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My town: Lisbon

Hailed as one of Europe’s coolest hidden gems, Lisbon has a lot to adore. It’s the perfect port city: rich in history and unique shops; with great wine, wonderful food and plenty of culture to boot – what’s not to love? 

Whether you’re a foodie, culture vulture or shopping enthusiast, our insider’s guide to the beautiful capital city of Portugal ticks all the must-see boxes.

Food & Drink

If Portugal were to name a national sandwich, it would be the bifana. Filled with slow-cooked, thinly-sliced pork marinated in garlic, butter, spices and white wine; the humble bifana is all part of the Lisbon experience. Not to be missed, Lisbon’s culinary surprises: seafood, Portuguese tapas, custard tarts, and the traditional cherry brandy (ginjinha).

For the best pasteis de nataCafe A Brasileira

Image source: Wikipedia

A meeting point for writers, artists and thinkers over the centuries, Cafe A Brasileira is one of the oldest and most famous in Lisbon. Outside sits a bronze statue of poet Fernando Pessoa. Inside, the narrow, stretched-out hall lures you in with black and white marble floors, ornate ceilings, sculpted wood and all manner of gold and brass fittings. Not only is the art deco interior mesmerising; the Portuguese custard tarts and coffee sold here cannot be beaten.

For champagne opulence: Palacio Chiado

Sip on smooth bubbles and dine on sea-fresh sushi – all under the wings of a golden flying lion – in this 18th-century palace. You’ll find the most stunning restored period features, ornate frescoes and design marvels on the upper floor. Drink in those details.

For Scandi-meets-Portuguese chic: Prado

The only thing that beats the sensational farm-to-table menu cooked up by Chef Antonio Galapito is the serene space designed by Portuguese group Arkstudio and Marta Fonseca. Once a factory taken over by plants, the super-high ceilings have been revitalised and re-decorated with fresh, vibrant foliage. Throw in rope-like brass pendant lights with exposed bulbs, marble, glass and warm woods, and you’ve got yourself a Scandi-design dream.

One of the ‘coolest bars in Lisbon’: By the wine

Wine lovers will love By The Wine – the flagship store of famed Portuguese vintner José Maria da Fonseca on Rua das Flores, near Chiado. Wines by the glass and Portuguese gastronomy are served up in a traditional wine cellar ambiance decorated with 3267 bottles of Periquita, one of the oldest table wines in Portugal. Called the ‘coolest bar in Lisbon’.

For jazz lovers: Hot Club Portugal

If you prefer your drinks with a little jazz, Lisbon is home to one of Europe’s oldest jazz bars, Hot Club Portugal. It now sits in Praça da Alegria after a fire destroyed the previous building in 2009.

Shopping

The main shopping street in Lisbon: Via Agusta

If it’s unique boutiques you’re looking for, Lisbon delivers:

The Chiado district alone is home to A Vida Portuguesa; a treasure trove in an old fabric merchant’s warehouse which sells whimsical goods from a range of Portuguese heritage brands. Then there’s the old world charm of Luvaria Ulisses, whose leather gloves have adorned royalty. Beauty aficionados will love Skinlife, a unique and exclusive collection of perfumes, makeup, skin and hair products in the heart of Chiado. 

A treat beyond shopping: The Amoreiras Towers

The towers caused quite a controversy among locals when the postmodern skyscrapers were first mooted to soar above the historic city. Today though, the shopping centre is very much integral to Lisbon’s skyline. The towers offer a treat beyond shopping, opening its rooftop for visitors offering 360 degree views over Lisbon.

For homeware heaven: Ceramicas na Linha

Portugal is abundant in colourful and creative pottery. For a great deal, head to this quirky store and lose yourself in a world of gorgeous ceramics. From bowls painted to look like carved-out watermelons to teapots topped with quirky frogs, all pieces are sold by the kilo.

For a tinned takeaway: Conserveira da Lisboa

Pick a souvenir that shows off the dazzling Lisbon packaging by taking some tinned sardines to the checkout at this downtown family shop. The design work is so artistic and varied, you’ll probably want to frame your tins when you get home.

For independent delight: Embaixada

From luxury furniture to minimalist footwear, make your way through an eclectic array of independent brands in this Arabian shopping palace. Stores flow from one to the other around a breathtaking central staircase, showcasing unique products from Portuguese designers. Even if you’re on a budget, the converted Moorish building is worth exploring for its architecture and design alone.

Culture

The Berardo Museum

The National Museum of Ancient Art located in the heart of the city houses some of the most impressive collection of ancient artefacts from Europe, Africa and beyond such as Portuguese baroque painting, Flemish tapestries and Islamic pottery dating back centuries ago.

One of the most important museums of modern and contemporary art in Portugal is The Berardo Museum in Lisbon. It houses a vast collection of art from around the world ranging from 1900 to present day, including artists such as Picasso, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol.

Not to be missed the National Coach Musem Lisbon, a perfect place to explore the history of carriages and coaches used by kings and queens throughout Europe’s history. The museum contains over 60 carriages from different countries some dating back to the 18th century.

Carmo Convent

Once the largest church in the capital, the Carmo Convent was left devastated in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The roofless nave is now open to the sky and the main altar is an archaeological museum.

The gorgeous Tower of Belém is an icon of Portugal’s cultural heritage spread across the world. It is one of the architectural elements punctuating the cityscape of Lisbon’s monumental riverside area of Ajuda-Belém and listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. Not to be missed on your visit in Lisbon!

Where to stay

For novel vibes: As Janelas Verdes

Step out of an 18th-century townhouse – filled with romantic boutique design features – and fall straight into the National Ancient Art Museum. It’s a culture vulture’s dream. From Basilica da Estrela to Belem Tower, so many local attractions are right on your doorstep. If you’re staying in, take tea and savour a fresh breakfast in the hotel garden, or watch the sun lower its head behind the Tagus from the brilliantly bookish terrace.

For art deco awe: Hotel Britania

From the cork floors to the art deco light fittings, every inch of this Lisbon hotel is seeping with 1940s glamour. Its designer was famous Portuguese modernist architect Cassiano Branco, whose other projects include theatre Coliseu do Porto and theme park Portugal dos Pequenitos. You can feel the soul of the designer – and the era – the moment you arrive at its door, on a peaceful street alongside Avenida da Liberdade.

For 18th-century cool: Heritage Avenida Liberdade Hotel

Bag yourself a room in a historic wonder – this award-winning building has been expertly brought back to life without losing original design elements. The eye-catching blue facade, hefty wooden doors with solid iron work, Pombaline tiles and veranda railers have been carefully restored, while the hotel’s exterior design features have been conserved in line with the glorious Pombaline age.

For lord-like luxury: Solar Do Castelo

Within a medieval castle village in one of Lisbon’s oldest districts, this Alfama-based historic hotel feels more like the fancy home of a very rich friend. Light and airy, with funky features and details, it has a noble patio (complete with peacocks), zen-like chill areas and over eight centuries of history and design to marvel.

For 50s charm: Hotel Lisboa Plaza

Sitting in the cosy terrace, it’s hard to believe the tourist hustle of Avenida da Liberdade is situated alongside this homely Lisbon hotel. The same family have welcomed guests into its doors since 1954, providing rooms bursting with character, without losing modern comforts. Design lovers will especially appreciate the lounge’s adorned ceiling.

Discover Lisbon with the Lisbon Card

The Lisboa Card is ideal for Lisbon visitors looking to get the most out of their Portuguese romp. Lisboa Card holders can take advantage of:

  • Free unlimited travel by public transport (bus, tram, metro, elevators and funiculars)
  • Free travel on CP train lines to Sintra and Cascais (popular daytrip destinations)
  • Free access to 26 museums, monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Deals and discounts on visits, tours, shopping and nightlife
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