Any Reader Tips for Nice, Paris & Lisbon?


We will soon be headed to Europe on a summer holiday for a couple of weeks. The college student is back home and the trip is an opportunity to spend significant time together as a family. It’s a mixture of budget and comfort along the way, with airline points and months advance purchase tickets secured, and our accommodations booked way in advance (lots of loyalty points at Radisson hotels) for free hotel rooms in Nice, a modest apartment in Paris and a centrally located hotel in Lisbon. But we have no itinerary other than to wander, walk, discover in most of the places, and we are particularly excited about Lisbon, as none of us has ever been there. So if you live in or have traveled to any of these cities recently, we would greatly appreciate any tips you might have for us about delicious eats, hidden gems such as museums or galleries, food stores, bakeries, markets, artisans, etc. We aren’t really looking to buy anything unless it’s simply irresistible, but we do want to take home a lot of family memories. Thanks in advance for your tips and comments!

The city guides for those cities available in local bookstores are pretty dismal. We have done some internet research, but otherwise, we have no plans… :)

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33 Responses

  1. (I’ve not been to Portugal, so these are all rec from my friend who travels there often)

    I probably don’t have to tell you, but make sure you hit Pasteis de Belem! (he said if you’re up for a long walk, it’s a 90-ish minute walk in Alcantara to Pasteis de Belem, or about a 15 minute taxi ride from Chiado. And it if you decide to walk, the cafe (there’s a small surcharge to sit in the cafe) makes a nice resting spot).

    My friend said his friends (who are Portuguese) took him to a place called Baluarte do Sado in Setubal (which is just south of Lisbon). It’s very basic, and the seafood is very fresh. (but he said there are two—one in the centre of town, and one in a fishing / boating club. He went to the one in the fishing / boating club, but said both are good). There’s also a great wholesale / retail food market in Setubal that’s interesting to walk around, he said.

    A more posh place which is busy enough to require reservations is Solar dos Presuntos in Lisbon.

    Finally, everyone I know who has spent time in Portugal highly recommended spending time in Sintra. They said it’s beautiful, and one of their favourite places in Europe, and it’s not too far from Lisbon.

    Have fun–I’m jealous!!

  2. Yes, yes, yes – do visit Sintra!!! One of my favorite places in EMEA, as well!!! The views from the fortress & summer palace are stunning, & the tile work is just beautiful! If you have the endurance/time, highly recommend the hike up/down the mountain – a bit of a workout, but the little summer homes are everything charming. And on the way back, you can reward yourselves w/the yummy cakes that Sintra is famous for from Fabrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa. Enjoy!

  3. no visit to portugal is complete without a pilgrimage to Fatima. It is an easy bus ride from Lisbon. Just make sure to immediately make the return reservation on the bus, upon your arrival at Fatima. There is a typical Portugese coffee shop near the bus station, unhurried, you can have your fill of pastries and a cup of coffee, before your bus departure.

  4. Portugal- try and have some sardines and chicken piri-piri by the water of a fishing village. you actually apply the piri piri with a paint brush which is pretty novel.

    visit the sandeman cellar. touristy but interesting background on Port wine.

    Nice- have the fish soup in the market of course.

  5. Calouste Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon – a gem. (much like the Frick museum in NYC – small, intimate upclose spaces ) Love that all that southern part of Europe. Have fun and take us all along – with your great photos and travel essays.

  6. Cours Saleya market in Nice was very memorable for me & definitely a must-visit. A lady there sells the best chickpea flatbread called socca. Beautiful market with lots of fresh produce, colorful marzipan, pottery etc. Wish I can visit again :-)

  7. There are several castles in Sintra (a few hours away from Lisbon). Pena Palace (for its flamboyance) and the Moorish Castle (for its mystery) are really nice. The Palace of Sintra (nearest the bus/train station) is academic and a waste of time. :) The Quinta de Regaleira for its inverted tower, if you have extra time to spare.

  8. For Lisbon, Pasteis de Belem has amazing egg tarts. There’s a nice, free modern art museum (Belem Cultural Center) in the same neighborhood. If you’re into funky art, cafés and shops, try LX Factory.

    Sintra is beautiful. Go by car if you can. The drive back to Lisbon, along the coast, is nice. There are several places you can stop by for photos.

  9. Hello MM! I just came from Paris a more than a week ago. We enjoyed it immensely. If you plan to visit the museums, you may want to get the Paris Museum Pass (you’ll need to buy this online and pick up somewhere) as it is your *express* entry to the museums. We didn’t get it because we were with my 4yo and our pace is quite slow. You may want to get it IF you plan on going to most of the museums + Versailles. If you opt not to get it – then you’ll need to fall in line to get tickets.

    For Versailles – make sure to buy the ticket BEFORE you enter the palace (at the Tourist Office and NOT at a travel agency. The tourist office is on Avenue de Paris ) because the lines (ticket and palace entrance) are just crazy. Then head on the the palace’s garden first and Marie Antoinette’s apartment – these two places do not have not lines. You may want to rent bikes or ride the golf cart as the walk is quite far – its cost EUR4.00 per trip per person for the golfcart) By the time you finish the garden and Marie Antoinette’s place the lines for the main palace would have disappeared. A good time to go back to the Palace entrace is 2:30pm – by this time the hall of mirrors won’t be too crowded and the line going in the *security* check of the palace has disappeared. This tip was given by a very nice and pretty Spanish attendant.

    For Louvre – don’t fall in line near the pyramids because the lines (security check) is very very long, instead go down to the basement (Louvre Mall where the Apple store is at) and enter through there. The line is shorter and much faster. Don’t lose your ticket because you’ll need it to go to through the other wings of the museum. My Panget lost his and we had to pony up another EUR12.00. Also plan ahead on which pieces you want to see first and last. Obviously the Mona Lisa gets very crowded (I don’t think there’s any hour of the day that it isn’t crowded, hahaha)

    For Musee D’Orsay – You can come by at 9am to fall in line (for the security checks), the museum opens at 9:30am. When we entered I immediately went up to see the Van gogh and worked my way up first and then down.

    You can take the river Seine cruise. There are a lot of companies that offer this, they have a hop on hop off type, so you can pick which you prefer. They’re on the riverbank near the Eiffel Tower and then you can work your way down the river, alighting when you feel like it and so on.

    I heard Mass in Notre Dame in French and opted not to go around anymore. Hahaha!!

    Montmarte has the Sacred Heart Basilica (La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre) it has a very nice view of the whole of Paris. I think this is the highest spot in all of Paris. Montmarte is also where the Moulin Rouge is – we didn’t get to watch it because of my 4year old, but I enjoyed the charm of the place. We ate at this pizza place called Pizza Di Loretta – it was really good! They sold their pizzas by weight, they can cut the pizzas small or big depending on your preference.

    My favorite is still the Arc de Triomphe, when we were there Secreatry of State John Kerry was there too (celebrate the VE Day) so security was really tight and there was a ceremony. We took pictures from the street! Hahaha.. :) I found Champs Elysee overrated.

    I enjoyed the steak and fries at L’Entrecote near Champs Elysee and at Le Relais Entrecote in the area of Musee D’Orsay (Near St. Germain de Pres). We had dinner at Robert et Louise in Le Marais (I realized it may have been a tourist trap, but it was goood steak!) There were a lot of falefal places (I was curious on what it was since watching Friends) so I got to try it too! Hahaha…

    I needed to stay connected while in Paris so I searched for a pocket/mobile wifi rental and found one in ( you can rent a mobile wifi from them and they can deliver to your hotel or apartment, they can also meet wherever you are. What they did was meet me at Gare du Nord personally. I liked that the package was complete (it has a return envelope, charges, cables, calling card and a welcome note) It’s EUR6.999/day and if you book using my code 20CANDTALE you get 20% discount. Being connected helped us a lot especially when we thought we were lost, googlemaps to the rescue!!

    That’s about it, if you have any questions you please do email me! :) I have some maps here that I can mark if you want.. :) Let me know!!

    Enjoy Paris!! (I never understood why people say that French cuisine is good until I ate in Paris. WOW!!)

  10. Seeing the Provence guidebook in the picture brought back memories of a trip I did with my wife 12 years ago. We took the TGV to Avignon and got a car and stayed at the Hotel La mirande which at that time had a 1 michelin star restaurant. If I remember correctly, the building used to be the archbishops palace. Avignon became a base for a few days while we explored Arles, Le baux en provence etc. We had a wonderful meal at L ‘Osteau de Baumaniere. Incidentally they have rooms available there as well.

    We then drove to Aix en Provence known for their fountains. I remembered staying at Villa Gallici which was just a short walk to the main avenue. The surrounding area is wonderful with markets full of fresh produce etc. I probably need to revisit our pictures to refresh my memory of little towns we visited. After a few days, we were off to the provencal alps town of Moustier de Sta Marie. We stayed at La Bastide de Sta marie. At that time it was owned by Alain Ducasse and he supposedly used the restaurant there as a training ground for his kitchen staff. We had amazing meals there at a fraction of what more established restaurants charged.

    The Provencal alpes area has a few mountain towns like Gordes which was nice as well and the drive thru the mountains was beautiful. From here, Nice is just a couple of hours drive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough vacation time left to visit the Cote d Azur. We have been back to Paris a few times and have always enjoyed the city but our time in Provence was very memorable. With the cheap Euro, maybe we should do it again and extend our trip to coast! Have fun!

  11. After more than a quarter of a century I returned to Portugal just two weeks ago, this time with my friend Norma C, and found it even lovelier and more fascinating. Becoming an EU member has definitely benefited Portugal. Its infrastructure has improved immensely but it retains its simple charm. As recommended by others, Fatima (though very modern) and Sintra definitely deserve to be included in your itinerary. In Lisbon, the church and monastery of Jeronimos are also a must-see but, as in Sintra’s Pena Palace, be prepared to brave the crowds. I went to the market hall cum fancy food court, Mercado da Ribeira, twice as it is conveniently located near the main train station Cais do Sodre and its outlets are very clean and offer a wide variety of options – I particularly loved the suckling pig at Leitao da Ribeira and the unusual (for me) croquette combinations at Croqueteria. There are small local cafes and diners just behind this Mercado. You may want to have a look at them before deciding where to eat. The market hall has plenty of stalls with local produce on offer from meat (fresh and cured), seafood, vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc. Some foodie friends were highly enthusiastic about a restaurant called Sacramento (excellent reviews on TripAdvisor) but unfortunately we didn’t get to try it. A Lisboan friend thinks highly of Mesa de Frades for both dining and ”fados” but unfortunately it was fully booked during our visit. Try booking in advance. Pasteis de Belem is very pretty and charming but rather crowded, and there are plenty of pastelerias with equally good pasteis de nata. If you have time, you may want to take a seaside walk along Praia do Tamariz, between Sao Joao do Estoril and Estoril centre. Some interesting links:

    Really out of the way and located in a small nondescript shopping mall in Sao Joao do Estoril is O Pitas , recommended by local friends. Norma C and I had probably one of the best roast chickens we’ve ever had – moist, buttery and oh so tasty. To the amusement of the staff, we couldn’t stop ooh-ing and aah-ing as we ate the succulent pieces of chicken – and tasty quail as well. We loved the chicken so much that we went there two nights in a row.

  12. P.S. If you have time for a posh Portuguese afternoon tea, you may want to go a bit farther from the centre of Sintra to the Palacio de Seteais, a neoclassical palace and hotel that’s also a tourist destination.

  13. for lisbon
    check out the jardim botanico
    it’s beautiful plus the restaurant serves very good “frango” for cheap

    there’s a chain restaurant that serves only caldo verde and other soups i forgot the name but they are ubiquitous in lisbon, worth trying; if you can’t find a homey restaurant that serves them.

    fried and grilled portuguese sardines are the best and they are sold everywhere

    Bertrand–the oldest bookstore in the world!

    i agree with everybody about sintra: magical both the palace and the surrounding and the homemade pastires.

    The Gubelkian collection is fantastic and it’s in this great brutalist building.

    Mafra Palace!

    i’ve wanted to see Coimbra and Queluz, but did not make it.

    other than that, just take time to appreciate the portuguese azulejos (they are at every corner, the art deco designs are particularly impressive)

    as for Paris, you’ve been there many times. you will probably be reacquainting yourselves with your old favorites but if you haven’t been, Musee Cognac-Jay is delightful ( I am a fan of Jean-Marc Nattier) as are Bois de Vincennes and hot chocolate at Angelina’s

    have a great trip!

  14. It’s been a good many years since we visited Portugal, but one dish that stood out for me, being a dinuguan lover is “arroz de cabidela” if you aren’t squeamish . I am not sure now how authentic it is because of EU health regulations. I also thought I would enjoy their bacalhau but it was a big disappointment.

    For a good travel guide book covering every practical travel tip you can think of, Rick Steve’s Europe has never failed me. Rick will likely have everything you need for the cities of your choice including contacts for airport transport service.

    Here’s a link:

    A video link:

    As a seasoned traveler some of the info aren’t new to you but still, you may find it useful:


    And here, a travel forum on Portugal:

    Have a good trip!

  15. If already at Pasteis de Belem, you definitely must visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos! And drink all the vinho verde that you can. Try Sea Me Peixaria Moderna-Chiado too.

    How about Oporto? Worth a visit imho.

  16. Many years ago when we were in Nice, our tour guide took us to several perfume factories.
    We also took a side trip to MONACO – my most favorite place among a dozen European countries I visited (25 km and there is a train every half hour from Nice –latest Info from Internet). (We went there by private tour bus) I always wanted to go inside Monte Carlo (the famed Casino in Monaco) and now I could say I did.
    Have a safe and most enjoyable trip! God Bless always.

  17. Lisbon is a wonderful city. Very low key but I had amazing food there! Try the bifana sandwich.

    Definitely go to Belem – you can have the best pastel de nata there. and also the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery.

    Walk around the Avenue de Liberdade – fancy stores! and the famous Praça do Comércio.

    Visit Castle of São Jorge. Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Lisbon is very hilly. Reminds me of San Francisco.

    Have a great time! and of course try the Ginjinha drink.

  18. Wow! Thank you all so very much for all of these tips. Sounds like there are definitely some must-do’s in lisbon… And I look forward to Nice and environs as well. Paris is like an old friend at this stage, perhaps my second favorite city after New York. Again, our gratitude for all your help. We may not get to all the suggestions, but they really help.

  19. In Lisbon, you must go out for petiscos, Portuguese-style tapas.
    You can try them at the following small & intimate restaurant (run by a husband-and-wife team):

    Cantinho Lusitano
    Rua dos Prazeres, 52
    1200-355 Lisboa
    Tel: 21 806 51 85

    about a couple blocks west from Jardim Fialho de Almeida (aka Jardim da Praça das Flores)

    Chouriço Grelhado com Moscatel (Grilled Chouriço Sausage with Moscatel Sauce)
    Pica-Pau de Vitela com Batatinha Doce Frita (Veal strips in sauce and fried sweet potatoes)
    Rolinhos de Carne com Molho de Iogurte Grego e Hortelã (Meat Rolls with Mint and Greek Yogurt Sauce)
    Queijinho Semi-Curado com Doce Abóbora (Semi-cured cheese with pumpkin jam)

    Bom proveito!

  20. aaaaah lisbon!… [surely you’ve read this essay/love letter re: this city in the NYTimes : ] my contribution, but you’ll make it your own:

    -a half day trip to the beach town of Cascais [1 train hr ride away], visit the pritzker award architect’s work Souto de Moura [ ]

    -pasteis de belem/de nata! sample from different bakeries [my favorite is from Manteigaria]

    -a half day at gulvenkian museum.

    -get daily pass to ride the trams to everywhere- this is fun…

    -if staying longer in Portugal, a 3 -hr train ride to beautiful Oporto. [overnight there; dine at Ze Bota]

    -a lisbon restaurant: unassuming but solid Bacalhoeiro

    enjoy! rp

  21. For Paris-are you planning to try the buzzed-about bistros of rising Filipino / french-filipino chefs: Dix-huit, le servan, au passage?

    Highly recommended also is the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton – its in Bois de Boulogne, but they have an e-shuttle bus with a pick up point near the Arc de Triomphe.

    Bonnes vacances!

  22. chelle, we booked a table at Le Servan a month ago! :) And we visited Fondation Louis Vuitton last November shortly after it opened, I did a post on it a few weeks ago. Thanks for all the tips… Rp, thank you! Rob, thanks!


    Visited this in Lisbon 3 times over 5 days…book a table or get there early as there would be lines esp in the evening…great seafood…we capped off our dinners with their steak sandwiches. Manager gave me embroidered napkin as a token. Have fun!

  24. If you have the time, watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Lisbon. We found out about Cervejaria Ramiro from that episode, and it was fantastic. There is also a small place called Taberna Portuguesa in the Baixa/Chiado district, that serves traditional Portuguese dishes in small plates. Really wonderful. The thing with Lisbon though, was that no matter where we went, we always ate very well. It didn’t matter if we step in just a random deli/bakery or sat down in an actual restaurant. Everything was just so good. Warm, crusty bread slathered in salted butter was everywhere! There is mediocre food to be found, of course, but even that was still better than the mediocre food that we easily find everywhere here in The south of France. There is also a store called Loja das Conservas that is definitely worth checking out. The tuna belly was out of this world.

    In Nice, we always go to a small restaurant called La Merenda. They serve traditional Niçoise cuisine. They have the best zucchini flower beignets, and the best tomato tart. I always get the tripe Niçoise. In the desert menu they always have tourte au blette (swiss chard tart). It’s a bit unusual, but you must try in this lifetime. The place is tiny, the seats are not very comfortable, the tables a little too close together, cash only, open only on Mon-Fri, no phone reservations (we always show up early, before they open for service, and put our names in), but we always go there when we are in Nice. The food is just amazing. Simplicity at its best. I am excited for your travels in my side of the globe! I have been reading your blog for quite a while now, am glad I am getting the chance to drop a comment!

    Can’t offer much info in Paris, as you have probably gone more times than I have, but we whenever we make it up north, we always make a stop at the 14eme, a little place called L’assiette. It might be out of your way, but it is truly a gem of a bistro. Bon voyage, bon sejour!

  25. Lots of great Lisbon recommendations already so I’m throwing my two cents in for Nice just in case you decide to venture out of the city center for a day trip or two. My husband and I will be returning to the area for the fourth time in as many years in August so it’s safe to say we like it. All easily accessible by bus or train:

    1. Villefranche Sur Mer – old fishing village with a sandy beach. Villefranche Bay is a port stop for cruise ships but retains some of its village charm. Just a few minutes by train from Nice and 30 mins by bus.
    2. St. Jean Cap Ferrat – across Villefranche Bay. A harbor town that is not very touristy. Several great beaches. We make our base here and venture to Nice for lunch or on market days. The views are spectacular and there are a couple of nice hikes along the water on the cape.
    3. St. Paul De Vence – I think about an hour by bus. Medieval town that makes quite an impression as you approach it. Considered the art gallery center for the Riviera. I think it’s a better choice than Eze Village which is a bit closer to Nice as the former is more of a town.
    4. Antibes – Market days are great here and we love the Picasso Museum
    5. Monaco and St. Tropez – I’m guessing you’ve been to both places.

    Not sure if this is the kind of information you were looking for but just in case. Happy to add more detail if you are interested in any of these areas. I have also shared a couple of posts on my blog about our visits to the Riviera so happy to share links here if you want to see pictures. Have fun! We’ll also be in Paris in late summer. :)

  26. I highly recommend Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Lisbon. It was the best part of my trip there. Try to squeeze in a quick trip to Fatima. It’s quieter compared to Lourdes. Sorry to say but Nice is probably my least favorite city in Europe. I like Monaco more. As for Paris, you know more of the city than I do. :)

  27. In Nice, make a day trip to the medieval town Eze. You can get there on the regular bus. Also, don’t miss a chance to taste fougasse. A sort of squishy pizza with aubergines and tomatoes from the baker. Lived on them for a week or two when I worked there one year!

  28. Do not miss a cataplana dish in cascais, an hour train-ride away from lisboa. it’s such a rich dish cooked in a special ware called cataplana.

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