Destinations / November 10, 2018. By Susan Connolly
Between historic charm, world-class art museums and booming restaurant scene, there are plenty of reasons to make Lisbon your next getaway. If you haven’t visited recently you’re in for a real treat.
For an overview of the city’s sights visit picturesque areas like Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood. Stroll along the cobblestoned streets. Alfama is one of the neighbourhoods that survived the 1755 earthquake and this is why it continues to have a very unusual street layout. Chiado is elegant and sophisticated with lots of chic shops, old style cafés and statues of literary figures such as Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s most famous poet. Much of the area was destroyed in a fire in 1988, but has since been rebuilt by Portuguese architect Siza Veira who won the Pritzker prize for his work.
For a good overview of historic sights take a walking tour which passes landmarks such as: the Sé Cathedral dating from the 12th century, St George’s castle on the way to Portas do Sol viewpoint for picture postcard views of the city and the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, a 16th century monastery with an amazing tiled interior.
Lisbon boasts more than its fair share of renowned museums and cultural institutions. The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum houses a priceless collection ranging from East to West and dating from antiquity to the 20th century. For a more local flavour the Modern Art Centre is located just opposite. It was opened in the 1980’s to feature modern and contemporary Portuguese art. Both museums are found in a beautifully landscaped park. Don’t miss the National Tile Museum, housed in the former 15th century convent of Madre de Deus. Here you’ll find the story of the famous Portuguese Azulejo (tile) from the 16th to the present day. The tiled mural depicting life in Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake is a particular highlight.
CCB – Centro Cultural de Bélem is one of the best art spaces in town located near the river and dominated since 2007 by the Museu Colecção Berardo. The museum houses the collection of Joe Berardo, a Portuguese multimillionaire, philanthropist and art collector. It is classified as one of the best private collection in Europe representing dozens of modern movements. After browsing the collection, visit the terraced café and restaurant or go for a stroll in the gardens overlooking the river and the Discoveries Monument. MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology is a must for all architecture fans, opened in 2016 it is housed in a contemporary building on the banks of the River Tagus. It hosts a series of ever-changing exhibitions.
It’s impossible to talk about Lisbon’s best restaurants without mentioning José Avillez one of Portugal’s most famous chefs. His restaurants are among Lisbon’s best. At Belcanto his 2 Michelin starred restaurant, enjoy Portuguese cuisine with contemporary inspiration in a sophisticated atmosphere. At his spacious Bairro do Avillez, you’ll find a restaurant with several different eating areas. There’s the traditional Taberna in front where you can try several smaller and (cheaper) dishes instead of one main meal. In the spacious courtyard there is Páteo where can enjoy fresh fish and seafood, among other dishes.
Palácio Chiado is a must-visit for the building alone, a carefully restored 18th century palace. Spread over two floors there is a series of restaurants and bars. Menus cater for all tastes ranging from gourmet hamburger to fine dining. For a taste of Portuguese traditional cuisine head to old-school Gambrinus for top-notch service from waiters in burgundy attire. For a casual dining experience go for one of the best homemade burgers in town at Honorato. Their menu also includes a vegetarian option and such has been their success they now have several branches spread throughout Lisbon.
For a luxury stay in the heart of Lisbon Bairro Alto Hotel is located in a 19th century building near museums, shops and theatres. Renovated by award winning Portuguese architect, Souto Moura, blending Portuguese architectural elements with contemporary furnishings. The bar/terrace on the top floor is a real treat offering views down to the riverfront. Casa da Baixa offers stylish apartment accommodation in a renovated 18th century building, in the historic centre of Lisbon between Comércio and Rossio squares. At Hotel Portuense you won’t have to sacrifice location and comfort if travelling on a budget. Located in the historic centre a few minutes walk form Rossio trains station. There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby, an ideal Lisbon base for shopping and sightseeing.
Chiado is the biggest shopping district in Lisbon with an eclectic mix of shops. You’ll find big brand names like Zara but also the world’s oldest bookshop, Bertrand established in 1732. For small independent boutiques and design shops head to the trendy Principe Real district to places like Embaixada concept store set in an 18th century palace. Shop for eco-friendly cork accessories at Pelcor: totes, umbrellas and shoes. For the major luxury brands such as Gucci and Prada head to The Fashion clinic on Avenida da Liberdade.
For helpful information on planning your trip check out our Lisbon trip planner
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