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It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well-versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider tips. This week, we asked chef Diogo Lopes, pastry sous chef at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, for his recommendations in Portugal’s capital city.
“Nothing compares to June in Lisbon. Between March and September is the best time to visit, but June is actually my favorite month of the year to be in Lisbon. The jacarandá trees are in full bloom, painting the city with dashes of lilac and the smell of grilled sardines in the streets announce Santos Populares festivities, a celebration that brings Lisbon’s historic bairros (neighborhoods) to life. People are in the streets. It’s all about food and being around your friends. There is so much to see. Going to some museums and having a 28’s tram ride is great but don’t forget to lose yourself in the historic neighborhoods like Graça (one of my favorites with, without a doubt, the best view of the city), go to smaller restaurants and cafés, try a pastéis de nata, and, if the weather is good, take one day to go to the beach. Try to learn the basics in advance like Bom dia and Obrigado; it shows that you made an effort but you will realize that most of the people are fluent in English.”
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“Sintra and Cascais are a must if you plan on spending more than two days in Lisbon. Sintra is more in the mountains, while Cascais is close to the sea. Sintra is more historic because it used to be the residence of kings. I’m a little bias about Cascais because I lived there for almost 10 years. It’s a 20-minute car ride from Lisbon or 30 to 40 minutes in a bus. It’s a really good place to go as a visitor. The sights are something out of this word. You can to Guincho Beach and try a surf lesson. If you go there, I definitely recommend eating fish. I like to go to Baía do Peixe (Av. Dom Carlos I) where they serve this large variety of seafood and fish from the coast of Portugal. If you want a more high end experience, you can go to Fortaleza do Guincho (Praia do Guincho). They have around 20 or 25 seats, and they have the best products. Even though it’s a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s completely affordable. Sardina is really popular this time of year, but cod fish is the national fish. They say there’s a thousand and one ways to do a cod fish dish, and trust me, there’s two thousand even. Also, Duna da Crismina is the best place to go for a coffee or a late afternoon beer.”