Colourful, proud, inventive, romantic, upbeat, traditional whilst pushing into modernism, the Lusitanian capital of seven hills is a must-see place.
Four-day itinerary (M-F) in Europe’s new destination for entrepreneurs with a fluent English-speaking population.
Day 1: Sintra / Alfama
Bem vindo. The trip started with a drive from the airport to Sintra, a.k.a “the glorious Eden” to Lord Byron in the early 1800s. Sintra was home to the royal family and court, and attracted writers and poets of the times. It is transformed into a heritage site with a patchwork of Paláçios, romantic gardens, and a great national park emerging into the Atlantic.
The Quinta da Regaleira mansion, 1km outside of the historic centre, caught my eye. Its succession of mystical gardens and maze of trees including sequoia, magnolia, camellia and cypress, amid grottos and tricking fountains is a haven for nature lovers. I wish I had taken more time to savour it. cultursintra.pt
Late afternoon began my Lisbon story. After an hour’s crisscrossing from rua to avenida, I parked at the Santa Apolnia terminal. It didn’t take long for me to spot the docks along the Cais da Pedra and DeliDelux, a gourmet hot spot in the renovated warehouse – the new generation Lisboa. My first glass of Douro paired with Portuguese cheeses on English crackers overlooking the Tage was bliss.
I hitched a taxi to nearby Memmo Alfama. The design boutique hotel tucked in a pàtio with sublime views of this cultural neighborhood made my home of choice. The hilly Alfama quarter with a soul has preserved the labyrinth medina structure of its past populations. Picture bright stucco, massive churches, hanging laundry, steep stairs, tiny alleys, azulejos facades, iron balconies, religious icons, sun-splashed terraces, and retired locals reading the paper as they take in the vistas. Here or there, find street art, kitsch decorations, fit joggers, cafés and independent shops. Luckily, the Jameson 28e tram stops near the hotel and serves the main sites of the city.
N2S: in warmer climate, Noobai terrace is where to soak up Alfama al fresco.
At night fado goers and hipsters headed for the Lux club linger. I strolled the mosaic pavement and flat grid like streets of Baixa to get a sense of place. Franchise shops open past 10 pm and waiters calling out their dishes in three languages chased me away. I found comfort again entering the red and white Santini ice cream parlor in Chiado. And was charmed by the fuchsia colored Trindade Theater and Casa do Ferreira das Tubuletas, by the artist of the same name.
Day 2: Alfama / Chiado / Barrio Alto
A climb up to the medieval vestiges of Castelo de São Jorge lined with parasol trees offers a rare panorama of Lisbon. On the walk down, I spotted Miradouro de Santa Luzia where locals chat over coffee at the Quiosque Portas do Sol. I regret that the Museu de Artes Decorativas in a XVIII century home was closed on Tuesdays.
Behind the Catedral Sé Patriarcal are shops proudly promoting handcrafts on Rua do Barao (A Võo Adorinha, 28), Rua Augusto Rosa (A Arte da Terra, 40; Chi-Coraçao, 22; Ponto LX, 23). The bohemian and austrian Pois Café on rua de São João da Praça is where I discovered local illustrator Martina Manya. Print in hand, I made my way to the Conserveira de Lisboa – family business of conserves since the 1930s.
Across the Praça do Comérico where ministries stand, and uphill towards Theatro Carlos and Faculdade Belas Artes, I dwelled over a handful of eye-catching boutiques, high-end barbers, multiple bookshops, and Art Déco storefronts in the Chiado shopping district.
While Rua Garrett may house historic boutiques, the Fabrica Features gallery on the top floor of Benetton is HQ to the hip set seeking funky accessories. Bonus: aerial view of Lg. Do Chiado.
In the neighborhood…
- A Vida Portuguesa (rua Ivens, 2) opened by a journalist turned shopkeeper, sells tableware, soaps, linens, coverlets, stationary and more – fabricado em Portugal. A more recent Intendente address too. avidaportuguesa.pt
- Teresa Alecrim (rua Nova do Almada, 76) for fine linens plus embroidered – or not – tea towels. teresaalecrim.com
- Cutipol (rua do Alecrim, 113-115) sleek cutlery and home designs. cutipol.pt
- Cork & Co (rua das Slagadeira, 10). Did you know that over half the world’s cork is cut from the bark of Portugal’s oaks? Aside from the wine industry, the material has found its way to the shoes, accessories and design circles. corkandcompany.pt
- Chocolataria Equador (Rua da Misericórdia, 72). The scent and the distinctive packaging are the first two things I noticed in this small Eldorado for chocolate addicts. Portugal seemingly also has a love affair with handmade chocolate. Unmatched paper design and flavors. The macaroons are to be tried says a local, and a counter with bar stools at the back invites you to do just that. chocolatariaequador.com
- Claus Porto (Rua da Misericórdia, 135). A unique heritage behind a bar of soap with hand drawn artwork labels, originating in Porto with two German gentlemen in 1887, and since 2012 extended into a range of products. clausporto.com
- KaffeeHaus (Rua Anchieta, 3) if you’re in the mood again for bohemian Vienna. kaffeehaus-lisboa.com
- Café Lisboa for a contemporary style of lisboeta dishes, bistronomy style, inside the Teatro Carlos or outside on the terrace. An intimate locale, à deux or more. It is one of seven restaurants and other successes by local chef José Almirez joseavillez.pt – cafelisboa.pt
Time for a quick lunch at Cervejaria O Trevo, on the corner of Lg do Chiado and rua da Miséricorda. Homely soups, tartines, steak sandwiches, codfish prego …
Workmen in paint-splashed pants mingle with grandmas, fashionistas or businessmen. Grab a place at a table (using your Portuguese lingo) or stand at the counter. Authentic flavor.
Shopped out I headed South for a flavor of Cais de Sodre. A look beyond the estuary views at the casual feel and spot for cool kids: the kiosque. At night, this area rivals with trendy Bairro Alto. Sorry to have missed the Pink Street!
A stretch due West is the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the largest museum in Portugal. Getting there, I ventured in the food court Ribeira Market – open at any time of day-, and lofttype boutiques dotting the Santos Design District.
Inaugurated in 1884, MNAA is tucked on the dwellings of the Palácio das Janelas Verdes. It is considered the most beautiful collection of classic art in the country, including European, Oriental and Portuguese masterworks.
A belvedere with garden is on the lower level.
Pre or post visit, Le Chat likewise captures the industrial view with cranes over the docks and Ponte 25 de Abril.
My stroll through the romantic Jardim da Estrela (plaça da Estrela) facing the basilica in the São Bento and Estrela neighborhood reminded me of Parisian parks. Artists and antique dealers live around this area.
Happily, the tram28e passes here. I indulged till the terminal, steps from A Vida Portuguesa in the Graça neighborhood. This mixed quarter was until recently risky business.
It is on the renewal since the opening of the flagship store. Proof, the recent opening of 1908 Lisboa hotel and its Infame restaurant (Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, 23) – already popular with locals.
Dishes by a Portuguese chef. Design interior. And, vinho verde for my first! Across the piazza, push the tall green doors, and head upstairs to a real bohemian bar with a gravel terrace.
Two nearby lookouts were recommended by a local: Miradouro de Graça and da Senhora do Monte.
By the end of day 2, I started to wonder what it would be like to move to Lisboa…
Day 3: Cascais / Belem
Wednesday drive along the scenic Avenida Marginal to Cascais, passing Estoril (childhood memories of my father watching the Grand Prix F1). Cascais Market opens Wed. and Sat. mornings only.
For seasoned surfers and nature lovers, the Praia da Guincho in the Sintra national park is the hot spot. I carved out a space to admire the view from the stretch of sand.
I continued with my Fiat 500 wheels along the coast to Cabo do Roca (western most point in Europe). A taste of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa and Etretat in France. Optionally, rent bicycles in Cascais and ride the trails along the coast to Guincho.
Heading back, I checked Boca do Inferna – amid a flock of tourists delighting vendors and food trucks. In the middle of this picture spot is Mar do Inferno for views and top seafood (recommended by a true lisboete). It was closed that day.
Lunch at the Marina in Cascais. Nirvana hit at Farol Hotel lounging by the water with coffee and dessert. One of the best views yet! I took the A5 back to Lisboa to make time for the Torre de Belem.
Dinner at Sea Me (rua do Loreto, 21) in the Barrio Alto area. A modern style and lively fishery sought by the trendy and expat crowd. First taste of Percebes – delicious!
Day 4: Oceonaria / Belem
On the train to Parque das Naçoes, arriving at the impressive Gare do Oriente, designed by Santiago Calatrava for the Expo’98. West along the river is the Oceonaria to explore the underwater world.
Walking back along the palm-lined stretch toward Torre Vasco da Gama, the longest bridge in Europe is on the horizon.
The final highlight was Miradouro de Santa Catarina : Adeus Lisboa, I will be back!
For next time:
E@t: Le Decadente, Cantina LX, Pharmacia, Sinal Vermelho
Drink: Pavilhão Chinês, Insolito
See: Fondaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, MAAT, Igreja de Santa Catarina
Shop: Principe Real
Here’s a local address book spotted: lisbonlux.com
Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.
VF : pour découvrir cette capitale si chaleureuse, surprenante de créativité et attachante, le temps d’un court séjour… Suivre les mots en gras, les liens, et le guide Hachette “Un grand weekend LISBONNE”, édition 2017. Le dernier numéro du magazine anglais Monocle a consacré une trentaine de pages aux différentes facettes et personnalités qui marquent le Lisbonne d’aujourd’hui. Un vrai bonheur.