Top 10 Things to do in Graça and Castelo
Don’t judge this restaurant by its cover. The lighting is terrible and the decor is nothing to write home about. Even so, this is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in the area, and the continuous waiting line is proof of that (it’s particularly difficult to get a table on Saturdays at lunch time). If you’re thinking about bacalhau (codfish), make sure you have enough space for the traditional à Pitéu recipe (€13). Portions are generous in this typical Graça restaurant. If you’re still hungry, get the coconut cream (doce de côco). This is a good spot to try Portuguese classics like pataniscas, cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew) or caldeirada de borrego (another type of stew with beef and potatoes).
In June, during the Santos Populares festival, this place is the setting of one of the best fairs in the city. The rest of the year, it’s a very typical neighbourhood to visit in the heart of Graça. Vila Berta, with its small buildings, iron bar balconies and ceramic tiles, was built at the start of the 20th century and used to serve as accommodation for local workers. It was derelict for a while, but after various remodellings of the buildings’ façades, it has found new life, and is definitely worth a visit.
As Damas, which has been open since 2015, is responsible for the migration of hundreds of night birds to what was formerly a sleepy neighbourhood. Late-night petiscos, craft beer, free concerts, DJ sets until 4am, tiny toilets that sometimes still fit two people, and a crowd spilling onto the street: this is one of the top nightlife spots in Lisbon. And don’t forget to try Graça’s own craft beer, Oitava Colina.
Miradouro da Graça has been the esplanade with the best views of Lisbon for 25 years and counting, though it is currently reduced to a churchyard - “a temporary set-up”, according to the kiosk’s owner, João Garção. The kiosk was relegated to the churchyard area because of renovation works and the construction of a funicular passing through Graça on its way to Mouraria. Further up is another incredible viewpoint, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. The only problem is that this previously peaceful haven has been turned into a kind of tuk-tuk parking lot. The tourist avalanche happens between 10am and 9pm, the opening times of the Maria Limão lemonade cart, which also serves crepes.
Sunday and bank holiday fado nights are a great excuse to visit Tasca do Jaime. This small tasca is a good alternative to the touristy (and expensive) fado houses in Alfama and Bairro Alto, and has managed to maintain the original spirit of fado, accompanied by Portuguese guitar. The owner has another restaurant in Alfama, where there’s usually singing too – so if by any chance Tasca do Jaime is closed, you know where to go.
“Art, food and drink.” That’s the motto of Estaminé, the little house that can only accommodate eight people, but where you can enjoy all of these things. The artwork (ceramics, photographs and postcards) is exposed for everyone to look at. So are the kitchen and owners, Luís and Joice, who prepare their dishes calmly, as if they were in their own house. The mojitos (€5) are delicious. You’ll pay about €20 for two people at this restaurant, which has been number one on TripAdvisor for over a year.
Inaugurated in June 2015, Jardim da Cerca da Graça remains a well-kept secret and the largest public green space in the city’s historic neighbourhood (1.7 hectares). It has a kiosk, a huge terrace with a view, an orchard, a kids playground, a picnic park and a lawn where you can take great naps when there’s no football match. There are three entrances: one next to the old Graça convent, another on Calçada do Monte and another in the Olarias area, in Mouraria. By the way, if you want to go down to Mouraria, this is one of the best paths. Every day from 10am to 10pm.
Chapitô, Lisbon’s circus school, has one of the best views in the city and is also open to people who don’t necessarily want to take clown or juggling classes. The restaurant and bar Bartô is a good spot to grab a drink at sunset or catch a concert.
Largo da Graça 79 is an address full of history. It was closed for 15 years, but the presence of poet Natália Correia, who first inaugurated this space in 1968, can still be felt, and not just in the photographs on the walls. The modernised Botequim has kept the old dark wood counter, as well as the venue’s intellectual and bohemian spirit. On the menu, next to teas and other healthy options, you’ll find coffee “com cheirinho” (with brandy or aguardente), as well as petiscos, pastries and toasted sandwiches to eat with a glass of wine.
It’s not close to anything, unless you’re visiting São Jorge Castle or on your way to a juggling class at Chapitô. This may be why Taborda Theatre’s Café da Garagem still feels like a secret refuge. And why people there speak quietly - you wouldn’t want anyone to find out you’re there. You’re meant to respect the view (on the other side of the café is one of the best official lookouts, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte) and those who make the café’s tables and chairs, facing Lisboa, their office. And why not come up with a masters’ dissertation idea, just to have an excuse to work from here.
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