From the narrow cobbled neighbourhoods of Alfama and Bairro Alto to the leafy squares and parks of Principe Real, Lisbon is a city that lends itself well to lazy strolls. If, however, you’ve got a need for speed (or you want to save your feet for a night on the tiles), it’s a good idea to invest in a LisboaViva travel card. The card can be used purchased from stations and can be used on Lisbon buses, trams and on the metro.
Located two minutes from Cais de Sodre train station (your gateway to the sparkling coastlines of Estoril and Cascais) and just a short walk to the bars and nightlife of Bairro Alto, the 4-star LX Boutique Hotel is perfectly situated for a weekend of sun, sand and Ginjinha-based fun.
If you only do one touristy thing in Lisbon, let it be devouring the crème de la crème of custard tarts from Pastéis de Belém. These paper-thin pastries filled with luscious custard have been made to the same recipe since 1837 and are worth all the hype. Get in line at their café in Belem (a short tram-ride from Lisbon) – you won’t be disappointed.
Food-wise, there’s plenty to write home about in Lisbon. Lisbon’s cuisine is simple, fresh and honest. Lashed by Atlantic waves, the city and its restaurants make the most of local catch and seasonal produce. For a taste of traditional Portuguese eats (with a modern twist), look no further than Casa de Pasto. Here, chef Diogo Noronha marries modern trends with age old Portuguese recipes such as duck rice and kale soup with chorizo. The setting is pretty interesting too, a home-from-home dining room decorated with vintage wallpaper and quirky antique plates. Plus, they pour a mean cocktail.
Tucked beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge (Lisbon’s very own Golden Gate bridge), this industrial estate was once home to one of the city’s largest textile factories. These days, it’s a unique cultural space filled with cafés, bars, bookstores and restaurants and some of Lisbon’s finest street art. If you get the chance, stick around and watch the sun set from the roof of the Rio Maravilha restaurant. It’s one of the most spectacular sights this side of San Francisco.
Eat your way around Lisbon’s best restaurants at the city’s Time Out Market. Once home to the Mercado da Ribeira, the buzzy indoor market features around 34 stalls where you can sample top notch food and wine for a fraction of what you’d spend at the actual restaurants. Perfect lunch spot.
For seriously instagrammable views of the city, head for the hills of Alfama and specifically, Sao Jorge Castle. Entry to the castle costs around €8.50 for adults. Once inside you’re free to explore the ramparts, check out the resident peacocks and kick back with a glass of red wine from the mobile wine bar.
Jump into the Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) from the Baixa district – a single ticket costs €2.80. Pick up your ticket from the office below the main lift shaft.
Located on the roof of a fully operational multi-storey car park, Park Bar sounds like an unlikely beauty spot. In actual fact though, it’s one of the loveliest places in the city to watch the sunset, listen to some tunes and chill.
Even if you haven’t got a clue about the words, you can’t help but be moved by the heart-felt, candle-lit performances at this Bairro Alto Fado bar and restaurant. A Lisbon must.
If you’re looking for a bar with a bit of character (and a colourful past to boot), get thee to Pensao Amor. Occupying a former bordello, this Cais de Sodre cocktail bar is the place to start your night. Good times guaranteed.
Flights to Lisbon
- Fiona Hilliard