04 May 2009
Wander Alfama (the old district) for hours, getting lost down any and all little lanes. Unbelievable panoramic views.
Pensao Figueira Guesthouse (ask for a room facing the square).
Simply walk everywhere. The city is gorgeous, charming and in my opinion, magical.
Tona La Da Ca for dinner. Portuguese food at Portuguese prices. Wander into Bairro Alto and ask around. People will know what you’re talking about.
The Monastery in Belem. Vasco de Gama is buried there!
The real beauty is along the coastline. Rent a Smart Car from Ausocar (google it) for $30 a day and beach-hop for as long as you can. The Lagos to Lisbon route is beyond picturesque.
Eat, eat and eat!!!!
Museum of Ham (Museo de Jambon) gives you free ham with any drink (which are wildly affordable) and they do Sangria by the glass.
Momo has an amazing $15 3-course menu that was utterly divine. It is in the Checutera (sp?) district, just north of Plaza del Sol.
Helado (ice cream) anywhere.
Besides food, don’t miss the Reina Sofia (brilliant collection and brilliant curation). Touring the palace was also worth the wait and cost ($4). So over-the-top it’s no wonder Spain went bankrupt during its golden period. Also, make sure to stroll through the Parc Real in the east.
Last but not least, walk along Alfama and Gran Via at night. The Metropolis building at dusk is unrivaled for overall splendor not just in Madrid but, I would argue, almost anywhere.
Barcelona is enormous, and the avenues are massive. I found it easy to navigate but less charming. It’s all about the destinations and hot-spots.
For food: Carmelitas for casual sandwiches (and a great ambiance), Dos Treces for modern Spanish food, Tres Hermanos for INCREDIBLE tapas and sangria and Wagaboo for fusion. It’s so modern.
For sites: Note that the Gaudi spots have long lines (over an hour) and are very expensive (as much as $15). Plan ahead and be sure to get there early. Don’t miss his tow homes, Parc Guell in the north and the Sagrada Familia (particularly amazing after 9pm with the lights on). Barcelonetta and the beaches offer some great people-watching, Las Ramblas and Old Town are the places to stroll and just take it all in and the fountains at Montjuic are simply extraordinary.
Hope that helps any of you on your quest through the Iberian Peninsula!
Also, cruise the entire Portuguese coast. Most. Beautiful. Coast. On. Earth.