Immerse yourself in a European capital unlike any other – as you while away the hours sipping coffee on one of the many open squares around the city, you’ll understand why Lisbon has become such a European favourite.
As you land in the city of seven hills, terracotta rooftops set against the deep blue backdrop of the mighty Tagus river set the scene for this buzzing capital city. As you descend upon its sun-kissed streets – Lisbon’s light is quite unique – you’ll find an exciting blend of old and new; the century-old tram system that finds its way through the winding, cobblestoned alleys of the ancient moorish quarter of Alfama, suddenly gives way to the stylish Chiado, where age-old herbalists and tailors exist alongside fashion designers and international luxury brands.
Up the hills of the boho Bairro Alto quarter, where bar-filled cobbled lanes mark the start of any night out, you’ll reach the top of the hill at Príncipe Real, a fairytale district where pastel-coloured, 19th century mansions line the streets of what has become Lisbon’s hippest quarter: bright tiles pave the way as you discover each of its colourful corners, stumbling upon shop after shop of the coolest vintage collections or previously unheard-of local designers.
As you descend closer to the river, Lisbon’s nocturnal soul becomes more evident, as river-facing warehouse nightclubs and the pink street down at Cais do Sodré make the city a libertine’s dream. Going west along the riverside, just under the bridge, sits LX Factory, a previously-abandoned industrial factory turned creative hub that serves as the stage for a wide range of fashion, arts, architecture and musical events, along with a selection of restaurants, nightclubs and perhaps what is one of the most impressive street-art districts in the world. Finally, just passing under the bridge on the way to Cascais, you’ll find the sundecks and sprawling gardens of the Belém waterfront, where Portugal’s rich sea-faring history is celebrated with a Manueline-style 18th century Monastery and a set of imposing river-facing monuments in homage to the “Age of Discoveries”.
But Lisbon is so much more than this eclectic and exciting collection of its own unique neighbourhoods; its true magic lies in the way it feels so very authentic and undiscovered. There are no crowds, no mandatory itineraries, no one telling you where to go. It’s a city that invites you to discover, little by little, all its mysteries, quirks and secrets – making you fall in love with it every step of the way.
The lofty hills of the moorish Alfama quarter are filled with narrow streets, lined with sunset-amber walls and ornate tile facades that stretch from the Tagus river all the way up to St. George’s Castle, that looms magnificently over the terracotta roofs below. Largely untouched by the 1755 earthquake, Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest discrict, where Portuguese tradition feels at its strongest; the rails of the legendary 28 tram lead you through its rustic charm, cramped little houses and a lifestyle that feels unchanged for centuries.
Every summer (June-July), the district comes alive with the ‘Festas de Lisboa’, where people spill onto the streets listening to fado and celebrating regional culture with a glass of ‘vinho verde’.
Witness the best of Lisbon’s bygone heritage at the stylish neighbourhood of Chiado; ask for a coffee in one of its century-old coffee shops, and watch the hours and people go by as you immerse yourself in its timeless beauty; al-fresco cafés, the world’s oldest booktore, designer boutiques and lavish tile facades are quintessential Lisbon, in a perfect mix between past and present.
Just up from Chiado, are the narrow alleyways of Bairro Alto, buzzing with bohemian nightlife in its bar-filled streets, where locals and tourists alike gather after dinner to get the nightlife started, pouring onto its streets and corners with a drink in hand. But it’s no less beautiful during the day, where flower-filled balconies and bright walls turn ordinary streets into artworks and the tram lines follow the clothes lines above.
At the top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills sits Príncipe Real, a fairytale district where pastel-coloured, 19th century mansions line the streets of what has become Lisbon’s hippest quarter: bright tiles pave the way as you discover each of its colourful corners, stumbling upon shop after shop of the coolest vintage collections or previously unheard-of local designers.
Largely incognito for most of the last decade, Príncipe Real has gained new life in recent years, becoming the city’s new hotspot for shopping and dining – home to Cevicheria (possibly the busiest restaurant in town), fantastic concept stores such as Embaixada LX (where shops are set in the rooms of an old palace) or Entre Tanto, a typical kiosk that sits right next to a delightful little garden and a fantastically-warm atmosphere, Príncipe Real is definitely one of our favourite districts in Lisbon. Its botanical garden, housing thousands of different species of tropical plants, is one of Lisbon’s true gems and still very much under the radar – visit while it remains that way.
The Belém waterfront is one of Lisbon’s most delightful districts; its sprawling green gardens facing the Tagus river make for a setting like no other in the city, making it the perfect place to enjoy the sunlight against a backdrop of lavish and imposing architecture. This is the birthplace of the Portuguese “Age of Discoveries”, where our famous seafarers set out to discover the world – the expeditions for India and Brazil, for instance, both set sail from Belém.
This rich heritage is celebrated in a monumental way, as the 18th century Jerónimos Monastery, with its Manueline architecture, imposing domes and ornate decorations blesses the water in front of it, which is lined with monuments and statues that pay homage to this golden time in Portuguese history. Also in Belém, you can find the legendary Pastéis de Belém, in a small but queue-filled shop just East of the Monastery.
Lisbon’s fine-dining renaissance has been led, in great part, by the new wave of young Portuguese chefs, that took the city by storm in the last decade with their innovative cuisine, learnt over years travelling and working abroad, and applying these techniques to traditional Portuguese recipes.
Chef José Avillez – the first Portuguese chef to earn 2 Michelin stars, with his ‘Belcanto’ – chef Henrique Sá Pessoa and his one-Michelin-star ‘Alma’ or chef Alexandre Silva and his also Michelin-starred, and very experimental ‘Loco’, are just some of the names we can thank when talking about the excellent gastronomy to be found in the city.
However, this trend was, fortunately, accompanied by an absolute revolution in dining for Lisbon; gastronomy has become the city’s pride and joy, being jam-packed with local eateries serving up seafood-driven bounty, as well as taking traditional recipes to new heights.
Al-fresco dining, rooftop bars and riverside bistros have popped up in the last few years, making Lisbon one of the top foodie destinations in Europe.