Vila Joya Restaurant in the Algarve: Portugal’s #1 Gourmet Destination
Vila Joya Restaurant in Portugal: Two-Michelin-Star Oceanfront Dining
The Restaurant at Vila Joya: The Algarve's Culinary Jewel
Portugal's sunny southern coastal region, the Algarve, is Western Europe's great-value destination. Vila Joya, a world-renowned restaurant, is here. Plus, the Algarve delivers:
• Golden-sand pristine beaches
• Delightful hotels, many set in vintage mansions
• Championship oceanfront golf courses
• And ocean-fresh dining, including…
One of the Algarve's Most Upscale Names: Vila Joya
In the Algarve's historic town of Albufeira, 40 minutes from Faro airport, is the deluxe, 28-suite Vila Joya inn and restaurant.
• Vila Joya has been owned by Dr. Klaus Jung since 1978 (and named for his daughter Joy)
• It has an independent boutique hotel spirit, and is decidedly un-corporate
• See Luxury Travel's story about the Vila Joya hotel
Elite Gourmet Dining at Vila Joya
Vila Joya's restaurant is famous amongst European foodies.
• Why? It's one of three restaurants in Portugal only with two Michelin stars
• Here, you will experience culinary arts of the highest order, at a high-end price
• Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served
• Getaway deals include Vila Joya's Dream & Dine: three hotel nights, a lunch, two dinners
The Elegant Look and Feel of Vila Joya Restaurant
Vila Joya Restaurant exudes style and refinement.
• Its mesmerizing view: the Atlantic Ocean
• Its décor: subdued and evocative, with subtle swirls and arches that recall the Algarve's long-gone era of Moorish rule
• The two indoor dining rooms feature antique tijoleira terra cotta floors, vaulted ceilings, a stone fireplace, and a massive marble table laden with buffet choices at breakfast
• In season, meals are served on the umbrella-dotted ocean terrace
Culinary Kudos for Vila Joya
Chef Dieter Koschina, a native of Vienna, has led Vila Joya's kitchen since 1991.
• Vila Joya was awarded its first Michelin star in 1995 and its second (still in effect) in 1999
• The restaurant is honored by many other awards, such as inclusion in the influential San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World
Chef Koschina's Style
The Austrian chef's assured approach: he applies classic European cooking techniques to Algarvian and Portuguese ingredients, putting a creative spin on every recipe
• You may think you've eaten a dish before, but it will taste exciting and new
Chef Koschina's Menu at Vila Joya
Vila Joya's menu includes both prix fixe and a la carte choices.
• Diners can order the six-course chef’s dégustation (tasting) menu at lunch and dinner
• Thinking of a weekend reservation? The extravagant, eight-course, prix fixe “Gala Menu” dinner is served on Thursdays only
Some Sample Tastes at Vila Joya Restaurant
At my dinner, the excitement kicked off immediately. Luscious amuses-bouches included:
• Smoked Norwegian salmon on a potato waffle with Iranian caviar (a perfect bite)
• Duck liver mousse with passion fruit, sandwiched between two crunchy macarons
• Beef tartare in a crispy pastry shell
Some amazing appetizers I tasted:
• Hamachi sparked with bergamot citrus oil and wasabi, caressed by cauliflower purée
• John Dory fish in a pumpkin-seed crust, pooled in a cilantro-orange infusion
• Potato gnocchi in intense tomato broth, with octopus and broccolini
These entrées were standouts:
• Turbot with wild morels and naturally sweet green peas
• Duck ravioli with braised endive and a touch of raspberries
• Port wine-sauced pigeon (squab) from the Miéral poultry farm in the French Alps
Vila Joya diners look forward to dessert, like:
• Mango, coconut, and tapioca: Thailand on a plate
• Mascarpone cream with pear and cardamom-coffee ice cream
Exceptional Service at Vila Joya
Service at Vila Joya was engaged yet discreet: true luxury hospitality service.
• I could tell that Paulo Luz, the tuxedoed maître d’hôtel, is a leader, so often absent in restaurant dining rooms
• Servers, clad in black-sashed Moorish trousers, speak English and are extremely knowledgeable about the menu
• Dishes arrive at the exact right moment, synchronized with balletic flair
An Oenophile’s Dream Wine Cellar
Vila Joya’s cutting-edge, water-cooled wine cellar is a wonder.
• The 12,000-bottle collection is Portuguese-centric, with some international labels
• All of Portugal’s major wine regions are featured: Douro, Alentejo, Dão, the Algarve
• Vila Joya's Arnauld Vallet was named 2012 Sommelier of the Year by Portugal's Wine Magazine
• You can request a tour or arrange a private, candlelit dinner in Vila Joya’s wine cellar
Wines to Consider at Vila Joya
• Quinta do Crasto Reserve, a 2006 red blend from the Douro, subtle and multi-layered
• Colinas sparkling white wine, made from Portugal’s Baga grape, equaled a fine Champagne
Find Out More
• Vila Joya Restaurant website
• Vila Joya reservations (essential)
• On Facebook
• On Twitter
• Luxury Travel's quick guide to the Algarve
• Visit Portugal's Algarve info
As is common in the travel industry, the Guest Author was provided with a complimentary dinner in order to describe it. For details, see our site's Ethics Policy.
Best Day Trips From Lisbon
01 of 04
The Best Excursions From the Portuguese Capital
Lisbon is well situated roughly in the middle of the Portuguese coast and, with good train and bus connections, is a good place to base yourself for exploring central Portugal.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular day trips from Lisbon.
Can You Go to Porto as a Day Trip From Lisbon?
The place everyone most wants to visit from Lisbon is perhaps the most awkward, due to the two-and-a-half-hour train ride, but connections to Porto are easy so it is quite doable.
The Golden Triangle of Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca
A more realistic day trip (or trips) is the sights to the west of Lisbon, especially Sintra. Transport connections are good between all of these sights, so you can easily combine two or even three in a day.
Evora and Other Wine Regions in Portugal
Evora is a world heritage site, with Roman ruins and a chilling bone chapel (Capela dos Ossos). And, as it is situated in the Alentejo wine region, there are also some great wineries to visit too.
Both train and bus take around 90 minutes to get to Evora from Lisbon.
North From Lisbon: Fatima, Obidos, Nazare, Batalha, and Coimbra
Fatima is an important Catholic pilgrimage site due to reports of the apparition of the Virgin Mary back in 1917. The main attraction is the Sanctuary of Fatima, which commemorates the reported event.
Fatima is often combined with a tour of some other religious sights in the area.
The university town of Coimbra has a wonderfully idiosyncratic student tradition (take a walking tour to learn about it). It takes just an hour and a half to get to Coimbra by train from Lisbon.
Join the Dots
Fatima and Coimbra are in the same direction, but as there is no train station, you'd need to travel by bus to include Fatima
You'd be ill-advised to visit both Fatima and Coimbra in a day. but if you are traveling light, Fatima could be a convenient stepping stone to Coimbra, with the logical next step being onward to Porto. Suddenly, there's an itinerary emerging!Continue to 2 of 4 below.
02 of 04
How to Get From Lisbon to Sintra, Cascais, Estoril, and Cabo da Roca
Some of the best sights outside Lisbon are so close to the capital and to each other that they can be visited all in a single day.
What to See and Do in Each
- Sintra The three palaces of Sintra and the area's natural parks are the Lisbon region's biggest attractions.
- Cascais A lively beach town, famous for its high-society shenanigans during the early 20th century.
- Estoril A slightly quieter beach town with a picturesque castle.
- Cabo da Roca The most westerly point in Portugal, Europe, and Eurasia.
How to Get from Lisbon to…
The train from Lisbon to Sintra takes about 40 minutes from the Rossio Station and costs about 5€ for a round trip.
- Cascais and Estoril
Take the scenic train line from the Cais do Sodre Station to both destinations. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs under 2.50€.
- Cabo da Roca
Take the 403 bus from either Cascais or Sintra. Buses run every hour.
All buses are operated by Scotturb, while train info is available at Cp.pt.
How Many Could You (and Should You) Visit in One Day?
Sintra is, for a many, a day trip in itself. But if you tend to tire easily and would prefer to combine your trip with a few hours at the beach, you can easily combine it with some time in Cascais or Estoril. Alternatively, an excursion to Cabo da Roca is a good way to break up your day.
If you're on a beach vacation, you'll probably choose Estoril or Cascais as your base and perhaps head over to the other for a change of scene (or to check out Cascais' more extensive nightlife), which is easy by bus, taxi or (during daylight hours) walking.
But three or four in a day? There is little point in packing two beach towns into such a long day, so drop Estoril. But even then, you'll be hard-pressed to make such a trip by yourself.
How to Travel Between Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca
The 403 bus here is your friend. It departs hourly, going from Sintra to Cascais via Cabo da Roca and takes around an hour. If you're in a hurry, the 417 bus misses out the cape but gets you between Sintra and Cascais in half the time.
Estoril to Cascais and Sintra
Estoril and Cascais are just five minutes apart by train (you can even walk). To get from Estoril to Sintra, take the 418 bus.Continue to 3 of 4 below.
03 of 04
Fatima, Obidos, Nazare, Batalha
On this page, you'll find transport information for getting from Lisbon to Fatima, Obidos, and Nazare by guided tour, bus, train, and car.
Lisbon to Obidos
The bus takes one hour from Lisboa-Campo Grande. Check schedules at Rodotejo.
Lisbon to Fatima
The bus from Lisbon to Fatima takes 1h30 and costs about 10€ each way. Book from Rede Expressos .
The closest train station is 10 km outside the town and requires a bus transfer.
There are regular buses by Rede Expressos to Nazare from Lisbon, taking around two hours.
Connecting up These Sights
Bus connections are poor or impossible between these sights, so your only option is a guided tour or driving.
Guided Tour: There are many guided tours from Lisbon to Fatima. Some take you directly to Fatima or you can combine other sites with Fatima.
By Car: It takes around an hour to get from Lisbon to Obidos. The onward trip to Fatima – via Nazare – takes a little over an hour. The return journey to Lisbon then takes around an hour and a half. Better still, finish your day in Coimbra, a 50-minute drive from Fatima.Continue to 4 of 4 below.
04 of 04
Visiting Evora From Lisbon
Looking to visit Portugal's Alentejo wine region? Then you'll most likely want to head to Evora, the capital.
Though Evora is a little further from Lisbon than most Day Trips from the Portuguese capital, it is still well connected by both bus and train, making it a popular destination for sampling Portugal's under-appreciated wines.
Evora en Route From Spain to Lisbon
If you are coming into Portugal from Spain, you may prefer to stop in Evora before making your way to Lisbon. It takes just over an hour from Badajoz or two hours from Merida. Note that Portugal is in a different time zone to Spain, which may mess with some booking websites' travel time estimates.
Best Way to Travel Between Lisbon and Evora
The bus and train take a similar amount of time and cost about the same. The train will be more comfortable, but if you are staying close to the bus station, it may be more convenient to just take the bus.
Bear in mind that if you want to visit a winery, it will be much easier to go by guided tour.
Lisbon to Evora by Guided Tour
There are guided tours from Lisbon to Evora. The tour should include a visit to the chilling Chapel of Bones in the St. Francis Church, as well as sights such as the Cathedral of Évora, the Roman Temple, and the Almendres Cromlech..
If you are staying in Evora for a few days, you may prefer to do a tour that begins in the city.
Lisbon to Evora by Train and Bus
The train ride from Lisbon to Evora takes 1h30 and costs about 15€ one way.
The bus from Lisbon to Evora takes a bit over 1h30 and costs about 20€ round trip (or around 10€ one way). Book from Rede Expressos.
Lisbon to Evora by Car
The 130 km drive from Lisbon to Evora takes about one-and-a-half hours.
How to Get from Lisbon to Porto
Porto and Lisbon are two of the largest cities in Portugal and serve as natural borders for the north and south end of what's known as the central region of the country. Both of these cities should be part of any adventure on the Iberian Peninsula, especially considering that transportation between Porto and Lisbon is quick, easy, and cheap.
You can get from Lisbon to Porto by bus, train, car, or airline, but each method of transport comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, which include varying costs, travel times, and luggage limits. Choosing the best method for your itinerary, then, comes down to how long you have to spend in Portugal, how much you've budgeted for travel, and your personal travel needs.
Best Option: Train or Bus
There isn't much of a difference in prices between the bus and train, but the train makes a considerably quicker trip. Since both buses and trains run continually between Lisbon and Porto all day long, you can easily make a day trip from Lisbon with either method. Additionally, neither of these methods typically enforce baggage limitations, so you are free to travel with as much luggage as you'd like (within reason).
If you're traveling on Rail Europe from Lisbon, trains will depart from Santa Apolonia and Oriente train stations and cost between 24 and 33 euro depending on the number of stops on the route. Santa Apolonia is the more central station and more likely to be where you want to get the train from, though Oriente is closer to Lisbon airport. If you're staying closer to the train station, this option is definitely your best choice for traveling to Porto.
On the other hand, the Rede Expressos bus from Lisbon to Porto takes about three hours and 30 minutes and costs about 20 euro; there are buses every hour or half hour throughout the day. The bus station, called Sete Rios, is a little to the north of the city. In most cases, it'll be easier to get to the train station unless you're staying nearby.
Other Options: Driving and Flying
While taking a bus or train may save you time and money, the flexibility of driving and the convenience of flying may benefit your itinerary more, depending on what you hope to experience on your travels.
Renting a car can be rather expensive, especially if you are planning a long road trip, and you'll need to acquire an International Driver's Permit to operate a vehicle overseas. However, you'll also be able to add stops like the university town of Coimbra along the way between Porto and Lisbon. The drive is approximately 312 kilometers (194 miles) and takes just under three hours without traffic.
There are flights from Lisbon to Porto but they aren't really worth the more-than-double cost compared to trains or buses. Although flights only take an hour to complete and you can purchase tickets for as little as 80 euros, check-in time and waiting for your luggage at the airport means you'll wind up spending just as much time in transit by flying.
Staying in Porto
Whatever method of transit you choose, you may wind up loving Porto so much you decide to spend extra time in the city instead of making a day trip out of your adventure.
To get the most out of a multi-day trip, consider booking a hotel in Porto that's close to Sao Bento station, where you'll have better access to the city center. However, if you just want to spend one extra night in the city, it's best to get accommodations near the Campanha train station to make a quick exit the next morning.
Great Destinations Between Porto and Lisbon
If you do choose to drive (or get a bus that makes several stops along the way), you should consider adding some of the smaller cities and towns in Portugal to your travel itinerary. There are many great destinations between Porto and Lisbon including Obidos, a town completely surrounded by massive walls; Batalha, home of the gothic-style Batalha Monastery, and the Berlengas Islands, which house the Fort of São João Baptista.
Where to Stay in Lisbon: The City’s 5 Best Neighborhoods
01 of 06
Lisbon’s Best Neighborhoods
Lisbon is one of Western Europe’s most beautiful capitals, and almost all of its attractions lie within a relatively small downtown area. As long as you don’t mind the hills, it’s a very strollable city, which lets you be more flexible about the neighborhood you choose to stay in.
Whether you’re looking for boutique shopping, pumping nightlife, quality restaurants or a laid-back atmosphere, you can have it on your doorstep, yet still, never need to catch a cab or metro until it’s time to head back to the airport. These are the five best neighborhoods for visitors to Lisbon.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Alfama and Graça
The oldest neighborhoods in the city, Alfama, and Graça are full of the narrow, winding streets that give central Lisbon much of its charm. Laundry hangs outside overhead windows, soulful fado music emerges from darkened bars, and life carries on for locals here much as it has done for decades.
While the two neighborhoods seamlessly combine, Graça refers to the upper area around Lisbon’s famous castle, while Alfama tumbles down the hill towards the river. Both are atmospheric and fascinating in their own right, although you’ll get better water views near the top.
It’s a good place to buy local crafts and sample traditional Portuguese dishes, and you’ll often smell sardines grilling long before you spot them.
The roads are steep, even by Lisbon standards, so pack a good pair of walking shoes if you’re staying here. The maze of streets makes navigation difficult, but on the upside, also keeps most vehicles away. Parking spaces are almost non-existent, so don’t bother renting a car.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
If it’s shopping you’re after, look no further than the sophisticated Chiado neighborhood. It’s Lisbon’s answer to Fifth Avenue or Oxford Street, full of high-end local and international stores, and you could easily spend a day or two (and your entire trip budget) there.
When you need to take a break from retail therapy, linger over an espresso and pastel de nata in one of the area’s luxurious cafes, or visit the oldest bookstore in the world. In the evening, take in a lengthy dinner and a show without leaving the neighborhood – Chiado houses some of the fanciest restaurants in the city, and is home to Lisbon’s theater district.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Literally “Upper City”, Bairro Alto sits a little uphill of Chiado and is a popular spot for the late-night crowd enjoying Lisbon’s bustling nightlife. This means it can be noisy, especially on weekends. Rather than heading to bed early, this is the place to mix with the locals in one of the hundreds of nearby restaurants and bars.
There are plenty of fado music spots to be found in Bairro Alto, although like Alfama, the best of it tends to be found in smaller places that don’t charge entry fees or require set meals. It’s a colorful and popular part of town, still close to the river and attractions, while trains from nearby Cais do Sodre station will whisk you quickly to Belem or Cascais for a day trip.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Less than a 10-minute walk from Bairro Alto, Príncipe Real has a noticeably different feel. Calmer and quieter, with more green space and a residential feel, it’s also home to many boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants. The city’s Botanic Gardens and Museum of Natural History and Science can also be found here.
The heart of the neighborhood is Jardim do Príncipe Real, a small, tree-lined park with kiosks offering drinks and snacks to patrons at the outdoor tables. For a spectacular view over the city and river, head to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, which has a couple of permanent cafes and regular market stalls selling food, wine, souvenirs and more.
Some of the city’s best restaurants can be found here, both on the main road and tucked away down several of the side streets. There’s easy access to two metro lines if you need them, but you probably won’t – it’s still just a 20 minute downhill walk to the river.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Campo de Ourique
For a more local, family atmosphere, head to Campo de Ourique. It’s a little further from downtown than the other neighborhoods and trades that proximity for green space and a lack of crowds. Here, you’ll find many top-quality bakeries and restaurants, offering Portuguese and international food at much better value than the tourist-oriented places closer to the water.
For a smaller, more intimate version of the famous Time Out market, check out the Mercado de Campo de Ourique instead, or enjoy a beer or light meal at the kiosk in Jardim Teófilo Braga, the small park at the heart of the neighborhood.
It’s hard to miss the Basílica da Estrela, an ornate 18th-century church on the edge of the Jardim da Estrela. In summer, make like the locals, pack a picnic and sunbathe on the inviting grass of this large park.
7 Classic Lisbon Dishes (And Where to Try Them)
01 of 07
The most well-known dish is a small, oily and delicious fish that’s impossible to ignore during summer months. The humble sardine is ubiquitous in Lisbon, appearing on everything from flags to murals, and in every souvenir stand you walk past.
Sardine season runs from June to September, when the fish are at their fattest and tastiest. Outside this time, they’ll likely be from a can or the freezer, not fresh from the market.
As with the rest of their dishes, Lisbonites don’t like to over-complicate their sardinhas. Typically cooked over a charcoal grill, the fish is served whole, with a little salt and olive oil, and perhaps a side of boiled potatoes or bread. It doesn’t sound like much, but your taste buds will beg to differ.
If you visit in June, you’ll coincide with the sardine festival that honors Lisbon’s patron saint. Locals set up simple seats and tables, alongside impromptu grills to cook for passers-by, and the city fills with the smell of grilling fish.
Every evening and weekend throughout the month, the Alfama neighborhood teems with hungry locals and tourists alike. Find a table if you can, or just order sardines and beer from the sidewalk vendors and eat wherever you can find a space.
The biggest night of the year is June 12th, the eve of Saint Antonio’s official day. The locals party through til morning, and the sardines and beer never run out!
02 of 07
It’s said you could cook salted cod differently every day of the year in Portugal without running out of recipes, and restaurant menus in Lisbon give no reason to doubt that statistic. Invented by sailors looking to preserve their catch on the long journey home from north Atlantic fishing grounds, you’ll find bacalhau absolutely everywhere.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming all cod dishes are similar. With so many ways to use this fish, you’ll find it in everything from stews to scrambles, as well as being boiled and served alongside potatoes and vegetables.
Typical variations worth seeking out include bacalhau a bras, where cod and potatoes are shredded and scrambled with onions, eggs, olives and parsley, and pastéis de bacalhau, where the same ingredients are fried into crispy balls or cakes, much like a croquette.
Keep an eye on menus as you’re wandering round the city, especially outside local, family-run restaurants. It’s hard to find a bad bacalhau dish, so it’s worth taking a seat even if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get ahead of time!
03 of 07
Often available as both starter and main course, chicken giblets typically arrive in a rich, delicious stew of tomato, onion and garlic. You’ll find them throughout Lisbon and the rest of the country, in both high-end restaurants and more modest establishments.
Don’t be put off by the contents – despite gizzards, livers and hearts not appearing on most restaurant menus in the United States, they’re perfectly safe and delicious to eat. The biggest danger is likely to be to your face, fingers or the tablecloth, as they’ll all end up covered in sauce by the end of your plate of pipis.
04 of 07
Like Spain to the east, Portugal has a fine tradition of small, tasty snacks to line the stomach with while drinking. Designed to be shared, petiscos come in endless varieties, with one of the more interesting options being a plate of small snails.
Usually cooked in a broth of garlic, onions, tomatoes and herbs, heaped bowls of the mollusc are a common sight in Lisbon during warmer times of the year. Not as large as France’s more-famous escargot, they’re designed to be picked out of their shells with a toothpick and eaten in a single bite.
Look for the word caracóis as you pass small cafes and bars, or just check out what the patrons are eating. A table full of beers, snails and noisy conversation is your cue to head inside.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Perfected by grandmothers over many generations, caldo verde is about as Portuguese as it gets. This small bowl of soup rarely costs more than a couple of euros, and while it’s the perfect comfort food during the short Lisbon winter, it’s equally delicious at other times of year if you can find it.
The ingredients are few and simple – kale, onions, potato, garlic and olive oil – but I’ve never had two bowls taste exactly the same. You’ll typically get a few slices of pork sausage thrown in, and as with many other dishes in Portugal, a side of corn bread.
It’s so common that it’s not always listed by name on restaurant menus, often just called sopa or sopa do dia (soup of the day). Ask if you’re not sure what kind of soup you’re going to get, although it’ll likely be very tasty regardless.
06 of 07
Speaking of comfort foods, if you’re after a meal that’ll leave you warm and completely stuffed, look no further than Portuguese cozido (stew).
It’s very much a winter dish, and if you’re not a meat lover, you’d be advised to choose something else on the menu. Long before Portland and other hipster cities started boasting of nose-to-tail dining, the Portuguese were using every part of whichever animals they could get their hands on.
You’ll get the standard accompaniment of boiled vegetables and potatoes, or potentially rice, along with pork, chicken and beef. Any part of the animal could find its way onto your overloaded plate.
This stew is found all over the country, but with many regional variations, the version you’ll have in Lisbon could be very different to what you’ll find elsewhere.
Because it’s such a traditional family dish, don’t expect to find it on offer in tourist places or fancy restaurants. You’ll need to head somewhere much more local, likely outside the downtown area, to track it down.
07 of 07
Portugal’s most famous dessert, pastel de nata, has spread around the world, but it’s a few miles from downtown Lisbon that you’ll find the original. Monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém had been making the pastry in the 1700s, and sold the recipe to a local sugar refinery in the 1830s. The refinery opened a shop to sell pastais de Belém to the public soon after, and the rest is history.
If you choose to buy your firm, sugary egg tart from its original location at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, expect a long wait (the takeout line is somewhat shorter). You’ll also see them in literally every single bakery in Lisbon, but quality does tend to vary.
If you don’t want to wait forever for your dessert, or aren’t taking a day trip to Belém, check out Pastelaria Aloma instead for an excellent version of the sweet treat. Alternatively, ask any local where they’d buy from – they’re guaranteed to have a strong opinion on the subject!
No matter where you get them, don’t expect to pay more than a euro or two… although beware, you’re highly unlikely to be able to get away with eating just one!
The Best Places to Try Ginjinha in Lisbon
01 of 09
Credited with being the first bar in the world where you could buy ginjinha, A Ginjinha is easy to find. Just off Rossio square, in Largo São Domingos, this tiny traditional establishment dates back to around 1840, and only holds a handful of people.
As with all the best ginjinha bars, expect to stand outside while you drink, and watch your feet—there'll be cherry stones all around! It's popular with locals and tourists alike, so don't be surprised if there's a bit of a wait.
02 of 09
Ginjinha Sem Rival
Set up in direct competition only a few yards down the road, Ginjinha Sem Rival is a good alternative if A Ginjinha looks too busy. You'll pay similar prices to elsewhere in the tourist neighborhoods, around 1.40 euros, to drink in this historic old building, or outside on the street.
The line can get long at times, but the bar staff is quick and efficient, so you should only need to wait a minute or two.
03 of 09
Ginjinha do Carmo
Located at the base of the stairs outside Rossio train station, Ginjinha do Carmo is another of those small, charming bars that Lisbon seems to specialize in.
Taking a cue from the ginjinha sellers in the town of Óbidos, for a few extra cents you can have your drink in an edible chocolate cup instead of the traditional glass or plastic. It's well worth trying it this way at least once!
Once you've had your fill of the sweet, sticky liqueur, the bar also has a small range of wine, beer and soft drinks to encourage you to linger a while longer.
04 of 09
Os Amigos Da Severa
Mouraria, the old Moorish quarter of Lisbon, is rapidly transforming from a run-down neighborhood to an interesting and vibrant alternative to the main tourist spots nearby. If your wanderings take you into these narrow streets behind Martim Moniz square, take the time to stop in for a ginjinha at Os Amigos Da Severa.
Away from the crowds, you'll get a quieter, more personal experience, with friendly, unhurried bar staff and, most likely, a group of older locals to chat to while you drink. The hardest part will be tearing yourself away to keep exploring the city!Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Ginjinha da Sé
Sitting, as the name suggests, just down the road from Lisbon's sé (cathedral), Ginjinha da Sé is the place to go if you're after good food with your tasting. The meat and cheese board is particularly popular.
Don't worry if there's no room inside, as one of the outside tables—or even just sitting on a chair along the wall—is the place to be on a warm evening anyway.
With excellent service, a range of beers and wines to accompany your meal, and a glass or two of ginjinha to finish things off, a great night is all but guaranteed.
06 of 09
O Cantinho Da Rute
If you're after proof that ginjinha and small plates of food are a great combination, look no further than O Cantinho Da Rute a little further up the street.
Sit down with the locals, and order your liqueur along with a few tapas. If you're a meat eater, you can't skip the chouriço sausage, cooked at your table to add to the experience.
With friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere, it's the kind of place where you stop for a quick drink and emerge several hours later wondering where the night has gone. Although maybe that's just the ginja.
07 of 09
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
The Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is one of Lisbon's best viewpoints, at the top of the hill where the neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Principe Real collide. With panoramic views across the city, it's the perfect place to linger and take in the sights—and several food and drink stands regularly set up to help you do just that.
While the ginjinha you buy from one of these kiosks may not be the absolute cheapest or highest quality you can find in the city, the views and atmosphere on a warm summer evening are unbeatable.
08 of 09
Ginja Com Elas
The TimeOut Market food hall in Cais do Sodre has become one of the must-visit attractions in Lisbon since it opened, but don't rush away as soon as you've finished exploring its cavernous interior.
Almost alongside sits Ginja Com Elas, whose knowledgeable owner runs an old-school bar specializing in the famous liqueur. There's also a range of wines available if you've hit your sugar limit for the day, plus a selection of hot and cold snacks.
Despite the name, you're welcome to ask for your ginjinha without the berry if you'd prefer!Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Ginjinha Das Gaveas
For a non-touristy experience in the heart of Lisbon's tourist zone, seek out Ginjinha Das Gaveas. Only a few yards uphill from bustling Camões Square, this small, dark bar is easy to miss.
Once you've found it, though, you'll be glad you made the effort. Grab one of the few tables, and be sure to try the smooth house ginjinha before moving onto wine or cocktails. It's a great place to start or end a night out in Bairro Alto.
4 Great Day Trips to Take From Lisbon
01 of 05
From Colorful Laneways to Beautiful Beaches
While the Portuguese capital offers more than enough to keep visitors entertained, venturing even a little outside it brings rich rewards. From secret tunnels to raging surf, fishing villages to Roman ruins and more, these are some of the best day trips you can take from Lisbon.
All of these destinations can be easily reached by public transport within 90 minutes, thanks to an efficient, inexpensive bus and train network. As always, though, renting a car gives extra comfort and flexibility.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
Undoubtedly the most popular day trip from Lisbon, Sintra’s UNESCO World Heritage status is well-deserved. While the most popular attraction is the Palácio de Pena, a former summer palace for the royal family that bears a surprising resemblance to a wedding cake, there’s much more to Sintra and its surroundings than that.
Both the Palácio Nacional de Sintra and Castelo dos Mouros are impressive in their own right, with sweeping views and fewer visitors than the bustling Pena Palace.
Quinta da Regaleira is a must-visit. This eclectic palace and gardens sit on the edge of town, crammed full of Masonic symbols, lakes, waterfalls, secret tunnels and more. In the hills above, the Convento dos Capuchos is a stark contrast, the former home of Franciscan monks who avoided all creature comforts.
Trails cross the forests and mountains surrounding the town, and hiking up to the hilltop palaces is a peaceful alternative to the taxis and tuk-tuks offering rides. It’s also not far to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. The view is impressive at any time of day, but if you can, try to visit the lighthouse there at the end of the day to take in the spectacular sunsets.
Suburban trains run to and from downtown Lisbon all day, or it’s a half-hour drive along the A37 motorway. Visiting on mid-week mornings helps avoid the worst of the crowds.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05
If you’re looking for a beach break, check out the former fishing village of Cascais. It’s transformed into a vacation spot for Lisbon locals and international visitors alike in recent years, so can get busy. Don’t expect much space to yourself on the main beaches during summer weekends!
Fortunately, it’s easy to take a taxi to quieter patches of sand like Praia do Guincho further along the coast if things get too crowded. You can also rent city bikes for free (with ID) to explore the coastline via a dedicated cycle path.
Once you’ve tired of the sunshine, Cascais has plenty of excellent seafood and other restaurants, as well as souvenir and other shopping options that differ from those in the capital. Fishermen still mend nets and sell their catch in the harbor, and the town retains its laid-back vibe, especially outside the summer peak.
Cascais sits at the end of one of the suburban train lines, with services from Cais do Sodré every 20-30 minutes throughout the day. It’s also an easy half-hour drive from Lisbon along the N6 or A5, although parking can be a challenge.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05
Around an hour and a half from Lisbon by bus or train, Évora is a historical and gastronomic delight. The town dates back to Celtic times, but it was the Romans and later rulers who left the most visible marks.
The remains of the Templo romano de Évora is the most famous attraction, standing on a raised platform in one of the town squares. A section of the original city wall also still remains intact in the current city center and the towering arches of a medieval aqueduct stretch from the downtown area for nearly six miles through the countryside. A signposted walking path runs alongside or near the aqueduct and is an ideal way to see a little of rural Portugal.
Attached to the bright-white Igreja de São Francisco, a church worth seeing in its own right, is the macabre Capela dos Ossos. Literally the ‘chapel of bones,’ this small chapel is covered from floor to ceiling with thousands of bones exhumed from local cemeteries.
The city’s cathedral is also worth the visit, particularly for the rooftop views of Évora and its surrounds.
Once the sightseeing is done, it’s time to enjoy the food and wine that make the Alentejo region famous. There are plenty of open-air restaurants in and around the main square, serving regional dishes like black pork and mussels. For more variety, however, follow your nose through the narrow residential streets a few minutes away. Many houses have been converted into small restaurants, with top-quality dishes at very reasonable prices.
Given the travel time and midday heat, it’s best to leave Lisbon early in the day and return in the late evening. This allows a few hours of sightseeing either side of the extended (1-3pm) lunch break when most attractions are closed.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Nazaré is regularly home to some of the biggest waves on the planet. A record may have been set there in 2013, and when conditions are right, top surfers from around the world descend on this small town.
You’ll get a great view of the action from beside the lighthouse at the top of the cliffs, although be prepared for strong winds when you’re up there. If you’d prefer less of a gale, watch from the adjacent Praia do Norte (North Beach) instead.
Praia de Nazaré offers a much calmer beach experience, with sun umbrellas and paddling in the ocean replacing the pounding surf. There’s a funicular joining the beach and the clifftop area of O Sítio, if you don’t fancy climbing up and down the cobbled path.
The town is a popular vacation spot but retains many of its traditions. Locals often wear handmade, patchwork skirts and trousers, and many of the town’s fishing boats are in an ancient Phoenician style, including painted eyes on the bow. It’s also a great place to try some of Portugal’s seafood dishes, including its rightly-famous sardines.
Buses run regularly from Sete Rios station, taking around two hours. If you’re driving, expect to cover the 80-mile distance in about ninety minutes.
What to Do in the Algarve (Besides the Beach)
01 of 05
Go Birding at Ria Formosa Natural Park
Designated as a natural park, the Ria Formosa lagoon is formed by a series of sandy barrier islands between the coast and open ocean. Close to Faro, these 45,000 acres of marshes and canals are a vital nesting ground for many migratory birds, with hundreds of different species visiting each year. It’s not unusual to spot flamingos, cranes, egrets, and many more.
Companies offer various excursions to Ria Formosa, including kayaking, catamaran tours that visit some of the barrier islands, and guided cycling trips that get you closer to the bird action. If you’d prefer to explore on your own, there’s a long boardwalk path that lets you do just that.
As well as the main city of Faro, other nearby spots worth visiting include the colorful fishing village of Fuseta, and Olhão, with its Moorish-influenced architecture and high-quality seafood.
02 of 05
Away from the coastal resorts in the west, life continues in the Algarve much as it did before the tourists started showing up. Head east from Faro, towards the Spanish border, and you’ll find a very different side of the region.
Tavira, on the Gilão river, is often described as the ‘prettiest town in the Algarve’. Rather than generic resorts and even more generic Irish pubs, you’ll find churches, whitewashed buildings with terracotta roofs, cobbled streets, and small fishing boats bobbing gently at the dock.
There are plenty of good restaurants beside and near the river, and a ruined castle on a hilltop you can walk up to to work off the calories afterwards.
If your interests lie more towards shopping, keep going even further east, until you hit Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Sitting right across the river from Spain, it’s an attractive town, well known for its linens and kitchen equipment.
Ferries cross the invisible border several times a day, a boon to Spaniards who flock over at the weekend to take advantage of cheaper prices!
03 of 05
Take a Hike
Since it's predominantly a beach destination, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the Algarve to have much in the way of good hiking trails. In reality, though, there’s an abundance of good walking in the region, for those of all fitness levels.
A designated GR trail, the Via Algarviana, crosses the Algarve from Cabo de São Vicente at the southwestern tip of the country, to Alcoutim on the border with Spain. Walking largely in the mountainous interior, the total route covers around 180 miles, but shorter sections can be easily tackled as day hikes instead.
An even longer trail, the Rota Vicentina, starts at the same lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente, but heads north up the Atlantic coast all the way to Santiago do Cacém, 280 miles away. For a short taster, check out the four-mile Telheiro beach circuit, which hugs the coastline along clifftop paths between the lighthouse and Telheiro beach itself.
The region's tourist agency publishes a very useful PDF guide to hikes in the Algarve, with a wide range of trails of all distances and difficulties.
04 of 05
Load Up on History
Recorded history in the Algarve goes back thousands of years, and traces of human habitation have been founded dating back to Neolithic times. More recent Moorish art and architecture dominates several towns in the region, after an eighth-century invasion that saw them maintain a presence in Portugal for over five hundred years.
The Romans had a big impact on the region, and the easiest way to get a taste of what they left behind is at the municipal museum in Faro. There, you’ll find some high-quality mosaics, busts of various emperors, plus plenty of other artefacts from daily life.
Other notable examples of Roman architecture include a bridge in Lagos, and ruined villas in Vilamoura and Estói; the latter is particularly interesting, as it was an opulent residence that included a temple, wine press, mausoleums, and more.
If you’re more interested in Moorish history, put a trip to Silves at the top of your activity list. The impressive Silves Castle, built in eleventh century, towers over the town from a strategic hilltop position. Entry is a bargain, at under three euros, with a well-maintained garden and walls that can be walked around on all four sides.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Head for the Hills
Drive into the interior of the region, and you’ll find yourself quickly gaining elevation. Two ranges of hills give a very different feel to this part of the Algarve, all tiny villages and undulating forest paths, rather than sandy beaches and towering apartment blocks.
The largest town in the area, Monchique, makes a great base. High in the hills, along (as usual in this part of the world) a very winding road, it’s full of steep, narrow streets to explore, and is well-known for its chouriço sausages. As with much of the rest of Portugal, meat-eaters are in for a treat.
From there, it’s all about the mountain walks. The Via Algarviana mentioned earlier passes right through Monchique, and it’s five miles from there to Foia, the highest point in the Algarve. Those who enjoy a challenge, and the sound of their own labored breathing, can do the round trip, while those who prefer an easier stroll can take a taxi to the peak and enjoy the downhill walk back to town.
Either way, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, a view that even the abundant radio masts at the summit can’t diminish.
Lisbon’s Most Beautiful Buildings
01 of 06
Start your architectural journey by taking a tram, train, bus (or your feet!) along the riverfront, out to the popular Belém neighborhood. There are several stunning buildings in the area, but the most impressive has to be the Jerónimos Monastery.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 1500’s, and dominates the surrounding area. Several important figures from Portuguese history are buried there, including poets, explorers, and members of the royal family.
It costs €10 for an adult ticket to enter the monastery, with discounted combination tickets that also include Belém Tower and various nearby museums. Opening hours are 10:00am to 5:30pm from October to May, and 10:00am until 6:30pm the rest of the year.
02 of 06
Sitting right on the river (in fact, it’s surrounded at high tide), Belém Tower is an easy 10-15 minute walk from Jerónimos Monastery. Much smaller than it’s counterpart, the fortified tower was built in the early 16th century, and once served as a ceremonial gateway to the city as well as part of its defence system.
Roughly 40 feet wide and 100 feet tall, visitors enter the tower via a small bridge. Head to the top for excellent photo opportunities of the Tagus river and surrounding city.
The tower is open the same hours as the monastery above, and costs €6 for a single ticket. Again, combination tickets for other nearby attractions are available.
03 of 06
Still in Belém, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) shows that the most beautiful buildings in Lisbon aren’t all centuries-old. Housed in a former power station beside the river, the museum opened in 2016, spread over two buildings.
With a sweeping, wave-like design, including an exterior walkway that leads up from ground level to an open rooftop viewing area, the MAAT is a bold, modern and spectacular building.
Entry to the viewing area is free, but tickets to the museum itself cost €5 to go into one of the buildings, or €9 for both. It’s open from noon until 8pm, but is closed on Tuesdays, and some public holidays.
04 of 06
Rossio Train Station
The architecture of many old train stations in Europe is incredible, and Lisbon is definitely no exception. One of the best, and easiest to get to, in the city is Rossio, right beside the large square commonly known by the same name. It’s where you catch the train to Sintra, so there’s a good chance you’ll go through it at some point during your stay.
Built in the late 1800’s, from the outside you’d have no idea the building was a train station. The ornate facades more resemble a theater or civic building, and somehow, even the Starbucks on ground level doesn’t detract from the building’s grand design. You’ll get great photo opportunities from the square across the street, especially if you happen to catch a break in traffic.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The white, dome-shaped roof of the National Pantheon is visible from viewpoints around the central city, and is a dramatic feature of the Lisbon skyline. Sitting on a hill in the Alfama neighborhood, building work on the Pantheon started in the 1600’s, on the site of desecrated former church.
Astonishingly, due to the death of the architect, loss of interest from royal sponsors, and financial woes, it took nearly three hundred years to complete, with reinauguration finally happening in 1966.
While the best photos of the exterior are from nearby viewpoints, it’s worth going inside the building as well. The floorplan laid out in the shape of a Greek (rather than Latin) cross is a highlight. Tickets are €3, with free entry on Sundays, but closed on Mondays.
06 of 06
Also in Alfama, Lisbon’s cathedral (or Sé) is the oldest church in the city. The start of construction dates back to the 1100’s, over the top of a former Moorish mosque.
Since then, the cathedral has survived fire and several earthquakes, including the infamous quake of 1755 which caused significant damage. Most of the imposing exterior that you see today dates from a major twentieth-century reconstruction. Inside, the altars and side chapels are impressive, but it’s the stained-glass windows that are particularly noteworthy.
Entry is free, although donations are always appreciated.
The 9 Best Lisbon Hotels of 2018
Best Budget: Residencial Florescente
Situated in between the Coliseum of Lisbon and Foz Palace, three-star Residencial Florescente offers an enviable city center location for a fraction of the price of other hotels in the same vicinity. The service is friendly and the colorful floral decor is a welcome alternative to the soulless whites and beiges of your standard budget chains. Rooms are clean, comfortable and conveniently accessed via an elevator. You’ll have a private bathroom, air-conditioning and a flat-screen TV.
Rooms come in twin, double or triple configurations. If you find yourself with a few Euros to spare, you can splurge on a Superior Room with a small separate living room. Free Wi-Fi is a bonus for budget travelers, and with breakfast included in your room rate, you’ve got one less meal to save for. The hotel’s cheerful on-site restaurant serves regional favorites for lunch and dinner. There’s also a gourmet shop, so you can stock up on picnic ingredients.