Lisbon is something of
a rarity among European capitals – a laid-back city that exudes a decidedly
old-fashioned charm, with clattering trams, café-lined boulevards and grandiose
monuments to its famous seafaring sons.
highlight of the waterfront Belém district is its 16th-century monastery, the
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It was commissioned to trumpet the discovery of a sea
route to India by Vasco da Gama, now interred in the lower chancel (mosteirojeronimos.pt; Praça do Império;
Jutting into the Tagus
River and battered by waves, the Torre de Belém is a tower designed to defend
the harbour. Elaborate stonework includes intricate cupolas – look closely and
you���ll see a stone rhinoceros below the western tower (torrebelem.pt; Ave da Índia; admission £4).
Arrábida Natural Park
stretches along the southeastern coast of the Setúbal Peninsula, an hour’s
drive south of Lisbon. Don’t miss the pristine beach at Portinho da Arrábida,
guarded by an imposing fort (portal.icnb.pt).
Of the king of
Lisbon’s many clattering old yellow trams, number 28 takes in the best sites –
from the neoclassical Basílica da Estrela to the Baixa district of grand
boulevards. The 45-minute route also features some absurdly steep climbs (carris.pt; fares £1).
Housed in a
16th-century convent, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo covers the entire history
of azulejos – Portgual’s famous decorated tiles. Examples on display include
intricate Goan tiles (mnazulejo.imc-ip.pt;
Rua da Madre de Deus; admission £4).
Eat and drink
Nova Pombalina invariably
fills up around midday for its leitao – a suckling-pig sandwich, served at
lightning-fast speed. Other popular fillings include prosciutto and roast
chicken (00 351 218 874 360 Rua do Comércio 2; sandwiches from £3).
Stone walls, low
lighting and twisting corridors are the hallmarks of Fabulas, a cavern-like
café preparing imaginative salads, pasta, burritos and hamburgers. It’s a
worthwhile place to linger with a coffee or bottle of wine (fabulas.pt; Calçada Nova de São Francisco 14;
mains from £6).
Located near Teatro
São Luiz, Café no Chiado is a laid-back café specialising in Portuguese
classics, such as bacalhau à brás (cod, scrambled eggs and julienne potatoes)
and arroz de pato (oven-cooked duck with rice). Tram 28 rattles past the
terrace (cafenochiado.com; Largo do
Picadeiro 10–12; mains from £11).
A lively bistro, Santo
António de Alfama wins the award for Lisbon’s loveliest courtyard – all
creeping vines, twittering budgies and fluttering laundry. The menu includes
gorgonzola-stuffed mushrooms, and roasted aubergines with yoghurt (siteantonio.com; Beco de São Miguel 7; dishes
Olivier sees chef
Olivier da Costa prepare French-inspired dishes amid gilded banquettes and
low-hanging chandeliers. Favourites include duck magret with port-wine sauce,
and fish, prawns and spinach in puff pastry (restaurante-olivier.com; Rua do
Alecrim 23; mains from £15).
Set in a 200-year-old
former convent and the birthplace of fado singer Amália Rodrigues, Lavra
Guesthouse has basic quarters facing an inner courtyard and bright, stylish
rooms with small balconies (lavra.pt; Calcada de
Santana 182; from £50).
Overlooking São Domingos
Square, Lisbon Story is a small, welcoming guesthouse where rooms have
Portuguese themes: one celebrates azulejos, while another pays homage to the
country’s greatest writers, and comes complete with a typewriter. The shoe-free
lounge, with throw pillows and low tables, is a nice touch (lisbonstoryguesthouse.com; Largo de
São Domingos; en suites from £75).
The family-run Casa de
São Mamede is an 18th-century villa with stylish flourishes – a red carpet
graces the stone staircase, while tinkling chandeliers crown the exquisitely
tiled dining room. Large, serene rooms also sport period furnishings (casadesaomamede.com; Rua da Escola
Politécnica 159; from £75).
Raising the ante in
the city’s design stakes, the high-concept Internacional Design Hotel has four
types of room, each with a radically different aesthetic: Zen is minimalist and
clean, while Urban has irreverent, brightly coloured artwork hanging from the
walls (idesignhotel.com; Rua da Betesga
3; from £145).
Art Deco rules the
waves at the Hotel Britania near Avenida da Liberdade. The owners have put a
Modernist stamp on rooms, with chrome lamps, plaid fabrics and shiny marble
bathrooms. There’s a touch of Agatha Christie about the old-school bar (heritage.pt; Rua Rodrigues Sampaio 17; from
Companhia Carris de
Ferro de Lisboa runs the bus, tram and funicular networks, with tickets
available on board and at kiosks throughout the city (day passes £4; carris.pt). The Metro system is also useful for
short hops (fares from £1; metrolisboa.pt).
When to go
Lisbon has mild, rainy
winters and warm, dry summers. In June, both the Fado Festival of traditional
song is held at the Castelo de São Jorge, and the Festa de Santo António is
celebrated with particular fervour in the Alfama and Madragoa districts of the city
EasyJet flies to
Lisbon Portela airport from Gatwick (from £90), and seasonally from Bristol
(from £80) and Liverpool (from £80; easyjet.com).
TAP Portugal flies from Heathrow (from £140) and Manchester (from £140; flytap.com). From the airport, AeroBus departs
regularly for the city centre (carris.pt; fares
The article 'Mini guide to Lisbon, Portugal' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.