72hrs in Lisbon
Lisbon is the western-most European city and is the hub of multifaceted areas that appeals to different arts, senses, cultures and tastes. This is one of the coolest capitals, where every time you go back you can be sure to find something new. Every year we venture off to discover different parts of Portugal, but Lisbon always squeezes itself into every trip. We preferably based ourselves in the Bairro Alto district for its progressive bohemia, beautiful architecture and stunning night life.
The Santos Design District is embedded in the waterside quarter inspiring artists, designers, architects and other creative heads to live, work and play there. The Instituto de Artes Visuais, Design e Marketing lies at its centre with vast amounts of new residential and commercial complexes expanding like growth spurts. Beautiful galleries, studios, design outlets, restaurants and bars have emerged over the years as a result of investors.
Set on movie-set looking ground of an old manufacturing district, the LX Factory is a great place to get away from the more touristic parts and hang out amid the design firms, production studios, restaurants and shops — all having a design-centred focus. The 1300 Taberna Restaurant is set in an amazing space with industrial skylights and amid comforting folks. Another great gem is the Ler Devagar bookstore, often cited as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!
When in the bustling neighborhood of Bairro Alto, you must catch the views of the Castelo de São Jorge from Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. We enjoyed the Jardim do Príncipe Real after a sunday scroll for a coffee in the morning, also known for being such a cool place to have after-work cocktails. If you are a foodie, El Gordo Tapas is not to be overlooked, it's an amphitheater of eating on the steps. Our favourite meal in the area must have been at The Decadente, a restaurant/bar known for serving the finest portuguese cuisine. It is secretly inside The Independente Hostel & Suites, a definite stop for travellers and guests. For integrating with the locals more, it is best to rent an apartment with StayinBest. This Pritzker Award winning project will make you feel at home.
We fell in love with the rooftops scenario like that of Topo Chiado above Rua do Carmo, amazing food at A Cevicheria by Chef Kiko Martins in Príncipe Real neighbourhood and O Prego da Peixaria's insanely delicious shrimp burgers and sipping on fine wine with a bite of 5J (5 Jotas) rated ham from Extremadura, Spain at Palácio Chiado. The city knows how to entertain, as everywhere we have been to has offered not only great food but a good service and ambience as well.
Custard tarts are a must for those going to Lisbon, even if you don't have a sweet tooth, give them a try. The pastry is flakey and the custard is perfectly combined and eaten with a coffee, it is just sublime! On our favourite sunny day we headed to Belem, the place that boasts the oldest pastry shop, famous for such delights, Pastéis de Belém. This part of the city also hosts the incredible monastery, which is just a stone's throw away from the port and a lovely stroll to the Belem Tower. Our latest find for the best custard tarts was in street Rua do Loreto nº2, at Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata. It is open everyday from 8 a.m. to midnight, and they serve it nice and warm for you. You must try conventional Portuguese sweets at the cafe Ovos Moles em Lisboa. We went to the new cafe (second one) just opened on the 23rd of October in 2016, at Basilica da Estrela n°4. Expect to find ovos moles de Aveiro "our Jesus there" (which we first tried when we visited Aveiro in the north of Portugal), fidalgo, sponge cake, queijinho sky, pudding robins abbot, Muggles eggs and more. You can also visit the first cafe on the street Calçada da Estrela nº142.
If you have time, spend a morning at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, one of Europe's artistic treasure-troves. See also the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva (Museum of Decorative Art) and the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art). The newest cultural proposal in Lisbon is the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology). A museum that combines these three fields in a space for debate, discovery, critical thinking and international dialogue. An innovative project that brings together a new building, designed by the architect Amanda Levete, and the Tejo Power Station, an example of Portuguese industrial architecture from the first half of the 20th century, and one of the most visited museums in the country.
The oldest district, Alfama, is a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. The yellow tram slowly going downhill was blamelessly deserving of many pictures. Better yet, combine the experience with a little fado music and you will experience the Portuguese culture for what it is. Around the neighbourhood you must visit the 12th century Sé cathedral and take in the city view from the Miradouro Santa Luzia Belvedere. Be sure to climb up to the Castelo de São Jorge and enjoy the wine bar at Memmo Alfama Hotel Lisboa.
We especially recommend staying at one of Lisbon’s latest boutique hotels Almalusa Baixa/Chiado. This property takes the icing on the cake for its exterior terrace adjoining the palatial City Hall in the Terreiro do Paço square. This is often a quiet spot and you are a few minutes away from the Tagus riverside.