Lisbon is emerging as a dynamic city of art, culture, sustainability, and mouth-watering cuisine. One of the oldest cities in Europe, Lisbon was at the forefront of trade between Europe, Africa, and the Far East in the 15th and 16th centuries, and was very nearly completely destroyed in 1755 by a massive earthquake. Now it’s a blend of old and new, with its hip markets, cool bars, cobblestoned streets, and intriguing museums.
Words by Nadya German | Extract taken from July's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Pack proper walking shoes and get ready to explore artsy Lisbon - your feet will thank you.
Be a sustainable tourist
Despite its seven sprawling hills, Lisbon is a very walkable city.
First time visitors can explore Lisbon’s most famous landmarks at their own pace on foot in the downtown districts of Baixa and Chiado, and in Moorish Alfama. Book the “Responsible Walking Tour” if you are returning to the city, to take you away from the crowded touristic areas, and see the hidden gems of the city through the eyes of a local, passionate about their city. Or get on an e-bike for the “City of the Senses” tour (cheating, but necessary for the steep hills!) and picnic in the park on local goodies.
Take a walk in Belém
Stroll along the River Tagus to take a trip back to the Age of Discovery. You can admire the sculptures on the imposing but modern, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and marvel at the 16th century Torre de Belém fortress. If you go in the summer months, you can cool down in the cloisters of the Mosteiro dos Jeróminos and admire the stone carvings and gothic Manueline architecture in this UNESCO-listed monastery. Commissioned to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s successful 1948 sea voyage to India, his remains are entombed in the nave of the Church.
Indulge in Pastéis de nata
Lisboetas eat them for breakfast, served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on the top! Try them fresh out of the oven at Café Pasteis de Belém, Belém being the birthplace of these world-famous Portuguese custard tarts with their sweet vanilla custardy filling in a crispy buttery pastry case. Don’t ask for the recipe though, the Jerónimos Catholic monks have sworn them to secrecy! Or join the queue at Manteigaria downtown in Chiado - they ring the bell when a new batch is ready! And another reason to love Lisbon – you can try the gluten free alternative at Zarzuela.
Visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Named after a rich British entrepreneur of Armenian origin, this museum houses a selection of his donated 6000 art pieces, ranging from Persian carpets, Lalique jewellery, paintings and sculptures. They span over 5000 years of history, making it one of the world’s most important private art collections.
Hunt out the Street Art
An impressive number of new large-scale murals have cropped up all over the city in the last few years. Explore the neighbourhoods of Mouraria, Alfama and Cais do Sodré, where there’s lots to feast your eyes on.
Don’t miss the giant Iberian Lynx that dominates the public space at Parque das Nações. The works of Portuguese artist Bordalo II, who has several urban art objects made using discarded waste materials, are spread throughout the city.
Shop ‘til you drop
For swanky designer brands head to the beautiful Avenida da Liberdade or if high street is what you are after, try the mall experience, visit Centro Colombo or Centro Vasco da Gama. For artsy souvenirs, the LX market or Rua Augusta are ideal.
Eat Like a Local
Give yourself a treat and book a table on the terrace at the stylish and sophisticated BAHR in Bairro Alto or go to the more secluded Café de São Bento where you need to ring the bell to enter. To share some local Petiscos, try your luck for a table at O Velho Eurico, you may have to wait your turn, but it’s well worth the wait.
Hop on and off Tram no.28
Don’t leave the city without riding the packed Tram 28 through the narrow streets of the old town, up some of the city’s perilously steep streets, stopping at several historical landmarks along the way, including the cloisters of the Sé (cathedral) and the Castelo de São Jorge.
Plan to end your trip at Graça for sunset at the least crowded Miradouro (view point) da Senhora do Monte nearby, one of the many Miradouros from the city’s seven hills. It’s a great place to enjoy the sweeping views of the River Tagus over the terracotta rooftops of the city and a good excuse to stop for a classic aperitif of chilled Port and tonic.
Escape from the city
Close by there are other great places to visit. Spend a day in Sintra, and marvel at the UNESCO-listed palaces in the park or if you want a day by the sea, have an ice cream from Santini’s at the beach in Cascais. For walkers, why not meander within the walls of a 12th century castle in medieval Óbidos, the wedding present town? And for foodies, you should try the tender meat of the Black Iberian Pig in Évora, washed down with a nice floral red from Alentejo.