Lisbon, the Ocean Capital of the western world, is a city where the skyline waves like the ocean and you can eat a street-grilled sardine with the locals, drink a mini (a small bottle of ice cold beer) and hear Fado – the Portuguese version of the blues. Award winning writer, globetrotter and Lisbon connoisseur Nelson Carvalheiro hits the city.
LAY OF THE LAND
Lisbon is divided into several small inner city districts, each with its own unique quirks and charms. Wander through the atmospheric streets of Castelo or Baixa – the heart of the city. Explore museums and soak in the art and culture, including the extraordinary Design and Fashion Museum (MUDE), shops and cafés.
ALFAMA is quintessential Lisbon, a place full of fado houses and tascas (the equivalent of Italy’s trattoria). These are the places to drop in for a bifana (pork sandwich) and some red wine; simple, hearty fare that will keep you going while you explore the boutiques and stores.
BAIRRO ALTO (Upper District) is the heart and soul of Lisbon’s nightlife. The streets in this quarter buzz from early afternoon to early morning.
CHIADO with its elegant storefronts, is home to some of the country’s best fashion and interior designers. You’ll find traditional bespoke fashion houses like Luvaria Ulisses, where affluent Lisbonites have had their globes made since 1925.
Most visitors head to BELEM drawn by its gardens, museums, churches and monuments. These include two UNESCO World Heritage sites: The 16th-century Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém.
Boutique, boutique, boutique… Lisbon is a city of a million little details and your choice of hotel should uphold this spirit. Old palaces that once belonged to the families of rich traders have now been converted into stylish Portuguese heritage accommodations, where history and culture are part of the stay. Look for a place up on the hill with a river view balcony to enjoy Lisbon’s scenery to the utmost.
The Altis offers a wholly modern experience. Its suites face the water with views of the River Tagus and the Belém Tower. Minimalist in style, but utterly comfortable, this small hotel (there are 50 rooms) has some big features, including the spa, suites decorated with illustrated wall panels, the Bar 38°41’ cocktail lounge, and the Michelin-starred Feitoria restaurant, where chef José Cordeiro prepares his Portuguese-influenced haute cuisine. altishotels.com
Built in 1449, the original palace near the Castelo had fallen into disrepair when French architect Frederic Coustols restored it as a boutique hotel. The feel is that of a private home, with a choice of 10 beautifully decorated suites. A pool, an organic garden and a serene atmosphere make Palácio Belmonte a hard place to leave. From €400. 14 Páteo Dom Fradique, Castelo; Tel: (21) 881 6600 ; www.palaciobelmonte.com
Lisbon’s food scene is definitely on the rise. It’s the only place where street food like grilled sardines and pork steaks rub shoulders with Michelin-starred establishments and new bite-size eateries, all focused on the depth and intricacy of Portuguese flavours.
Without a doubt the finest restaurant in Lisbon, Belcanto serves elaborate contemporary Portuguese cuisine. You may want to save it for your last night in town; if there’s one lasting impression of Lisbon you’ll want, this is it. Dishes like the Jackson Pollock or Rebentação (Portuguese for ‘surf’) are examples of the genius of Chef Avillez, a young rising star on the Portuguese food scene fresh from his training with Chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli. belcanto.pt
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira
A fixture in Lisbon’s pop culture and one of the capital’s largest open food markets, this iconic market has been recently refurbished to accommodate 30 Portuguese quick eats (Petiscos) stands. Traditional Portuguese dishes such as seafood rice, steak in a bun, salt cod with chickpeas, and piri piri prawns are served in bite-size or handheld portions, so finger licking is totally acceptable. Go during the weekend evenings to get the feel (and smell) of a Portuguese feast. Address: Avenida 24 de Julho – Cais do Sodré; Phone:+ 213 244 980
Brought to you by the upcoming generation of Lisbon artists, the LX Factory
is a refurbished factory plant featuring ateliers, bookshops, restaurants, bars, design, concept and furniture stores. It’s a prime location to get your hands on hip, contemporary products. The inspirational graffiti sets the tone of one of Lisbon’s most progressive locations. LX Factory is located in the Alcântara district, both a residential and industrial area halfway between downtown and the monuments of Belém.
A former cheap lovelorn, where rooms were rented by the hour for brief lovers’ getaways, Pensão do Amor has been refurbished into Lisbon’s go-to burlesque cocktail bar. With frescos covering the ceilings, walls lined with mirrors and vintage posters of erotic shows, and a pole dancing room fitted in leopard print and gold, there is nowhere more eccentric to get the party started. pensaoamor.pt