Atlas’ Picks: The Best of Lisboa 2015

Best Bike Shop: Grémio’s Bike Shop (now Rcicla)

Avenida 24 de Julho, 86B, Santos
961 588 980
Daily, 10h – 20h

This is a very special place: part bike museum, part help-yourself repair shop, in a romantic open space (if you think bike gears are sexy, anyway), with a vegan café that has on tap one of Portugal’s first artisanal beers, Sant-Ana LX Brewery. (2017 UPDATE: The bike shop and rentals are still here, the cafe, alas, is not.) It’s the best deal in town for a bike rental: 8€, for a few hours or the whole day. If you’re looking to have your ride pimped or repaired you’ll get a good deal. Anywhere from 40€ – 100€ for a paint job. If you would rather be your own xchanic, they’ve got the parts you need to get back on the road (after you talk a little shop.)

Best Bitoque: Pastelaria O Prímo Basilio

Rua Andrade Corvo, 1A, Picoas
213 157 447
Mon – Sat, 7h – 21h

Everybody’s got their favorite corner cafe for a bitoque, but the votes are in and it’s Basilio by a nose. For €6,25 you can expect a nice cut of beef and a perfectly fried egg with a side of starch. Whatever magic happens when the rice mixes with the super-sauce has us coming back for more. As one of the few places that serves it without the obligatory side salad, they are basically saying: this is what you came for, so let’s get down to business. Great for lunch and an incredibly friendly staff. Other bitoque favorites include Solar do Bitoque in Cascais, O Satélite in Graça (recently closed!), and O Túnel in Santos-o-Velho.

Best Bookstore: Fyodor Books

fyodor books
Rua do Loureto, 13, S/L, Chiado
962 476 990
Daily, 12h30 – 21h

Atlas has already raved about the impressive collection of books in English and Portuguese (and other languages as well) in our blog Fyodor Books Meets the Press so its not surprising to us that it came out on top. Owners Paulo and Sara have a lust for literature and a knack for creating the perfect reading environment. Add visiting authors, artists,lecturers, and bookclubs to the mix and there you have it. Now that the cafe’s open, there’s no reason to go anywhere else to browse new and used titles at reasonable prices. Atlas does give a close second ranking to Ler Devagar in Alcântara if you’re not keen on shopping in Chiado.

Best Cheap Ceramics: Loiça ao Kilo

ceramics o kilo
Rua Capelo, 16, 1200-087, Chiado
215 984 813
Mon – Sat, 10am – 8pm; Sun, noon – 8pm

Pick out some Portuguese-made pitchers, plates, bowls, cups and more and pay by the kilo! The store is full of rejected items from well-known potters across the country. Usually these flaws are minor and unless you have a magnifying glass, chances are you won’t even notice it: a bubble in the glaze, a slightly smeared stamp on the bottom, you get the idea. Before you buy, check for un-fixable cracks if you plan to use the item to hold liquids. A great alternative to high-priced ceramic shops in the area for souvenirs and a good way to diversify your own kitchen cabinets.

Best Chinese Food: Mr. Lu

Rua António Pedro, 95, Arroios AND
Rua António Pereira Carrilho 18A, Arroios
213 520 613
Daily, 11h – 15h, 19h – 24h

Melts-in-your-mouth beef in a wok, expertly steamed dumplings, crispy crepes, and a hot and sour soup, or acida picante, that will turn your flu season on its ear.  These are the staples we crave from Mr Lu, though there is much more on the menu to excite the palette. You can’t refuse their fried ice cream to finish your meal even though you’re rarely capable of leaving much space. With a new second location, it’s easier to get a seat but it’s always best to call ahead to reserve a table – the word is out!

Best Chocolate Cake: Linha d’Água

best chocolate cake
Jardim Amália Rodrigues, Rua Marquês da Fronteira, Marquês de Pombal
213 814 327
Daily, 10h – 20h

It’s not for sure as there are hundreds of un-sampled chocolate cakes in Lisbon (oh no, Atlas has work to do) but as far as we can tell, this is the place to go for one of the finest in Lisbon. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s moist and uber-chocolatey and is served in a tranquil setting overlooking a shallow pond at the top of Parque Eduardo VII where ducks, gulls, and sparrows play. This arc-shaped modern cafe is a great reward for walking to the top of the hill- for the view and the slice.

Best Hidden Gem: Museu da Água

R. Alviela 12, 1170-012 Xabregas
218 100 215
Tue – Sat, 10h – 17h30 (closed for lunch from 12h30 – 13h30)

This small museum in teaches you about to the history of drinking water in Lisbon from Roman Aquaducts to steam-pumped pipes. This late 1800s building houses the former steam pumping station of Barbadinhos where you can learn about the city’s original fountains, where to find them, and how CML had a fetish for steampunk. Venture to the top floor to find the party room which could be perfect for a private function. That is, if you’re into brass fittings, gauges, pipes, and grates with loads of private nooks and crannies where couples can blow off some steam of their own.

Best Irish Pub: O’Gilin’s Irish Pub

valid irish pub
Rua dos Remolares, 8 – 10,1200-371, Cais do Sodré
213 421 899
Daily, 10h – 2h

Lisbon’s oldest Irish Pub is the perfect place to pop in when there’s no plan. They serve a nicely poured pint of Guinness and Kilkenny if that’s your thing – or if it’s whiskey you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. The staff is super-friendly and helpful, and always game for a laugh. Their kitchen offers both bar snacks and full meals, and for us Americans with our affinity for nachos and chicken wings, it’s a must-do. Be nice to the staff- they won’t put up with a bad attitude or foul-mouthed stumbling.

Best Mexican Restaurant: Sabor a Mexico (UPDATE: closed in 2016…)

mexican restaurant
R. Olivença 3, Costa da Caparica
962 366 563
Tue – Sun, 12h – 16h, 19h – 23h

If you enjoy long beautiful beaches that go on for miles, chances are you have already been to Costa da Caparica. There’s lots to choose from over there, but Atlas recommends stepping off the boardwalk and into town for a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine and hand-made margaritas in a variety of flavors. These guys know what they’re doing. Remember, in Mexico the knife and fork are more for show while eating loaded nachos, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Atlas also recommends Taqueria Pistola y Corazon if you are looking for something more local.

Best Mixmaster: Francisco

O Cantinho da Saudade
Rua Ribeira Nova, 12, Cais do Sodré
916 225 600
Tue – Sun, 12h – 16h, 19h – 23h

If you like the feel of a tasca and you like expertly-made cocktails with twists of basil, dabs of caraway seeds, fresh maracuja halves, or homemade ginger reductions, let Francisco work his magic behind the counter. He will most likely consult with you and your taste buds before the pour. His love for collecting new flavors and experimenting with herbs and unexpected combinations is what makes him so good— he’s got passion in his pours and approaches drink-making as a master chef approaches dinner.

Best Place for a Walk: Quinta da Regaleira

2710-567, Sintra
219 106 650
Daily, 10 – 5h30

A UNESCO World Heritage site and a setting of Polanksi’s The Ninth Gate isn’t all this quinta has to offer. Tunnels, wells, hidden doors, and underwater caverns take you in, around, and through these mason-designed grounds, leading you past obscure symbols and intricate carvings along the way. These incredibly executed designs tell a story of the secret societies of years past. They used the park as a sketchpad of one crazy idea after the next, all of which came together to give the visitor a unique and humbling experience that withstands the test of time. Well worth the trek to Sintra and should not be missed no matter what the weather might have in store.

Best Seafood Restaurant: Zapata

R. do Poço dos Negros 47, São Bento
213 908 942
Daily, 11h – 2h

Not that there aren’t plenty of fantastic places to have the day’s catch, but Zapata is seafood done better. It doesn’t look like much at first glance, but once you sit down with a bottle of wine, you get it. Their focus is on the food. If you ask, they’ll bring you the head, the cheek, the tail, anything you want (of course, you have to ask for it in Portuguese, so be prepared).
Perfect percebes, beautiful bacalhau, damn good dourada, whatever your fancy, they’ll do it right. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but well worth it. Your catch is always fresh and your belly’s always happy.

Best Skiing: Serra da Estrela

Vodafone Ski Resort
Rua da Estrada Nacional 339, Covilhã
Daily, 9h – 5h

Not only is it the best, it’s the only one. The drive up the mountain from Covilhã is picture perfect, with huge boulders (climb-able when there’s no snow!) Day passes during the week are dirt cheap, but don’t get too excited if there isn’t much snow: there are really only about five beginner runs aided by snow machines. Bored at the top? Check out the honey, cheese, chouriço, and pontufas at the iconic Torre mercado. Hungry after a short day of skiing? Try Taberna a Laranjinha for a delicious dinner at the base of the mountain, and don’t forget to stop at the Adega de Covilhã on your way out of town.

Best Spot for an Affair: O Galeto

Av. da República 14, 1050-191, Saldanha
213 560 269
Daily, 7h30 – 3h30

Sitting side-by-side and playing it safe or taking a corner spot for a more romantic interlude, this place won’t judge you. The waiters are as old as the restaurant itself and no matter how many times you eat there, the staff always seems concerned with maintaining anonymity on both sides of the counter. Go cheap with a tosta mista or a damn good chocolate mousse, or splurge and go for the beef tartaro and watch as your waiter expertly mixes all the sauces, egg, and pickle bits into a perfect mound. Go for the food, the footie match, or the affair, there’s something for everyone at Galeto.

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