Prepare to put some time in on the treadmill: you’ll need legs of steel and a ravenous appetite to tackle Portugal‘s finest foodie cities. Perched on picturesque – if treacherously steep – hills above glistening rivers, our boutique hotels in Lisbon and Porto are within easy reach of tumbling houses, cobblestoned lanes and azulejo-tiled churches. A quick two-and-a-half-hour train journey separate the two cities, making a twin-centre getaway a tantalising prospect. You’ll need more than a long weekend to stray from the obligatory (custard) tarts-and-port action, but if time is tight, read on for the cities’ best eats and boutique stays…
WHERE TO STAY
A short walk from Cais do Sodre – Lisbon’s trendy riverside district – Palácio Ramalhete‘s elegant lounges and tranquil courtyard welcome the weary urban explorer home. Its palm-shaded pool may well be the sweetest in Lisbon, but we also fell for its peaceful bedrooms, alfresco breakfasts (above) and secret nooks and crannies (look out for the revolving bookshelf by reception). You’ll be perfectly poised to explore the stretch of buzzy bars and restaurants winding their way up the hill towards Bairro Alto, or to hop on the train to Belém or Cascais for a whiff of salty sea air.
WHERE TO EAT…
Custard tarts Extensive empirical research points the finger at Pasteis de Belém (+351 21 363 7423), but if you don’t fancy the schlep out to the historic riverside suburb, there are plenty of other options in town. Just off Camões Square, Manteigaria (+351 21 347 1492) churns out fresh-from-the-oven tarts throughout the day: get your hands on moreish morsels of flaky pastry and silky orange-scented custard without having to endure a soul-destroying queue.
Rustic delights Tucked away on an unassuming street downhill from Bairro Alto, Taberna da Rua das Flores (+351 21 347 9418) is a blink-and-you’d-miss-it eatery dishing up a daily-changing menu of simple, inspired fare made from impeccably sourced local produce. Turn up as early as you can to secure a table – they don’t take bookings, and the wait at weekends can be three hours long, but it’s worth the effort for a taste of their barely seared sesame-encrusted tuna, grilled black pig and grappa-steeped chocolate mousse.
Star-worthy fare In the atmospheric Alfama district, Boi Cavolo‘s chefs are busy at work in their tiny open kitchen (+351 93 875 2355), dishing out fine dining in friendly, laid-back surroundings. You’ll need a couple of food-obsessed-friends to order one of everything from the menu; expect crispy squid, melt-in-the-mouth duck and fabulous reductions and emulsions.
WHERE TO STAY
A hop and a skip from Sao Bento station’s impressive tiled murals, Hotel Teatro lives up to its name with dramatic stylings and a seductive atmosphere. Rooms are dark and sultry, with plush velvet banquettes, vast beds and smoked-glass bathrooms. Downstairs, Palco is one of Porto’s finest eateries, but it’s worth venturing out for a taste of Porto’s honey-flavoured wines, freshest seafood and hearty street food.
WHERE TO EAT…
Francesinha Rumour has it a Portuguese expat brought home the croque-monsieur from his travels in France and gave it a Porto twist. This ‘little Frenchie’ is an impressive stack of bread, ham, steak, sausage and cheese, topped with an egg and served in a beer-infused tomato sauce. Round the corner from the hotel, Café Santiago (+351 22 041 7880 ) makes some of the best in town – just the thing after an arduous climb up from the riverside.
Rubies and tawnies Across the bridge in Gaia, the riverside is lined with port houses and traditional rabelo boats, once used to ferry casks across the Douro. Take a seat in Ramos Pinto‘s airy tasting room (+ 351 22 370 7000) to sample their sweet white wines and aged amber-hued ports; order a platter of meats, dried fruits and chocolate to really make the flavours sing.
Hipster-friendly fare On a winding lane behind the Clérigos Tower, Miss Opo is the sort of trendy, concrete-and-exposed-brick artist’s hangout that would feel equally at home in London or Berlin. The day’s menu is scribbled out by hand on stray sheets of paper; look out for the goat-cheese-flecked fig salad and toothsome black pudding.
Did we whet your appetite? Check out the new Great Global Chefs iPad app we’ve cooked up in partnership with Great British Chefs for more inspired gourmet tours. Or browse our other boutique hotels in Lisbon to book a sun-kissed city break.
Photos by Ross Duncan.