lisbon

It’s hard not to be charmed by Lisbon. Sprinkled over seven hills on the bank of the River Tagus, the city is one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful. It vibrates to the echoes of history while at the same time thrusting into the future with infectious optimism.

The hills, trams, thriving gay scene and bridge designed by the same architect earn comparisons with San Francisco, yet Lisbon’s soul is uniquely Portuguese. A stroll will take you from medieval ramparts through cobbled alleyways lined with family-run restaurants and drinking dens and past crumbling buildings adorned with street art three storeys high. You’ll find the Praça do Comércio, the size of five football pitches, ringed with monumental architecture. Finally, you’ll reach the riverside clubs where revellers dance all night, energised by the prospect of a prosperous future.

Portugal’s battered economy is bouncing back from the Eurozone crisis and Lisbon is leading the way: renovating rundown areas, supporting local businesses and attracting entrepreneurship. It’s a forward-looking mentality that is allowing creativity to flourish.

Doubtless Lisbon’s contemporary culture is inspired by Portugal’s colonial past, with Angolan, Brazilian, Goan and Mozambican influences meshing in this cosmopolitan capital. Whether you want to eat kulyachem tonak (Goan crab curry), rave all night to kudoro (high-speed Angolan dance music) or sip ginjinha (cherry liqueur) from a hole-in-the-wall bar, all senses will be satisfied.

Exploration is a pleasure as the sun shines more often than not here on the edge of Europe (a Lisboeta would say the centre), illuminating vistas from rooftop bars and miradouros (public viewpoints), encouraging dining, drinking and dancing outside and warmly nudging you to peek around just one more corner.

What you find in Lisbon may reveal the sense of the Portuguese word ‘saudade’. There is no direct translation but its essence is of a bittersweet longing, like that of a woman who marries a man who goes to sea. Whatever you’re yearning for, Lisbon is a good place to come and find it – or, have so much fun that you’ll forget you ever wanted it.

Here is a selection of SUITCASE’s favourite places to stay, eat, drink and dance.

 

TO STAY

Memmo Alfama

Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and one of the few to survive the calamitous 1755 earthquake. This 19th-century factory has been reimagined as a stylish but relaxed four-star hotel with roof terrace, wine bar, infinity pool and ‘one more drink’ views.

Bairro Alto Hotel

An enclave of cool in Lisbon’s nocturnal heartland, combining period elegance with modern comforts. The luxurious rooms are styled with a colour scheme mirroring the city’s personality: river blue, roof tile terracotta and tram yellow. There is an excellent restaurant on the ground floor.

  • +351 21 340 8288
  • Go to Website
  • Praça Luís de Camões 2
    Bairro Alto
    1200-243

LX Boutique

Modern, artsy, chic and popular among a fashionable 20-30-something crowd. Each floor is themed by a feature of the city, rooms are light and airy with the front-facing ones enjoying glorious views of the river. The restaurant serves great sushi.

TO EAT

Tentações De Goa

Family-run and usually busy, this tiny establishment is situated down an unassuming alley in the Mouraria neighbourhood and serves the best Goan food in Lisbon. Book ahead and enjoy delights such as crab curry and pork vindaloo.

Cervejaria Ramiro

Seafood mecca and Lisbon institution, loved by locals and visitors alike. Always buzzing, this is the place for fresh, delicious, good-value nourishment from the ocean. Try camarão à guilho (garlic shrimp) served with ice-cold beer or vinho verde (young wine).

Mercado da Ribeira

If you’d rather not choose just one restaurant for a meal or snack then roll up at this fresh food market to find stalls selling regional delicacies and culinary wizardry from top chefs. Wrap your chops around everything from juicy steaks to pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts).

TO DRINK + DANCE

Bairro Alto

A maze of cobbled lanes packed with lively bars and informal Fado (the melancholy soul of Portuguese music) restaurants. The area is sleepy by day but jumping once the sun goes down, with the caipirinha-sipping crowds creating a street party vibe.

    Topo

    Located on the top floor of a shopping centre in Martim Moniz, this rooftop bar serves alarmingly quaffable cocktails to wash down the spectacular views. Head there at sunset for petiscos (tapas), DJs and a seductive atmosphere.

    • +351 21 588 1322
    • Go to Website
    • Centro Comercial Martim Moniz
      Praça Martim Moni

    Casa Independente

    Bar and music venue in a grand but flaking old house in the recently revived, formerly decrepit, Intendente area. Visit in the day for snacks and coffee, enjoy the artwork, then return in the evening for something stronger to accompany the live music.

    • +351 21 887 2842
    • Go to Website
    • Largo do Intendente Pina Manique 45
      1100-285

    TO DO

    A Vida Portuguesa

    When drugs and prostitution are replaced by heritage soaps and traditional ceramics you know an area (in this case Chiado) has turned the corner. This beautiful tile-fronted vintage shop sells authentic Portuguese desirables over two floors.

    Miradouro de Santa Catarina

    Lisbon is a city best enjoyed in the open air and this is one of the finest viewpoints from which to do just that. Beer in hand at sundown, possibly with guitar-playing locals strumming nearby, you’re as near to urban nirvana as one can reasonably expect to get.

    • +351 91 522 5592
    • 401, Rua de Santa Catarina
      1200

    Street art

    Lisbon’s streets are an open-air gallery: incredible murals abound, often decorating abandoned or decaying buildings thanks to a citywide regeneration project. Put your best foot forward to find works by artists including the internationally-acclaimed Vhils.

    Running tour

    If you like to keep fit then a Lisbon city running tour could be for you. Pounding the steep streets offers a literally breathtaking aspect, enriched with insight from a knowledgeable local guide. Also allows you to gobble more delicious local food with a clean conscious.

    Memmo Alfama

    Bairro Alto Hotel

    LX Boutique

    Tentações De Goa

    Cervejaria Ramiro

    Mercado da Ribeira

    Bairro Alto

    Topo

    Casa Independente

    A Vida Portuguesa

    Miradouro de Santa Catarina

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