They say the magic is in the light. To the approaching visitor, Lisbon appears illuminated from whichever direction you arrive. By land you’ll cross the 25 de Abril Bridge, resembling our Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California. The city is stretched out along the coastline and watched over by the towering Cristo Rei statue, a replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His open arms appear to be blessing Lisbon, implying “who can do better than this?” For those arriving by plane, it is best to come at night. The twinkling lights below look like a pirate’s treasure chest.
Lisbon is a city full of aspirations. Its visitors will want to ride bicycles in the city with seven hills; promenade along the coast; splash in the river and be in a city permanently decorated in balloons and banners, smelling of marjoram and grilled sardines. To discover the best of graffiti urban art is the new version of seeking out the historic azulejo tiles. It is a desire, above all else, to understand what causes visitors to fall in love with Lisbon, one neighborhood at a time.
Lumiares Hotel & Spa
The Lumiares Hotel & Spa is near dining and nightlife in the lively Bairro Alto neighborhood. This chic hotel is a minute’s walk from the venerable Igreja de São Roque church, a 6-minute walk from Restauradores metro station and less than 2 miles from the 11th-century São Jorge Castle. Featuring kitchens and balconies, the airy studios are filled with hip decor and original artwork. The 1- and 2-bedroom suites add separate living rooms and loft bedrooms. Room service is available 24/7. Dining options include a trendy cafe, “Mercado”, an upscale restaurant, “Lumni”, and a rooftop bar, “Lumni Rooftop”. There’s also a spa and a 24-hour gym.
São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle is an 11th Century Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the city and the Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from the medieval period of Portuguese history and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon. If you enjoy walking, start at the beach and challenge yourself to walk through the city streets up to the castle. The views of the 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei statue I mentioned earlier will be worth the effort. While we were there we toured the castle details and saw peacocks in the gardens.
Museu Coleção Berardo
In Belém, Lisbon, the Museu Coleção Berardo of Modern and Contemporary Art is the most visited museum in Lisbon. Open every day, it has free admission on Saturdays.
With five current exhibitions on view, two permanent and three temporary, visitors can enjoy the best of modern and contemporary art. Hosting the Berardo Collection, Coleção Berardo presents the most significant artistic movements from the 20th Century to the present day. In this museum, one will find works by artists from the most diverse cultural contexts and with the most varied forms of expression, all of whom would come to make-up the art history of the last century. Names such as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Vieira da Silva, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Bruce Nauman, among many others, are presented within the framework of the artistic movements. Their works are defined through a chronological succession that enables the spectator to take a trip through the artistic period.
Near Museu Coleção Berardo, MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, is a new cultural center. The MAAT hosts national and international exhibitions with contributions by contemporary artists, architects, and thinkers. If you don’t have time to see the actual exhibits, the exterior of the building and its living roof may be inspiring enough.
In Alcântara in 1846, a company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense”, was one of the most important manufacturing complexes in Lisbon’s history. This 250,000 square foot site was occupied by a set of industrial-use-related companies.
An urban building, the structure was kept hidden for years and has now returned to the city in the form of LXFactory—a creative island occupied by restaurants, corporations, and professionals. It serves as a stage for a diverse set of happenings related to food, fashion, publicity, communication, fine arts, architecture, and music. It attracts numerous visitors to rediscover Alcântara through an engaging dynamic of activity and the best chocolate cake and coffee ever, found at Landeau.
Avenida da Liberdade
Avenida da Liberdade was born to fulfill the city’s desire for its own Champs-Elysees in Paris. Sip a ginjinha (Portugal’s famed sour cherry liqueur) or two and have a bite to eat as you tour stores like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, and more. The Tivoli and other surrounding hotels support live music and even a street carnival in June.
Bairro Alto is a nest of shops, studios, hole-in-the-wall eateries, grocers, and bars; all celebrating commerce on every doorstep. On weekends, Bairro Alto spills out into the streets to share a drink and a chat, making streets even more narrow with crowds of happy people. Even when in a rush, it remains an obligatory stop.
Time Out Market
A famous publishing name hangs from the roof of a historic market hall where a team of journalists is running one of the world’s largest gourmet food spaces: Time Out Market.
Time Out Market is a concept created from scratch in 2014 by the team at Time Out Portugal, who have curated what they know to be the best restaurants, bars and shops in Lisbon. Hosted all under one roof, these businesses can stay in the market from one week to three years. In total, the market hosts 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops, and a high-end music venue.
New Lisbon shines here, where you can experience the best steak, hamburger, sushi, and the best live music performances. Additionally, the market is home to some of the city’s best known, and longest-running, market vendors of meat, fish, fruit, and flowers. Together, both old and new are proud of having turned the building, its immediate surroundings, and the whole Cais do Sodré neighborhood into a huge attraction for visitors, day and night.
La Vita a Bella
La Vita a Bella is the perfect spot to refuel after a day of walking. While the food is Italian instead of Portuguese, the wine list celebrates amazing varietals from the region. The wine selections pair well with caprese salad, steak, mushrooms on toast, and homemade tagliatelle on their exceptional menu. For an exciting meal, fettuccine carbonara can be made tableside in a parmesan wheel!
Placio Chiado will blow your mind! Stop in for a drink at the downstairs bar but stay for the historic building, wild architecture and accessories. Multiple food areas celebrate local fare, meat, sea and traditional delights. Be sure to order up some gelato as well.
For those who have more than 24 hours head to Cascais or Sintra …
About an hour away from Lisbon, Cascais is home to fishermen and yacht owners alike. By day, the town is alive with museums, stores and beaches. At night it serves up what the sea yields at restaurants like Hifen, Masala, Beira Mar, and The Tasting Room. It is a town where tourists feel at home. The area has been deemed, “The Portuguese Riviera” because of its numerous resorts, estates, luxury shopping, entertainment, and beaches, likening itself to the French and Italian Rivieras.
Also within the riviera area is the town of Sintra. Surrounded by Romanticist architecture, Sintra is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the Castelo dos Mouros, to the wooded mountains around Monserrat, to the town square and farmers market full of friendly people, Sintra is truly a magnificent piece of Portuguese culture. Azenhas do Mar to Cabo da Roca will take you to the westernmost point in Europe, where the earth plunges into salty waters.