Europe is an interesting place to visit as a fat person — but that shouldn't stop you, and it certainly didn't stop me. My sister, Soreh, and I recently took a sister's trip that covered ten days, three countries and a whole lot of fabulous experiences and restaurants.
While traveling, I counted exactly 19 visibly plus-size people on my trip, only one of which was bigger than I was. But again, that didn't stop me. I wore a few different bikinis, took walking tours, and even got a massage at a five-star spa.
Overall, this is a trip we'll talk about for decades to come, full of all the things that make a trip great. So, join me as we visit Lisbon.
I've been to seven European countries, and Portugal stands out of them all as the country with the best food overall. Whether we ate traditionally-prepared salt fish and pastel de nata (custard tarts), fusion cuisine that combined Japanese and Portuguese flavors, or entirely different foods prepared from local ingredients, the food was next-level good. The city's airport was small, built before the surge of tourists flooded into the country, creating a bit of havoc when flying in, but few problems when flying out. If you're planning a trip to Portugal and want to visit Lisbon, I'd spend a few days in the city, and then head to other areas, like Sinatra or Porto, both a short train ride away.
Where to stay in Lisbon:
1908 Hotel — The 1908 hotel was truly the boutique hotel of my dreams. Keeping the stunning architecture of the original building, the interior has been completely renovated and modernized, with some beautiful touches of the original building remaining. The rooms are spacious, without the classic European-style bathroom, which was a definite perk. Our Ubers averaged just five to seven dollars, so the location was spectacular! And while the hotel is lovely, it's the staff that really take it to the next level. They always greet you with joy and warmth, happy to answer any questions and give suggestions on anything Lisbon-related. The hotel restaurant, Infame, also offers a lobby bar with small bites and drinks. The salmon ceviche was easily the best I've had anywhere in the world, and the duck croquettes were the perfect filling snack before heading out to enjoy the afternoon.
Squish factor: While large enough, the shower doesn't have anywhere you can lift your leg for a shower. Additionally, while this isn't size related, the doorstop on the floor is nearly invisible, especially at night. Be careful or you'll wind up in a lot of pain.
Where to eat in Lisbon:
Boubou's - From the outside, Boubou's doesn't look like much, but don't let that fool you. In addition to a small dining room, the restaurant features a spacious hidden garden. You'll be surrounded by massive banana trees in a relaxed, casual environment. The menu features local Portuguese ingredients, changing week by week, depending on what is the freshest. My sister and I went with the tasting menu, which featured international flavors and uplifted vegetarian options. You absolutely must order the creamy sweet potato in a coconut tiger milk with kaffir lime ceviche. It was simply sublime, though the rabbit croquette was the best bite of the night.
Sweet Potato Ceviche at Boubou's (Soreh Milchtein)
Squish factor: While the food and the environment were top-notch, the seating left me miserable. It consisted mostly of armchairs, so I chose the bench, which somehow was even worse than being squished in the armchair.
Cavalariça Lisboa - Dim and romantic, Cavalariça Lisboa has a charmingly romantic vibe that isn't at all stuffy. Once home to a shop that sold electric motors, today a massive white unicorn hangs high on the wall, injecting some fun into the restaurant. Start your meal with some olive oil (or aged butter) and chewy focaccia before diving into the shared plates — or leave your meal to the pros by ordering the tasting menu. You'll certainly want to try the tender, rich Alentejo pork and pineapple skewer with cilantro, which packs a huge flavor punch. The chocolate and banana dessert brings back nostalgic memories of banana bread with an upscale twist.
Ofício - Lunch at Oficio was hands-down my favorite meal of the entire trip, not just Lisbon. Walking into the restaurant feels like an experience in itself. Bright and airy, you'll want to take a deep breath to drink it all in before being seated. As you are seated, you're presented with a menu that looks like someone is still in the process of developing it, with scribbled writing, and arrows.
And what a menu it is, from mushrooms topped with a chicken caramel (which was super unique and delicious!) to veal and marrow tartar, it will have you salivating before you even order.
Fish taco at Oficio (Soreh Milchreis)
Oficio serves contemporary Portuguese food made with local ingredients, underscored by Mexican flavors. Now I'm a sucker for a fabulous fish dish, especially if the fish is raw. The fresh croaker wrapped in a lettuce leaf deserves an award. It's simply perfection. Don't skip the oysters, the stuffed spider crab, or the roasted leeks.
Squish factor: The chairs have arms, but some bench seating is available. However, I was able to comfortably sit in the armchair for lunch.
Sala de Corte - Have you ever been to a steakhouse and felt like it was too old-school or stuffy? Well, then you'll love Sala de Corte, the slightly squished, very relaxed, steakhouse in Lisbon. The first thing you'll see walking into the restaurant is a dry-aging fridge full of all the steak you can imagine. The lighting is dim, and the hum of conversation and laughter is prominent. The menu is relatively simple. We ordered beef tartar, and while it was amazing I wouldn't order it since the first bite from the chef is also beef tartar. Definitely splurge on the steak, the star of the show, as it should be. The porterhouse was cooked to the perfect medium-rare, with one of the best crusts I've ever enjoyed. Simply perfect. Dessert — a deconstructed hazelnut dessert with a melody of different textures, finished with a salted caramel ice cream — was nothing to sneeze at either.
Squish factor: Ask for a table with bench seating when making the reservation, as the chairs all have armrests.
What to do in Lisbon:
Devour Tastes and Traditions Food Tour — I was really excited to take another food tour while in Lisbon. The Devour Tastes and Traditions Tour was designed to allow you to both taste the traditional food of Portugal and learn more about the history, cultures, and traditions, of course. Bring a bottle of water with you! Amongst the many tastings, we walked into a tiny shop that sold salt cod on one side and cured pork on the other (amongst other things). Here we enjoyed tasting Jamon Iberico, a tender, buttery, prosciutto-like cured pork. It's made from the meat of the black Iberico pig, fed an acorn diet. I'd wanted to try this for a long time, and it certainly delivered. Another tiny shop, Ginja Sem Rival, has been selling sour cherry liqueur since 1890. You'll be served a shot glass full of the liquor, with whole sour cherries floating at the bottom. It's a sipping liquor - and mouth wateringly good. Grab a bottle to take home, they are just a few euros and worth every penny.
Squish factor: This tour has a lot of walking: a lot more than most food tours I've taken, with steep hills that have a significant amount of stairs, and steep hills on the way down as well. There also wasn't much seating at the different stops.
Anantara Spa in the TIvoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel — Every vacation needs a good bit of self-care, and for me, that means the spa is in order. While in Lisbon, my sister and I enjoyed a massage and mini-facial at the Anantara Spa, inside the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel. The service and staff, from the front desk to the massage therapists, was so amazing and kind. From the moment you walk into the spa, you feel at peace and relaxed. The massage was a 10/10. After we changed, the service started with washing and exfoliating our feet, before climbing onto the massage table for the treatment. The room temperature can be adjusted by request, and the massage tables are pre-warmed. I run hot, so I asked them to turn it off. I probably would have skipped the mini-facial, as it was more of a cleanser and moisturizer application than anything else. After the massage, we were escorted into the relaxing room, and enjoyed a glass of champagne before heading back into the world.
Squish factor: As expected, the robe didn't fit me at all. My size-12 sister found the robe quite small, too, so I'd bring my own. Additionally, the provided booties and plastic underwear didn't fit as well. As the service started with a foot wash, I simply wore my dress, which I removed when laying down on the table. I left my underwear on during the massage.
A photo of the author and her sister at one of the lookout points (Chaya Milchtein)
Car Tour of Lisbon — I've taken private tours before, but this private car tour from Viator took private tours to a new level. We were picked up from our hotel by a sharply dressed driver in a luxury, air-conditioned sedan, before game-planning the tour. While the itinerary was laid out when we booked, the beauty of a private tour is that you can change it up. We stopped at Pastéis de Belém, two different lookout points to take in the glory of Lisbon from up high, and learned so much about the city. Our driver and tour guide joined us at most stops which was fabulous!