After seeing Torre de Belem, eating a pasteis de nata and listening to Fado, there are still many great things left to do in Lisbon. I first came to Portugal 3 years ago, as a perfect meeting spot between Madrid and London. I did not know what to expect, and every trip I did since then (Cascais, Lisbon, Alentejo, Comporta, Sintra) exceeded my expectations of the place. It is very green, the beaches are whitish and vast, its beautifully hilly, rich in vineyards. But it is Lisbon , where I have spent most of my time, and since this is the last trip I made (January 2017), I would like to share my most beloved route and favourite stops.
The significant part of Lisbon’s charm are very shabby walls of the houses, often covered with remains of tiles or with modern grafitti, barbecues made right in the street, laundry hanging out of every window. There is something from a medieval village observed here.
For the past 3 years the country has been going through a lot of change, noticeable to a frequent visitor. Rapidly everything is changing here. You see a lot of carcasses of old building, palaces being built from almost a scratch, the tall yellow cranes rising from every Bairro.
“The future is not about working longer or having more or fewer bank holidays. It’s about ensuring more investment in education, science, innovation and technology,” – António Costa (former mayor, now PM) told the Financial Times.
I find Lisbon a very walkable city, despite its hills, stairs cobble stones, the best things to see are during a walk through little streets and getting lost. I highly recommend wearing non-slippery and comfortable flat shoes to make your trip more pleasant.
Then you will be able to take photographs of the different azulejos covering the facades of old buildings, marvel at old buildings without their inside being renovated and check out some impressive street art (this useful map can help you find it). My favorite walk through Lisbon would begin in Alfama, then I would go down to the riverbank, walk along the river bank till Duque da Terceira Statue and then climb up to Bairro Alto till Jardim do Príncipe Real.
Alfama attracts me through its old vibes, narrow streets, scruffy buildings. Being one of the oldest areas in Lisbon, it takes its name from Moors, who named it in Arabic al-hamma, which means “bath”, which the area had nearly on every corner, but have now been abandoned. Perhaps one day somebody will restore them, like in Spain?
This village-like area completely changes and fills up with people on the Dia de Santo António celebration on the 12 June.In the meantime the streets are quieter, with the linen fluttering in the wind, gathering Fado lovers by the evening in its famous tascas, one of then, Tasca do Chico, was recommended to me by one of my friends.
After lots of up and down walking a good place to stop by for a drink is at Memmo hotel, that boasts a spectacular terrace and very good cocktails. See for yourself on the photo below.
Further on I would suggest to go down to the river Tejo, and either enjoy a sunny walk along the bay where you will also pass by Plaza Independencia, or to go by bike, as Lisbon has recently opened new bike paths right along the bay. Here is an extensive post about the rentals and paths: http://www.atlaslisboa.com/lisbon-by-bike/. Then, as I have suggested earlier head up to discover Bairro Alto, through Chiado.
Pass by the charming square with the only opera theater in Lisbon, National Theatre of São Carlos, and it is in a building in front of the theater, where Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet and writer was born.
“We all have two lives: The true, the one we dreamed of in childhood and go on dreaming of as adults in a substratum of mist; the false, the one we love when we live with others, the practical, the useful, the one we end up by being put in a coffin.” – Fernando Pessoa.
One of the ways to find more about the city, that I have discovered, is to find out where the name of the place is coming from. Chiado, has two versions for its name origin, some suppose that the word , which began to be used since 1567, comes from the word “shiar” -“creaking” wheels of carts, climbing the steep streets. Others believe that the name comes from the association with a poet that lived in the area, a cunning and malicious man António Ribeiro (1520 – 1591), who´s nickname was “Chiado”, and another name, of the same character, owner of a tavern, Gaspar Dias.
While in the area, stop by for local modern souvenirs in A Vida Portuguesa store, where the founder, Catarina Portas, wanted to collect all the best local producers and showcase their skills: “to revalue the quality of Portuguese manufactured production and the desire to reveal Portugal in a surprising way”. Sardine cans, stationary, ceramics, plaids are of exquisite quality and unique Portuguese design there. If you forgot anything, there is an online store you can order from. By the way, Catarina believes that a symbol of Lisbon should be a swallow (andorinha), which is sold in various sizes in the shop, as its presence throughout the XX century. The popular handicrafts appropriated the swallows and popularised their use to decorate façades, balconies and domestic interiors throughout the country. And truly they are a beautiful symbol and decoration item.
Image Credit: fugas.publico.pt
Continuing the walk you will find yourselves in the bohemian Bairro Alto quarter (high area), which has recently the center of nightlife, cafes and boutiques. Popular with artists and writers, this picturesque part of Lisbon’s center was formed mainly in the 15-17 centuries, becoming the first example of planned urbanization in the city.
The area withstood the earthquake of 1755 and retained its original building scheme almost unchanged. Today, Bairro Alto has become a unique sample of Lisbon for architecture and urban planning of the 16th century. And it is my favorite area to be in Lisbon, also because the best restaurants, lounges and viewpoints can be found in this area. Miraduoro Santa Catherina is the most magical place to be at the sunset, this is the video taken there few weeks ago, the most amazing place in Lisbon, with its own atmosphere, different people, locals and tourists all marveling the view of the bridge and statue of Christ and listening to this soulful music:
If you are lucky to be in Lisbon on a Tuesday or Saturday, Feria do Ladro, a vast flea market with a view, is a must visit. Even if you are not into old stuff, you will still be able to find fresh photographs and brand new ceramics there, or at least have a beer in the sun with Fado playing from a nearby truck, selling old records. It is open from с 6:00 to 17:00 and is located at Campo de Santa Clara. To find out more read my post about Feria do Ladro.
Now let me share with you all the best addresses I have collected through my trips. The ones marked with a heart ♥ stand for the locals’ favorites. And most of them are in Bairro Alto as you probably might have guessed.
My favorite places in Lisbon
♥ Praise Portuguese design, new chefs and drink to uprising European food mecca at Bairro do Avillez
R. Nova da Trindade 18
+351 21 583 0290
The new restaurant of Jose Avillez is everything: the location, the interior, the food. You can choose to be seated either in Taberna e Mercearia or Patio (photo).
♥ Try the best mushroom risotto and traditional Portuguese cod at Cantinho do Avillez
R. Duques de Bragança 7 +351 21 199 2369
Another place from the famous Portuguese chef, I would recommend for lunch. Try the mushroom risotto.
Image credit: inacircle.co
♥ Enjoy some Peruvian cocktails and raw fish at A Cevicheria
R. Dom Pedro V 129
+351 21 803 8815
Image Credit: Lisbon LuxImage credit: inacircle.co
♥ Have some pizza with a river view at Casanova
Authentic Italian pizzas with a sea view.
Av. Infante Dom Henrique Loja 7
+351 21 887 7532
♥ Spoil your appetite before dinner at By the Wine
Rua das Flores 41
+351 21 342 0319
Great bar food, wines and pre-dinner atmosphere. The food is very varied, had a great ceviche, Portugese cheese plate and Spanish jamon. For the wine recommendations, ask the barman.
Image Credit: www.winetourismportugal.com
♥ Try most wonderful Kalita coffee at Fábrica Coffee Roasters
Rua das Flores 63
+351 21 139 29 48
9h00 to 18h00
Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 136
+351 21 139 92 61
9h00 to 21h00
This is a temple of great coffee. Portugese take their coffee very seriously, and this place is a proof. Here I tried for the first time, Kalita coffeee, which is a dramatically different experience of coffee ever in your life. Also they make great grilled cheese sandwiches.
This article is an interesting read about cafes that are leading the specialty coffee movement in Lisbon. And truly this is something to try and hard not to get hooked up.
♥ Eat the best Chicken Piri-Piri at Miguel Laffan’s corner at Time Out Market
Av. 24 de Julho 49
Image credit: inacircle.co
Where to Stay
Both places are located very close to one another, in Bairro Alto, but have their differences.
54 Santa Catarina Boutique Aparthotel
Located on a silent street. Some rooms have an interior terrace. The suites are equipped with a kitchen and are very spacious. The renovation is made with the respect to the original decorations, some of the elements, old wood, walls, furniture are unique and very beautiful.
Orange 3 House Bed & Breakfast & Suites
Located on a pedestrian street with orange trees on a hill. The top floor room has a balcony with a view on the river and is very sunny.
The bathrooms are small, but the room is very spacious with amazingly comfortable mattress.The manager was kind to let me know where to buy one:
Luso Colchões, Portuguese brand: http://www.lusocolchao.com/site.php
Image Credit: Orange 3 House Suites. River View Suite
Short video shot from the balcony of Orange 3 House: