Why You Should Visit the Colorful City of Lisbon, Portugal

There's a reason the history-rich city of Lisbon is growing in popularity. Full of exceptional culinary destinations, memorable sites and independent shops, it truly is a one-of-a-kind city.
Photo by Meg Baggott

The popularity of Portugal’s capital has grown exponentially of late, thanks in part to affordable prices and easy access from the U.S.—there’s even a free stopover program offered by TAP Airlines. It’s easy to fall in love with Lisbon’s candy-colored buildings and cobblestone streets, not to mention its world-class restaurants and amazing wine.

Rio Maravilha
Rio Maravilha / Photo by Kenton Thatcher

Drink

The main reason to visit the Alcântara neighborhood is to check out the buzzy LXFactory, a former industrial site that’s now home to a slew of restaurants, shops, creative agencies, art galleries and more. It’s where you’ll find Rio Maravilha, a colorful spot with a rooftop ideal for sunset cocktails. At tucked-away wine bar Enoteca de Belém, Sommelier Nelson Guerreiro can lead you through a menu of local bottles that includes Vinho Verde and Port. If gin is your thing, head to the aptly named Gin Lovers & LESS, in the aforementioned Embaixada, for—what else?—a gin and tonic.

Bairro do Avillez
Bairro do Avillez / Photo by Paulo Barta

Eat

You can’t come to Lisbon and not experience Chef José Avillez’s mini-empire of restaurants. His newest, Bairro do Avillez, in the Chiado neighborhood, is made up of multiple venues, like the bright, airy Páteo (where it’s all about the seafood) dinner-and-cabaret spot Beco and casual Taberna. A few blocks away is Belcanto, his Michelin-starred crown jewel. Reserve a table to sample his modern takes on Portuguese cuisine, including grilled red giant shrimp with rosemary ashes and suckling pig. For dessert, head to nearby Manteigaria, an iconic bakery known for one thing: pastéis de nata, delicious, silky egg tarts. Over in the Príncipe Real district, A Cevicheria serves up its namesake Peruvian dish underneath a giant, Instagram-ready Styrofoam octopus. Don’t miss the ceviche “puro,” made with white fish, puréed sweet potato, onions, algae and leche de tigre (a citrus-based marinade).

Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology / Photo courtesy of FG+FS/EDP Foundation

See

Lisbon is a city best discovered on foot, though tread carefully on its cobblestones, which can be slippery. Skip the tram and walk up the winding streets of the historic Alfama area to the medieval São Jorge Castle. There, you can soak in some of the best views of the city. In Belém, about a 20-minute drive west from downtown, there’s a contrasting mix of old and new. Check out the waterfront Belém Tower, built in the early 1500s, and the modern Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, which opened in 2016. The futuristic exterior of the cultural center is covered in white ceramic tiles. Inside, there’s an impressive collection of works by Portuguese artists.

Icon Life & Style /
Icon Life & Style / Photo by Teresa Aires

Shop

There’s no shortage of boutiques that sell local crafts and clothes. Embaixada, a former Arabian palace in the Príncipe Real neighborhood, houses 19 businesses under one roof. Pick up a gorgeous leather handbag from Muu, or order a bespoke suit and shirt at UOY. About a 10-minute walk away, ICON Life & Style carries 30-plus Portuguese brands that offer everything from jewelry and art to handmade shoes. Don’t leave without buying hand-painted azulejos (tiles), which often come in blue-and-white floral patterns. Sant’Anna is the most storied manufacturer in town, in business since 1741.

Pena Palace
Pena Palace / Getty

4-Hour Getaway

The town of Sintra is only 20 miles from Lisbon, but its mountaintop location and Romanticist castles can make it feel worlds away. It’s worth the drive to hike up to the Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors. Monserrate Palace, the garden-filled summer estate of British merchant Francis Cook and his family, is also a pretty place to wander. When it comes time to eat, head to the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais, a hotel that’s straight out of a fairytale. Grab a seat on the terrace for views that stretch all the way to the ocean.

Published on May 3, 2018
Topics: Travel



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