Life in Portugal
BY Bryan Van Gorder
September 13 2012 2:50 AM ET
How to get there:
From the U.S., TAP Portugal flies directly from Miami and Newark, N.J., to Lisbon. The buttoned-up staff and great service are worth the layover if you’re originating from another U.S. city. FlyTAP.com
Where to stay:
The Hotel Inspira Santa Marta is a reasonably affordable feng shui–inspired property near the main shopping area of Avenida da Liberdade that’s great for tourists and business travelers alike. However, if you are traveling with a companion, the glass-walled showers next to the bed are probably better suited for partners than platonics.
In Porto, stay at the InterContinental Porto-Palacio das Cardosas (ICHotelsGroup.com/InterContinental/en/gb/locations/porto), a recently renovated 18th-century palace that is both stately and romantic with its luxurious amenities, spectacular views of the Praça de Liberdade, and proximity to the city center. The staff members are also some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I’ve met during any of my travels.
Lisbon is known for its spectacular seafood, and Aura has a menu chock-full of deliciously modern maritime fare like the perfectly tender, succulently charred grilled octopus. Additionally, outdoor seating offers spectacular views of the surrounding Praça do Comércio square and the Tagus River. AuraLoungeCafe.com
In Porto, go to Tappas Caffe (TappasCaffe.com) and try the local favorite, the francesinha. Literally translated, francesinha means “little French girl” and is probably something eaten by anyone but. A riff on a croque monsieur, this sandwich usually includes wet-cured ham, linguiça, and a sausage or roasted meat on a piece of bread, all covered with gooey molten cheese and a thick tomato and beer sauce.
Also not to be missed:
For a local Lisboan libation, stop by the tiny Ginginha do Carmo near the base of the Elevador de Santa Justa for a shot of handcrafted cherry liqueur that tastes like the love child of Jägermeister and port. It’ll be the kick in the pants you need if you decide to take the stairs. GinginhaDoCarmo.blogspot.com
In Porto, head around the corner from the InterContinental to streets lined with unique shops like Arcádia Chocolates (Arcadia.pt), famous for its port wine confections, and the Mercearia das Flores (MerceariaDasFlores.com) filled with wines, cheeses, and a line of olive oil made by the owner’s family.
For more information on Lisbon, go to VisitLisboa.com.