CITY GUIDE: LISBONApril 30, 2015
If you hate paying next to nothing for great wine, are turned off by warm, welcoming locals, and can’t even deal with the prospect of spending your days basking in sunshine and your nights partying in the streets, then look away now: Lisbon totally isn’t for you.
For everyone else who just started packing their bags and asking, “when do we fly?”, you’re gonna fall in love. Guaranteed.
Lisbon is the kind of place where you come expecting nothing in particular and leave wishing you could take it with you. You might have heard it being hailed as one of Europe’s coolest hidden gems, and with good reason: Lisbon is charming, but it also has a chilled-out vibe. There’s good coffee, good wine, good food and good weather. Time moves slowly. And when you’re drinking a cold beer on a warm terrace under a pink sky on a lazy afternoon, you’ll inevitably catch yourself thinking, “those Portuguese… they’re onto something.”
If you get a chance to visit the city, do yourself a favour and check out these spots. Seriously, you won’t regret it.
This is one of those places that defies categorisation, morphing from one thing to another depending on what time you happen to walk through the door.
When the night begins it’s a quiet bar. By 9pm there’s not a free table in sight as staff shuttle hip yet homely meals to hungry diners. By 11pm you can’t even move, except to bounce with the crowd to some DJ spinning sweet hip-hop or electro tracks, or maybe to get lost in the wash of sound from a local live band. At 1am the crowd is spilling out of the warren of eclectically-decorated rooms and onto the old basketball court you have to pass through to get to it. At any time, it’s worth a visit. You’ll find it inside the old Ateneu building, accessed via a barely noticeable side-street off Rua das Portas de Santo Antão.
Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, nº110<
Bettina & Niccolò Corallo
You think you know all there is to know about chocolate. And then you visit Bettina & Niccolò.
The shop is owned and run by a family of seemingly genetically superior beings of Italian-slash-Portuguese descent, who hold the secret to making the best brownies on the planet. Part of the joy is unwrapping these lovingly-baked gifts, beautifully presented as they are, before letting them ooze into their inevitable state of hazlenutty, chocolatey abandon.
Alongside the brownies, artisanal chocolate of various exotic origins is sold by the kilo. Oh, and there’s also chocolate sorbet. For an afternoon coffee and sugar pick-me-up, go here. You’ll find it in Lisbon’s Principe Real district.
Bettina & Niccolò Corallo
Rua da Escola politécnica 4
Park Bar is properly hidden. Like, climb-up-six-flights-of-dirty-concrete-stairs-inside-a-nondescript-multi-storey-car-park-to-get-there kind of hidden. But once you know how to find it, you’ll keep going back. The top level of the car park opens out into a rooftop bar with both indoor and outdoor seating, a live DJ, and the kind of spectacular view that’s usually reserved for luxe five-star hotels. Here, it’s without fanfare, as if the carpet of tiled rooftops sprawling all the way to the river is just part of the furniture.
Time your visit with the sunset. This is the place to sip on a caipirinha and enjoy the view as the sun melts over the city.
Calçada do Combro, 58
Take a bunch of abandoned old warehouses and factories and revive them into something people might actually want to visit. What you’re left with is LX Factory, an island of activity amidst an industrial sea. Inside buildings painted with giant street-art murals you’ll find cafes and restaurants, stores, bars and art galleries. There’s also a Sunday market on every weekend.
Be sure to try the chocolate cake at Landeau, and peruse the shelves of quirkily laid-out bookstore Ler Devagar.
Rua Rodrigues de Faria, 103
Mercado da Ribeira
Sometimes you just want to go somewhere where you can grab a quick bite with minimal fuss. And, well, Lisbon isn’t really a place with a lot of fast food options (not such a bad thing, really). Instead you have cool marketplaces like Mercado da Ribeira.
This is an impressive domed structure that used to house a traditional meat, fish and produce market, but a few hundred years later is a foodie hangout packed with pretty much every cuisine your heart could desire. The space was revived by Time Out, who took it over just a few years ago and transformed it into what it is today. Top Lisbon eateries have stalls here where you can pick up a snack or a meal and get comfortable with it at one of the communal wooden tables.
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho, 49
Bairro Alto district
Lisbon is one of those places where the climate is so good the nightlife works in reverse. Why stay in a bar when you could be outside under the stars? Instead, people spill out of the venues and into the streets, going back inside mostly just to top up their glasses. The Bairro Alto neighbourhood has the biggest concentration of bars, so barely a night goes by that the area doesn’t turn into one collective street party after nightfall.
It’s also worth walking the district’s cobbled streets by day, when it takes on a completely different personality. By daylight you’ll find vibrant street art and boutique stores, and maybe a moss of green lime wedges on the ground as the only evidence of what went on here the night before.