48 hours in Lisbon
Sprawled over seven hills above the shimmering River Tagus, Lisbon is one of the most captivating cities on the continent. One minute you can be ambling along narrow, cobbled streets, the next sipping sangria in a rooftop bar. Merging gothic buildings, colonial history, excellent food and raucous nightlife – not to mention the friendly, family-oriented locals – Lisbon is a city you can’t help but fall in love with. Here’s where to stay, what to eat and what to do in the buzzing Portuguese capital.
Morning: Check into the AlmaLusa Baixa Chiado
Tucked away in a corner of one of Lisbon’s loveliest squares, this 18th-century building once served as the city’s arsenal. It’s a listed building, so you won’t find vast swimming pools or luxurious spas here; instead, this is a vibrant boutique hotel with sleek, understated décor. The 28 rooms vary in size and shape, but all are chic, airy and free of clutter, with subtle colour schemes and slick, monochrome bathrooms. There’s a fold-up desk if you need to do some work, and big windows that look down on the gleaming marble square. On the ground floor there are original flagstone floors, wooden beams and grand stone fireplaces, and the relaxed concierge are on hand to help you make the most of the city. The on-site restaurant, Delfina, has a brasserie-style vibe and serves up an array of local cuisine, including the national dish bacalhau (salted cod). For breakfast, there are traditional tapas-style fried eggs with black truffle, and of course the ubiquitous pastel de nata, the golden egg-custard pastries this country is so famous for.
Lunch: Eat at Local – Your Healthy Kitchen
One of two branches that have opened in the past six months, this Palácio Chiado restaurant is ideal for a healthy lunch to offset those custard tarts. From fresh fish and meat to vegan and gluten-free options, every dish is free from refined sugar and anything processed. Feast on local octopus with quinoa, sweet potato and roasted fennel, or lentils, hummus and harissa-roasted vegetables, then finish with the divine plant-based berry cheesecake.
Afternoon: Hop on a tram and explore Bairro Alto and Alfama
From the AlmaLusa you’re minutes away from Lisbon’s bohemian beating heart – Bairro Alto. In the daytime these maze-like streets are sleepy and serene, and you can stroll along, snapping pictures of beautiful tiles and peeling, pastel-coloured buildings. At night the neighbourhood wakes up with a vengeance, and you’ll have to wind your way past groups of people spilling out of bars, drinking on the cobbles or dancing in the street as if it’s a festival. If you’re pushed for time, get a ticket for the Tram 28 tour; these lovely yellow old-school trolleys will take you past the area’s most buzzing spots and then right into Alfama, the oldest part of the city – just remember to bring your camera.
Evening: Spend nightfall on Lisbon’s coolest roof
The top floor of a car park might not seem the most exciting place to spend an evening, but that’s until you arrive at Park. The sixth floor of a Bairro Alto car park is home to Lisbon’s hippest rooftop bar, and from here you can enjoy 180-degree views of the Santa Catarina church and the 25 de Abril suspension bridge that spans the Tagus. During the day Park is relaxed and sun-drenched – a great spot to kick back among potted plants on the wooden patio – but come evening the resident DJ pumps out tunes until the early hours. Get here for sunset, and enjoy dinner and cocktails before partying the night away.
Morning: Walk (or tuk tuk) up to Miradouro da Graça
There are several views over Lisbon that genuinely take your breath away, but the very best is from Miradouro da Graça. Officially titled the Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen viewpoint, it features a bronze bust of the famous Portuguese poet that watches over the city, and from here you can gaze from the Castelo de São Jorge all the way down the river. If you don’t fancy trekking up here, take a tuk tuk; the drivers act like tour guides as they rev you up the hills. Afterwards, eat at one of the many outdoor cafés here that offer petiscos – little plates of seafood, cheeses, peppers and beans.
Afternoon: Shop for unique souvenirs
Fancy taking home a souvenir to remind you of Lisbon’s colourful tiled walls? Cortiço & Netos is an Aladdin’s cave of striking tiles to dither over, but there are countless excellent tile stores throughout the city – just avoid the ones on the touristy strip behind Praça do Comércio. For other gifts, head to Claus Porto, where shiny mahogany cabinets are packed with intoxicating essential oils and handmade soaps, A Vida Portuguesa, where you’ll find traditional children’s games, pretty framed posters and vintage-style canned food, or Armazém das Caldas, where you can browse quirky handmade crockery from local artisans’ workshops and one-off decorative pieces to place around your home.
Evening: Dine at the Restaurante Clube de Journalistas
You don’t have to be part of the press pack to dine at this characterful, romantic restaurant, situated in a 17th-century mansion in Lapa. It has long been beloved by journalists and diplomats, but today it’s also popular with couples seeking an intimate dinner. Sit outside on the terrace, or stay inside to admire intricate tiles as you eat. The food is simple but beautifully presented and full of flavour, while soft music, flickering candlelight and perfectly paired wines help make this one of the most memorable dining experiences in the city.
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