It’s almost impossible to walk the cobbled streets of Lisbon without feeling like you’re in a modern day fairy tale. The proximity to the sea means that you can’t go a city block without finding some of the post incredible seafood straight from the Mediterranean. And even though the city is struggling with an influx of tourism, you can easily break away from the tourist traps to find special, secluded spots.

To Stay

Lisbon is filled with beautiful boutique hotels and guest houses. I particularly love staying in these types of cozy accommodations because it gives you a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers and get an authentic feel for the city you’re visiting. Here are the two that I stayed in and couldn’t recommend more highly.

The view from our Casa de Patio apartment.

Garam Lisboa – The Garam Lisboa guesthouse is located in the Estrela district of Lisbon. The owners have decked out each room in simple and elegant Balinese décor that immediately transports you to a completely zen-like atmosphere. My favorite part of the experience was gathering around the kitchen table to share a communal breakfast with the rest of the guests. Copenhagen Coffee House is only a few steps away so you can beat your jet lag with a delicious European-style coffee in the morning.

Casa de Patio – Where Garam Lisboa has a bit more of a sophisticated, grown-up feel (no kids allowed!), Casa de Patio is perfect for a group of when you want to feel a bit more at home. Located in the centrally-located Santa Catarina neighborhood, they offer a range of apartments and guest houses overlooking a shared courtyard. Because they’re a part of the larger Shaidu group of guesthouses, they have an incredible staff and network to help make plans around Lisbon (and beyond).

To Eat

Lisbon may get a reputation for being one of the pricier European capitals, but it’s easy to have a great meal at any price. Seafood is obviously Lisbon’s key selling point, and you cannot leave Lisbon without inhaling a few succulent and flaky pasteis de nata. Here are three places for some of my favorite meals

Alma ($$$) – Alma is certainly on the spendier side, but it’s absolutely worthy of its two Michelin stars. Tucked into an unassuming side street (and around the corner from an Organii!), this spot beautifully marries traditional Portuguese dishes with a modern twist. Avoiding the frenzy that was attempting to get a dinner reservation, we snagged a table for lunch instead – managing to have almost the same dishes from the dinner menu at a much more reasonable price. I would also recommend the a la carte menu over the tempting prix fixe meal. The couple next to us looked practically war-weary by the time their final prix fixe dish came and the a la carte options come with a number of gratis bites to round out the meal.

Time Out Market ($-$$) – I was wary of this Instagram hotspot but it ended up being a repeat visit. The sprawling food hall is the perfect choice when you can’t decide what you want to eat or just want to sample a little of everything. Grab a friend, a bunch of small plates, and the mental fortitude to jockey for seats at some of the communal tables. Alternatively, you can pony up to one of the cocktail bars and treat your road-weary limbs to an Aperol spritz (or three…). Just try to resist post-tipple souvenir shopping and save the gift purchases for the more reasonably priced boutiques around Lisbon.

Cervejaria Ramiro Seafood ($$) – Come for the seafood, stay for the coin-operated beer machine. Or maybe vice versa. If seafood is on your mind, this is your spot. Head straight to the entrance where you generate a deli-style ticket for your seat. The tickets are generated by language, and you’ll hear a panoply of names and numbers being called out. While you wait, grab a beer from the coin-operated machine (bring change!) and wait to hear the magic words. The menu is based on seafood ingredient, not dish, and the norm appeared to be pointing out other people’s food to your waiter in a polite yet enthusiastic manner. The jumbo prawns and a massive heap of garlic bread to sop up the rich, smoky sauce were a table favorite.

To Do

Port Tasting – What vodka is to Russia and sake is to Japan, port is to Portugal. You’ve got two options when it comes to port tastings – a stroll through the city center with visits to multiple locations or a sit-down experience at a single spot. We chose the latter (mostly because my feet couldn’t handle any more walking) and we drank for three. straight. hours. Accompanied by a spread of indulgent local cheeses, we opted for multiple flights of white, tawny, and ruby varieties to really understand the complexity of port. By the time our server came out with his ‘special’ bottle to celebrate his last day on the job, I was a complete port convert. Hot tip: ibuprofen and a slow morning the next day.

Day trip to Cascais – If you can’t make it to Porto, consider Cascais. A brisk train ride west of Lisbon and you’re right in the heart of this seaside resort, with long beach promenades and historical buildings held-over from the town’s time as the summer retreat for Portuguese nobility.

Exploring the city – The best way to experience any city is of course to lace up your most comfortable pair of shoes and hoof it around town. With winding alleys and jeweled tiles shimmering on each and every building, there is so much to see before you even make it inside the countless museums and shops that Lisbon is known for. Better yet, take a tuk tuk ride up to the highest part of the city and let gravity guide you down to the waterfront. When the sun finally starts to set, a cold beer and soulful fado music at a cozy bar will cap off your day of exploring.

To Enjoy

Shopping at Principe Real – Each Lisbon neighborhood has a very distinct personality and flair. My bar-none favorite, however, was Principe Real. The shopping was absolutely next level and a stroll down Rua Dom Pedro V immediately transports you away from the throngs of tourists swarming the city center. My must-visit is the Embaixada Shopping Gallery, a 19th century palace filled with boutiques showing off high-end Portuguese brands (including Organic Bio). Just down the street is the high-end 21PR Concept Store, a boutique carrying a curated selection of clothing, jewelry, housewares, and more for the perfect souvenir. And once you’ve had your fill of retail therapy, a coffee in the Principe Real Garden is the perfect way to end the afternoon.

Shopping at Organii – Organii is a organic products and natural clothes shop based in Lisbon that has been around for 15(!) years. They have a beautifully curated range of skincare and cosmetics, with product lines for men and baby. I was introduced to some new favorites (hello ila spa), and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their excellent in-house line of skincare. They also have a facial spa tucked in the back of their Principe Real store that I was dying to try, read on!

Organii has multiple locations throughout Lisbon and Porto, but if you can only visit one I recommend the Principe Real location in the Embaixada Shopping Gallery.

Organic Facial – There is simply no better way to beat the wear and tear of jetlag like a spa visit. By some stroke of serendipity, there happened to be an opening at the Organii Spa with the fabulous facialist Margarida on the day I visited. The prices for the in-house Organii services are insanely reasonable, and I couldn’t resist booking the Organii Bio Skin Ebssencial facial that swapped steaming and extractions for a 15 minute massage (this should be a thing everywhere).

The Organii Bio Day Spa is located in their Principe Real location at PRAÇA DO PRÍNCIPE REAL, Nº 26. Hours are Mon-Sat 12PM-8PM, Sun 11AM-7PM.

LX Factory – When you want your first flavor of Lisbon, the LX Factory is a great place to start. An outdoor market filled with boutiques, food vendors, and galleries, we could have spent hours just wandering around and taking in the sights. In one building we managed to find a sustainable coffee house, a burlesque-themed escape room, and a gallery filled with impressionist art.

And there you have it – my favorite places in Lisbon! I hope you have a chance to fall in love with this magical city like I did. Have you been to Portugal? What have I missed? Already planning my next visit…