In this post we are going to visit some amazing cafes along the Tram 28 Line. This is a very difficult round to judge due to the greatness of all three of these cafes I’m going to review in this post. Along with the high quality coffee and ambiance, these cafes have that special X-Factor that makes you want to spend much of your life in these places just soaking it all in. I will rate these cafes on several criteria, and if you are unfamiliar with the rating scheme, please visit Round 1.
On to Contender #1,
Cafe Miradouro Da Graça:
What can I say about Graça? Should I speak about the local vibe, the jostling tram ride up the mountain, or what the Buddha calls the “suchness of being” that I feel here? I think I’ll just relate the story of how I first happened upon this cafe. My roommate and our friends (one of whose middle name is Graça, coincidentally) decided to go out for a late night bica. We walked all the way from our place in Anjos about a mile uphill to get here. It was night time and the Castelo São Jorge was all lit up. So was the Ponte 25 de Abril. The view was simply spectacular at night and I had to come back during the day to check it out again. Here is the breakdown:
1. Quality of Coffee: 4 out of 5. Creamy and chocolaty espresso that is strong with a nice long finish. Very few coffee grounds left in the cup is a testament to the veteran baristas serviing it up here. This cafe caters mostly to locals in the Graça area and they can be very discerning about their bicas.
2. Availability of Other Refreshments: Ample. In addition to bicas, there is beer on tap (Sagres, as usual), local Portuguese wine, a small selection of pastries, and a small selection of liquor. Food is limited to chips and pastries. There is no ice cream or fresh squeezed juice. The barista area is quite small actually and it is a surprise that they are able to serve the throng of people here all day and night.
3. Price: Moderate. One bica is one euro. I guess any cafe with a nice view will charge at least one euro per espresso. A glass of local Portuguese wine is 2,50 Euros. A pastel de nata is 1,20 Euros.
4. Atmosphere: Miradouro Graça is one of the very best in the city. My roommate who has lived in Lisbon for many years considers this her favorite view. I don’t know if I can quite crown this as best miradouro, but it is starting to grow on me. This is a cafe for locals. If you open your ears you hear mostly Portuguese. There is the occasional group of German tourists (they are everywhere), and at least one Americano, but it’s mostly locals. The cafe is next to a grand old cathedral, Igreja Graça, an enormous and beautiful edifice of white marble. The cafe itself gets major points for the soft chillout music in the background ranging from downtempo breakbeats to Fado. Waitstaff will take your order and serve you at your table.
5. Location: This cafe is located at the Miradouro Graça. You can get there by Tram 28 or walking. The nearest metro station is Martim Moniz on the Linha Verde.
Overall Assessment: This cafe is one of my favorites in all of Lisbon. The local vibe and the view make this a great place to while away an afternoon sipping coffee and reading Fernando Pessoa. The neighborhood has many small shops where you can buy fruit and pastries. There is a well maintained bathroom very close and a beautiful cathedral close by too. Waitstaff is very friendly and will take your order at the table. Very highly recommended.
On to Contender #2!
Cafe Portas Do Sol. This cafe is located in the Portas do Sol area of Lisbon. It is right next to the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, very close by the entrance to the Castelo São Jorge. Just like Contender #1, this cafe is located at a miradouro that affords it an amazing view. You can see the river Tejo and the Mosteiro de S. Vicente from the cafe. Like most miradouros in Lisbon, it is quite windy so be prepared and hold onto your hat.
1. Quality of Coffee: 3.75. This is a more touristy area so you can’t expect the coffee to be amazing, but it is drinkable. What can I say? It’s an espresso. I don’t think Sara enjoyed it too much though…
2. Availability of Other Refreshments: Lacking. This cafe pretty much only has coffee, beer, a small selection of pastries, and some canned fruit juice. The cafe is self serve so you have to get your coffee yourself.
3. Price: Moderate. One bica will run you 1,10€. Other drinks that come in a can will be 2,10€. I haven’t gotten beer at this cafe yet, but it is probably around 2 Euros for a 20CL glass.
4. Atmosphere: Here is where this cafe makes up for the lack of variety in refreshments. There is a local band that basically owns this spot and plays here almost everyday. They are called Guents Dy Rincon. They play music that they call “Cabo Verde spiritual traditional acoustic music”. They are awesome live. The lead singer will run around with his percussion shakers and shake them on passerby. He will also give out plastic shaker eggs so that people can keep rhythm. This was the second time Nils and I saw them live and he remembered us and thanked us for our positive energy.
5. Location: This cafe is at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, on the Tram 28 line, near the entrance to the Castelo São Jorge. There is a bathroom in a bar 20 meters from the cafe that you can use. It’s pretty convenient if you take the Tram 28, but its kinda a hike uphill if you walk from Baixa.
Overall Assessment: Pretty awesome view, (I think the one from Graça is better), and slightly above average coffee. What makes this cafe special is the band that plays here often. If you want some live music to go with your coffee then this is the place to do it. Lots of tourists so definitely not a local vibe or spot. Recommended.
On to Contender #3!
Cafe in Jardim Estrela:
Ok so I know that I covered this cafe/restaurant in my blog post, First Day in Portugal, but I had to come back because this place is just too special, and I didn’t have any coffee back then. Wow it seems like so long ago! So much has happened…
1. Quality of Coffee: 3 out of 5. Ok so the coffee was “alright”. There really isn’t much to write about the cups served here, and I think that’s the point. This cafe is really more of a restaurant that serves coffee and not a cafe that happens to have food. It is still used as a cafe by many people including myself.
2. Availability of Other Refreshments: Well-Stocked. This cafe/restaurant has “Pratas do Dia”, or freshly made food offerings of the day for around 5-7 Euros. There are also pastries, Sagres on tap, a full bar, wine, and ice cream.
3. Price: Moderate. One bica or cafe Americano will cost you one Euro and a 20 CL cup of Sagres is 1,20 €.
4. Atmosphere: This cafe is located in arguably one of the best public spaces in Lisbon, the Jardim Estrela. On weekends it is packed with people and street (or garden?) performers. The people range from old ladies sitting and talking to young children with their parents to teenagers and young people hanging out. There are several duck ponds and people like to feed them bread and what not. There is plenty of shade and benches so everyone can get a spot.
5. Location: Cafe Jardim Estrela is located closest to the Rato metro station, on Linha Amarela. Once you get out of the metro, walk South West along the Av. de Alvares Cabral until you reach the garden.
Overall Assessment: If you come here on a weekday the garden is relatively quiet and calm. If you come here on a weekend the place is pretty much chaos. It really depends on what your mood is. The main strength of this cafe contender lies in the fact that it is surrounded by so much green and natural beauty. The main weakness of this contender is that it can get crowded and noisy sometimes. There is a DJ who plays at the cafe on Saturdays.
Now that we have seen the three contenders this round we have to pick a winner. All three have their charm. All three have incredible atmosphere and vibe, but who’s caffeine reigns supreme?
> drum roll……
Cafe Miradouro da Graça! With it’s excellent waitstaff, amazing views of the Castelo São Jorge, and great coffee, this cafe is the clear winner in Round 2. I have to admit, this is going to be a strong contender in the playoff bracket. It may even make it to the Finals, we’ll see. But there are many more cafes to visit and judge in Lisbon, and we haven’t even gotten to Round 3 yet! Stay tuned! In the meantime, congratulations to Cafe Miradouro da Graça!
If you want to see a picture of the view from Cafe Miradouro da Graça at night, visit my prior post, Lisbon at Night.
And now, a random photo of Nils and the Super Bock Ukulele: