Best known for its history, surf and sunshine, over the last few years Lisbon has added some world-class design focused shops, bars and restaurants making it a truly cosmopolitan European capital.
Here are a few of my favorite places to explore when I visit home (more to come)...enjoy!
- Lunch Spots -
This is a bit of a cheat since it's not actually in Lisbon, but it is without doubt worth the seaside drive.
Nestled in cliffs with an incredible view over the Atlantic, Azenhas do Mar is one of the places that I always make a point of visiting, Summer or Winter. When I miss Portugal and its food, its here that I think of - the "Bacalhau à Lagareiro", a fire-grilled codfish served with roasted potatoes - always hits the spot. Pair it with sparking wine and the best sunset around, and it just doesn't get any better.
Lugar das Restaurante Piscinas Azenhas-do-Mar,
Think of it like a food court with all the great lunch spots around Lisbon. It has great range from top chefs around Lisbon, from traditional Portuguese food, charcuterie, desserts and some nice shops. This renovation of a Market that had fallen out of use has been so successful that Time Out is bringing this concept not just to Porto, but all over the world.
Praça Dom Luís I 44,
The Decadente is the laid-back restaurant at the Independente Hotel in the Bairro Alto neighborhood, and the perfect casual lunch spot. With great salads and updates on traditional Portuguese dishes, this is where the locals hang out. The best way to enjoy this Monocle Magazine recommended lunch is to spoil yourself with an aperitif like The Ginginha Royal - glass of sparkling wine with a splash of a traditional cherry liquor. Follow it with the plate of the day since it's always very good, and then step outside and enjoy views across the city.
Rua São Pedro de Alcântara 81,
Espaço Espelho D'Água is an incredible building. Overlooking the river in the Belém neighborhood, by the super-contemporary Belém Cultural Center, the area is a 'must visit' for the sites and the famous pastries "Pastéis de Nata". But Espaço Espelho D'Água holds its own from a design standpoint - from the Portuguese cobblestone entryway to the recently discovered Sol LeWitt mural. Taking inspiration from its location from where great ships left to discover new lands in the 16th century, Chef Ana Soares re-imagines African, South American and Asian tastes in a contemporary setting.
Avenida da Brasília, 210, Belém
- Afternoon Adventures -
The historical downtown of Lisbon is one of those places you'll never forget. Rebuilt in the 18th century after the great Earthquake and Tsunami of 1755, it's a snapshot in time. Wide car-free avenues, grand architecture and ornate cobblestone "Calçada Portuguesa" sidewalks that lead to a beautiful square that faces the Tejo river - it's an absolute must. After decades as a tourist trap, it's currently going through a renaissance with new hotels (see below) and restaurants that are worth a stop. Check out the beautiful Confeitaria Nacional, one of Europe's oldest pastry shops - and then for something new visit Typographia, a stand-alone shop where you can pick up limited-edition T-Shirts printed locally with contemporary designs.
Spread throughout the city, Quiosques can host just about anything from daily newspapers and magazines to cafes and bars. After a long afternoon sight-seeing, find one with a great view or tucked into a secret town square and have a little pick-me-up. We recommend the Quiosque no Bairro Alto - it has an incredible view of the city, and is the perfect spot for an espresso or a late afternoon "imperial", a 300cl mini-beer.
Praça do Príncipe Real
No Lisbon Guide is complete without mentioning the Elevador de Santa Justa. Since Lisbon is the original City of Seven Hills (sorry Rome!), the Royal Family needed to come up with some ingenious ways to help "Lisboetas" get to the top of the hills in the heat of summer. There are trollies throughout, but the most fun is the Elevador built by Portuguese-born Eifell apprentice Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard. Literally an elevator to the sky, it brings you from the historic Baixa Area to the Ruins of the Carmo Convent with amazing views of Lisbon from the very top.
Rua do Ouro,
Revived industrial buildings now home to creative offices, studios, restaurants and shops, LX Factory is a creative hub blasted with street art and buzzing with great energy. Spend an afternoon just hanging out and enjoying instagrammable spots like bookstore Ler Devagar. We might be slightly biased since a couple of our artisans have studios here, but for us its one of the hottest spots in town.
Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103,
Pastéis de Belém have been made in this very spot for hundreds of years, and I hope they'll be here forever. One of the best-known pastries in Portugal, they're slowly taking over the world but it just doesn't get any better than the original - the secret recipe is served all day and always fresh from the oven. Perfectly warm and creamy, wrapped in a crunchy crust. I get them in multiples of 6 (trust me on this) dust them in cinnamon and find a cozy spot under a tree at the park nearby. You won't regret it and I promise you'll come back for more.
Rua de Belém,
- Pre-Dinner Drinks -
A hole-in-the-wall that happens to be a national monument, this TINY bar can only hold 1 person at a time and only serves 1 thing: the Ginjinha cherry liquor. When ordering, the locals use the code: "with" or "without" (cherries), and "1" or "2" (how many!) - go "with" and "2"!
Grab your choice and join the locals on street to begin your evening as they have since 1840.
Praça Dom Pedro IV 71
1100 026, Lisboa
Palácio do Chiado is one of the most beautifully decorated buildings I've seen. One level of the palace is an every-day food-court good for burgers and salads at lunch. The top floor however, is jaw-dropping. Originally the salons of the palace, it now hosts 3 different restaurants. One sushi restaurant, one Champagne room, and one Charcuterie room with Portuguese wine pairings. Giant gold lion hanging from the ceiing? Check. Stunning oils gracing every wall? Check. All the Champagne and nibbles you could ask for? Double check. You'll feel like royalty.
Rua do Alecrim 70,
One of the best things happening right now in Lisbon is the conversion of some classic buildings into new public spaces. Embaixada (the "Embassy", one of the building's former lives) is a beautiful Nouveau-Arabian palace from the 19th century that now contains independent shops and a great Gin Bar called "Gin Lovers". Gin is having a huge resurgence in Portugal, and their assortment of gins, including Portuguese ones, can't be beat. The shops range from great traditional craft to the "Armando Cabral" flagship, the Portuguese male-supermodel's new shoe brand, a favorite with US sports stars.
Praça do Príncipe Real 26,
- Dinner -
A contemporary take on a traditional tavern, if you love tapas-style bites and good wine this place is for you. Bring some friends, get a pitcher of sangria and taste a wide variety of Portuguese bites - Casual and relaxed with simple decor it's right on a town square where you can dine in the summer for hours.
Praça São Paulo 21,
Although built around music, Café Tati couldn't be more different than Café Lisboa in style. Bohemian and casual, Café Tati is a great hang-out spot with great food all day. After 10P-ish they bring in some amazing music, mostly jazz sets and fado by locals and international artists. No cover, so grab a table for dinner and stay for the music. You won't regret it.
Rua da Ribeira Nova 36,
This is absolutely my favorite restaurant in Lisbon. Perfectly fresh fish and ceviche prepared right in front you along with warm bowls and new innovative dishes. It's a magic blend of Peruvian sensibility through a Portuguese lens by Chef Kiko. I recommend the tasting menu at the bar, get a bottle of sparkling green wine (the famous vinho verde) and enjoy the evening.
Rua D. Pedro V, 129
Recalling the grand times of dining all dressed up before the Opera, Café Lisboa looks glamorous in the 18th century São Carlos National Theatre. But this is not some stuffy restaurant; Run by Michelin-starred portuguese celebrity chef José Avillez, it's a contemporary take on classic portuguese cuisine. Known for their steaks it now even has its own style, the "Bife à Café Lisboa".
If you're in town for a few days, also check out his brand new neighborhood restaurant "Bairro do Avillez", with a gourmet grocery store and pub. A bit more casual, and very fun and delicious.
Largo de São Carlos 23
- Nightlife -
Now, I have to admit I've never been to Sol e Pesca before Midnight - that's just the Lisbon way! The "Pink Street"/"Rua Cor-de-Rosa", a pink-painted street in downtown becomes the center of Lisbon nightlife around the call of midnight. Named by the New York Times as one of their favorite streets in Europe, it's acceptable (and encouraged) to grab a cocktail or sangria somewhere and just live the night bar-hopping on this street as you make new friends. The quirky Sol e Pesca looks like a fishing tackle shop but it's the perfect spot for a late drink and some quick tapas as you enjoy the night.
R. Nova do Carvalho 44,
Absolutely packed to the gills with vintage artifacts and antiquities, you'd think you were having drinks in some fancy antique shop. But the cocktails masterfully created by the gentlemen (and women!) in the fancy red vests will leave an ever bigger impression on you they've been cocktail masters since before it was cool. A Tony Blair favorite, grab a table and a low velvet couch, play some pool, and just enjoy the vibes. You'll love the military collectibles and vintage toys. Truly a unique spot.
Rua Dom Pedro V 89,
This is one of those places you hope to discover off the beaten path. A Tabacaria is a former "Store of Luck" - where you'd pick up your daily lottery ticket. Its last owners had been there for decades and when they retired, new owner Mikas happily kept all the beautiful, ornate woodwork but gave the space a new lease of life through cocktail experimentation and tasty tapas. We prefer it in the summer when all the french doors are open onto the street and you can thrive off the energy of the city with some of the best gin cocktails in the city.
77, Rua de S. Paulo 75
- Sleep -
Located in Avenida da Liberdade, the 5th Avenue of Lisbon, Valverde Hotel is a luxurious mix of contemporary, vintage and mid-century design in a dark glamorous palette by José Pedro Vieira e Diogo Rosa Lã. Designed more like upscale townhouses, the experience from the intimate restaurant to the heated pool in the patio is a comfortable luxury that was missing in Lisbon.
Avenida da Liberdade, 164,
The Browns Hotel Group know what they're doing. Portuguese-owned Browns Central is a renovated downtown classical building renovated in a contemporary/mid-century vibe. The lounge area is casually sophisticated in jewel-tone velvets, brass and great lighting, with brutalist cement stairs leading up to the warm contemporary rooms complete with all marble bathrooms. We once completely messed up a reservation (or rather an online booker did) and they absolutely stepped up and made the experience an incredibly positive one. I've been recommending it to anyone who'll listen since then. Also in the downtown Baixa neighbourhood are Browns | Boutique and Browns | Downtown, done in different but equally stylish design.
Rua da Assunção nº75,
A former palace (sensing a theme?) now decorated in an eclectic approachable style, the Independente is two buildings next to eachother that are a great place to stay without breaking the bank. With spacious rooms with tall ceilings, you could call it a "Luxury Hostel". Downstairs is great lunch spot The Decadente, with the front bar the perfect spot for a drink before you hit the night - the best part is that it's right by nightlife favorite Bairro Alto neighborhood. Part of the Portuguese-owned "Independente Collective", they also have a country farm hotel and a few restaurants. All stylish and casual, check them out.
R. São Pedro de Alcântara 81,