Built on seven hills, Lisbon is a magical maze of tiles, faded facades, sanctioned world class graffiti, basalt cube sidewalks, retro cafes, and some of the most warm hearted people on earth.
Surviving the catastrophic 1755 earthquake, the Alfama District is a labyrinth of steep cobblestone lanes, churches, mosques, laundry lines, and the melancholy heart of its homegrown folk music, Fado. At its highest point sits St. George's Castle, a medieval moorish citadel with sweeping views of the river Tagus and a feast of dramatic colors and contrasts from every vantage.
Juxtaposed with Alfama are six other neighborhoods: each more spacious, more planned, and every bit as hip and modern as any major European city.
Pack some sturdy walking shoes and wander the hilly streets without a plan--undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the City of Lights in all its contrasting glory.
lisbon's music soul
A 19th century tradition infused with sentiment of resignation, fatefulness, and melancholia, Fado is traditional folk music popular in the Lisbon area of Portugal. Melancholy by nature, the music showcases guitars and mandolins and a Fadista singing poetic lyrics related to darker elements of love, death, and sadness.
Listen to buskers playing in public spaces, linger below open windows, and find the authentic Fado music of Alfama weaved into the daily lives of the Portuguese people.
EAT & DRINK
Pastéis de Nata
Crispy on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside, the pastéis de nata is a local treasure. Eat them warm any time of day from a cafe with a long line--a sure sign this iconic Portuguese pastry is fresh and worth the wait.
In the heart of Baixa, a farm to table concept with a Portuguese twist. A daily changing menu, all plates are based on national, seasonal, and fresh ingredients. The wine list is extensive yet focusing exclusively on organic, biodynamic, and natural reds, whites, and roses.
Tavessa das Pedras Negras, 2
+351 210 534 649
A hipster restaurant inside the Independente Hotel in the Bairro Alto neighborhood is a centrally located crossroads for travelers and locals. A retro vibe and patio cafe serving fresh seasonal plates make this cultural intersection worthy of a reservation.
Rua São Pedro de Alcântara 81,
+351 21 346 13 81
Azulejos, Arabic for polished stones, provide cultural definition. For five centuries, artisanal tile making has added to the architectural interest and the historical story telling of Portugal. Typically found on floors, ceilings, and walls, these tiles are aesthetic expressions as well as utilitarian editions as they help control a building's temperature.
The Cerâmica S. Vicente, an artisanal tile shop on a steep Alfama side street, creates tiles using traditional techniques. Visit the tiny studio and watch as the owner Christina and her son design hand crafted tiles the way they were made hundreds of years ago. Commissions for custom panels accepted.
Controversial poor man's art, Lisbon's graffiti is city sanctioned creative expression that ultimately reflects the cultural fabric of this European capital. Since the 1974 Carnation Revolution that toppled the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, street artists have transformed the City of Lights into an outdoor museum in which large scale murals, political messages, and iconic Portuguese symbols are stenciled, scribbled, pasted up, tagged, or painted on exterior wall canvases. Illicit nuisance in most urban areas, Lisbon embraces graffiti as an important graphic tool in measuring the social and political climate.
THE LISBOAN GUESTHOUSE
Location, location, location---the mantra for determining value applies to the Lisboans. With a residential, village quietness it is hard to fathom that the hotel is a minute's walk to the busiest downtown streets and neighborhoods including Baixa, Alfama, Chiado, Graça & Princípe Completely refurbished in 2016 from a factory cannery, the façade preserves the original architectural simplicity, and it houses 15 boutique serviced modern apartments with simple, elegant furnishings, and an English speaking staff. Ask for the owner, Isaac, when booking (pictured above). Ideal for families. An elevator building flanked by a gourmet market & farm to table restaurant. Each morning, a breakfast bag is hung on your door – freshly squeezed juice and traditional (still warm) pastéis de nata.
The Lisboans Travessa do Almada, 9, Lisboa, 1100018, Portugal
firstname.lastname@example.org | +351212841327
Originally built in 1449, three defense towers rise from ancient fortified Roman and Moorish walls and provide a bird's-eye-view of Alfama and the river Tejo. One of the most beautiful and romantic hotels in the world, visionary Frédéric Coustols restored the palace to its former glory, transforming ruins into an architecturally and culturally sound tribute to Portugal's rich history.
A heavy red wood door is the only indicator that you have arrived at the palace. As it swings open, time travel seems almost possible.
Pátio de Dom Fradique 14, 1100-624 Lisboa, Portugal
email@example.com | +351 218 816 600