minded and sustainable. I bought a gorgeous pair of cork made vegan boots in an all cork shop, my mum got antics and vintage pieces in second hand shops, the book shop is simply insane and there are plenty of restaurants to cater every need with a strong emphasis on organic and local food.
Moreover, we didn’t get to see any as it was the christmas holidays but heard that concerts, workshops and activities often take place there, making it the perfect location to socialize in Lisbon !
Have you been to Lisbon, are there any adresses I should add to the list?