Dogfooding your products is important. So, in September 2016, three members of team Teleport packed their stuff and moved to Lisbon. Here are our observations and tips.
Quite a few of us move around a lot. We’re lucky enough to work in a remote team, and traveling helps us find and figure out the biggest bumps and joys of the mobile way of life—so we can relate to our users even more.
Lisbon kept popping up in our combined match lists, so three of us—Elen, Thomas and Hendrik—decided to take one for the team and check it out. Tl;dr: it’s like San Francisco and Rome had a gorgeous, hilly, and slightly drunk baby. Magnificent.
We spent 2,5 months in Lisbon, and discovered some really cool places to go, things to do, and general tips to make life easier while there. Here they are.
Places to go:
Disclaimer: a lot of these places are bars. That’s just what happens when you send three twenty-somethings to a city with cheap alcohol for almost three months. We’re not sorry.
Bairro Alto—the best part of town to go to for a night out, or for shopping/dining during the day. Full of bars, cafes, restaurants, etc. Pro tip: you can find 0,5 litre Caipirinhas for about 3 euros in some little bars. Do not drink them unless you want to experience a three day nuclear hangover. Or do. We’re not your mom.
Cafe da Garagem—a lovely theater cafe with an amazing view, even more amazing cheese/meat boards, plus a decent selection of wine. But seriously, the boards. We’re not going to talk about how much weight a few of us gained from eating them. Just put them all in your mouth. It’s worth it.
O Purista - Barbière—is it a bar? Is it a barber shop? It’s both! A very nice and classy (a little too classy for us, perhaps) place to have a drink, shoot some pool, and maybe get a haircut in the process. Hipstergram-able grade 5/5.
LX Factory—a small area full of nice little restaurants and quirky shops, located close to Ponte de 25 Abril (the bridge that makes you think you’re in San Francisco for a minute).
Cerveteca—a great little craft beer bar, if you get tired of all the wine (slim chance, but still).
Lisbon Oceanarium—want to check out some pengwings and stuff? This is the place to go, as it is apparently one of the best oceanariums in the world, and lives up to that title. Lots to see there, so make sure you have at least a couple of hours to spare.
Pastéis de Belém—the creator of some amazing Portuguese pastries (as mentioned before, you will get fat in this city). Pro tip: there’s usually a long and intimidating line all the way out of the shop as this is a famous place, but you can actually skip it, just walk inside and get table service.
The Old Pharmacy—a great little wine bar in Bairro Alto. Try some dry Port and Madeira wine. If you get the 3 wine selection, just smile, nod and pretend you understand everything when the waiter is telling you about the history and origin of the wines.
All the miradouros (viewpoints)—nice for having a beer or coffee and enjoying the view.
Noobai: a café with good views (then again, there are few places in Lisbon that don’t have a good view), next to Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
O’Gilins Irish pub—not exactly Portuguese, but a really nice pub to just have a chill beer after a workday. Pro tip: go on Fridays and Saturdays for an awesome live Irish band at 11PM and enjoy drunk Irish tourists step dancing. It’s great.
If you have time, you can have a really nice one-day road trip: Lisbon–Cascais–Cabo da Roca–Sintra–Lisbon.
Web Summit in November—how could we leave this out? Even if you’re not actually participating in the summit for whatever reason, there are satellite events everywhere and anytime that you can drop into.
Plus, everyone tends to go out to Bairro Alto in the evening anyway, so it’s a good time to go for a drink and some networking.
Colombo shopping centre—this place is huge, like, has-its-own-streets huge, and has pretty much every single shop you can imagine. If you have a lot of buying stuff to do, this is the place.
Lisbon streets are really hilly. Unless you’re used to that, you’ll probably get tired of lugging your groceries home real fast. Continente, one of the biggest supermarket chains, comes to the rescue with home deliveries.
You get free delivery for 4 months for 25 euros, which pays off financially if you stay for more than one month and have at least one order per week.
It’s convenient, easy to use and relatively fast, plus there is a really good selection of stuff. However, the online order website is only in Portuguese, so have Google Translate ready.
We’d been pretty spoiled in Estonia, being able to pay by card pretty much everywhere. Most places in Lisbon only accept cash (pretty much all grocery stores take card, except for the tiny hole-in-the-wall ones), so keep that in mind and carry some cash with you at all times, just in case.
There is some good stuff on Airbnb, but definitely check out Uniplaces for finding accommodation. It does say it’s primarily for students, but they do accept offers from young professionals as well. Uniplaces is where we found our reasonably priced, 2 bedroom apartment in Lapa.
Uber is great (and pretty inexpensive) for getting around, but public transport works great and is cheap as well, especially if you live close to a metro station. Make sure you get a 50 cent public transport card to avoid the lines to buy tickets from the counters.
Select “Zapping” when you top up the card the first time (rather than buying one specific ticket or number of tickets)—then the card will work across all the public transport systems in Lisbon, including the suburban trains going to Cascais and Sintra.
Zapping just means you carry a cash balance instead a number of tickets on the card, and the correct amount will be deducted whenever you use it.
I was sceptical about Lisbon, because I’ve never been attracted to any cities too far south, at least in Europe. And when I say “too far south”, I mean anything lower than London. Too warm, too exhausting, and too happy for me. I’d always rather go for a mostly miserable New York or Edinburgh instead to enjoy the company of other assholes like myself.
Lisbon, though—even though the temperature was too much for me even in September—is super laid back, affordable, very easy on the eyes, and has an emerging tech scene which adds a really cool old-meets-new vibe. Plus, the 1 euro wines helped me cope with the horror of people actually smiling at me just fine. I wouldn’t live there full time, because screw temperatures over 25°C, but otherwise 6/10, will go back in the winter.
Eminem’s famous line “Yo, his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” might as well have been written about walking around in hilly Lisbon on a sunny day. Except you’ll be sweaty all over, everything you carry will be heavy and you’ll develop crazy strong knees after a while.
Lisbon’s a beautiful city though, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for your effort. There’s great food, delicious wines and most importantly, glorious weather. There wasn’t a single day when I stepped out of the door and thought “Wow, this isn’t very nice”.
As a comparison, I have been back in Tallinn for three weeks and the last time I saw the sun was in Portugal. Did I mention how much I liked the weather in Lisbon? All in all, I had a great time and would love to go back one day.
Don’t listen to my lazy Estonian colleagues who have never seen a hill in their lives (edit. comment: Estonia is flatter than a pancake), Lisbon isn’t really that hilly. I mean, there are hills, but just enough to make it super picturesque.
Anyway, to me Lisbon is the closest thing to a perfect city. I really like the laid-back culture, the amazing food, wine, and weather. And it’s cheap. Not India or Chiang Mai cheap, but definitely cheap for Western Europe. It’s also small enough to quickly feel familiar, but large and diverse enough to not get bored easily.
My only concern is that maybe too many people are starting to catch on to Lisbon’s amazingness. It felt quite a bit more crowded with mainstream tourists than when I’ve lived there earlier, even though we stayed there in the off-season. But since they mostly flock to the same spots, they are still quite easy to avoid.
Bonus photo of us and some of the friends from our little Lisbon Teleport user get-together:
What are your tips for places to go and things to do and see in Lisbon? Let us know!