Destination Guide to Lisbonby Georgia Hopkins of @_itsbeautifulhere
Character-filled cobblestone streets, colorful tiled walls, friendly locals, incredible light—Portugal’s seaside capital is full of magic, charm and inspiration. Calling Lisbon her second home, Georgia Hopkins, who quit the corporate world in Sydney, Australia to write and photograph her travels via It’s Beautiful Here, recounts a few of her favorite places in the seaside city.
The Lumiares Hotel & Spa
The location could not be more perfect. Sitting pretty on one of Lisbon’s seven hills in the charming Barrio Alto, with beautiful and leafy Principe Real just up the road, there’s The Lumiares Hotel & Spa. Friendly staff welcome you on arrival in the black and white tiled entrance hall. There is a day spa handy if you are feeling like some pampering on arrival. There are two restaurants and 53 light-filled, spacious apartments to choose from. The little touches are what make this place so special—colorful Portuguese tiles (azulejos) in the bathrooms, soap by luxury Portuguese soap maker Claus Porto and chilled wine in the fridge. It’s beautiful here.
Memmo Principe Real
A little further up the hill, with spectacular views out over the hills of Lisbon, you will find Memmo Principe Real, hidden down a narrow little street through a small tunnel. The 41-room luxury boutique hotel has incredible city views and an outdoor pool–this is the place for those who love sleek and modern design.
Pestana Palace Lisboa Hotel & National Monument
If you are looking for a quieter option, slightly outside the city centre, the Pestana Palace might fit the bill. Located in the beautiful, leafy neighborhood of Alto Santo Amaro, the original 19th century Palace building is one of Lisbon’s finest. Once home to the Marquis of Valle Flôr, the building was left abandoned for 60 years before the Pestana group bought the building and reopened it as a hotel in 2001. With most of the 193 rooms and four suites scattered throughout the expansive palace grounds, the Palace building itself houses the most incredible ballrooms and dining areas—this is where you’ll enjoy an impressive breakfast each morning.
EAT & DRINK
The opening of Prado heralds a change in the way Lisboans eat. Underneath luxury design apartments The Lisboans, this gorgeous space designed by Portuguese Ark Studio is a plant-filled paradise that’s perfect for dinner for two, or with friends. With a daily-changing, seasonal menu, there is always something interesting to try. You are in the safe hands of chef António Galapito, only 26 years old, who returned from London to open this restaurant. Hot tip: check out their grocery store next door. (Photo courtesy of Prado)
With its daily changing menu, this tiny 20-seater is a favorite among locals. Located in Alfama, the menu here is ever-interesting and always inspired by what chef David Eyguesier finds at the market that morning. They also offer a small selection of natural wines.
Mercado de Ribeira
A fun, easy and low-key gastronomic experience, the Mercado de Ribeira is a collection of food stalls in a big, old factory near the water run by some of Lisbon’s favorite restaurants. We recommend trying the seared tuna pregos in carob bread from Sea Me, the Portuguese tarts from Manteigaria, the local green wine (vinho verde) from O Bar da Odete and ice cream from Santini (try the coconut and pineapple).
Topo is just one of a handful of exceptional rooftop drinking spots around Lisbon. Located in an otherwise nondescript office building, Topo offers incredible views back over Lisbon, from São Jorge Castle and Mouraria, over to Graça and Senhora do Monte, and it’s definitely best enjoyed at sunset. The light here will blow your mind.
If you are craving an authentic wood-fired oven pizza, just like the Italians do, head to ZeroZero. With a beautiful outdoor courtyard—perfect on a sunny afternoon—the pizza here is amazing and the products are all from Italian producers, mainly from the region of Veneto.
For the best sourdough breads in town, head to Gleba bakery. Diogo Amorim is a kind, young, passionate chef who once worked with Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck in London. Returning to Lisbon a couple of years ago, Diogo decided to start making his own Portuguese bread. Traveling all over the country to research old grains and the sourdough bread-making process, he now bakes four times a day with his amazing breads selling out every time.
Australians do coffee better (I’m biased, I know), and the Aussie-Portuguese team at The Mill are no exception. Always busy, come here for a seriously good flat white and some delicious food, particularly the porridge or avocado on toast. With good vibes and Wi-Fi, this makes for a lovely spot to sit in the window to catch up on a few emails over coffee.
Taberna da Rua das Flores
The food scene in the city is thriving right now, with amazing eateries ranging from tiny little local tavernas to more fancy restaurants. But the Taberna da Rua das Flores truly stands out, and it’s also a favorite among locals. Get there early though—they don’t take reservations and it can therefore be impossibly hard to get into.
Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém
To visit Portugal without trying one or many of their most-revered delicacies, Portuguese custard tart (Pastéis de Nata), would be a crime. With crunchy pastry on the outside and a soft and warm custard inside, one isn’t enough. In a recent poll among tart experts, there are three strong contenders for the city’s finest. Top pick: the most obvious and famous, Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém, the pastéis’ birthplace. The pastry on these ones is super crunchy and slightly salty, and the still-warm custard is not as super-sweet as some of the others. Another goodie is Manteigara, with a number of locations around town, and there’s often long queues out the door of the Chiado outpost as they ring a bell to signal a fresh batch just out of the oven. Lastly, the ones from Martinho da Arcada, a small, quaint café at the Praça do Comércio. This older cafe in Lisbon is most famously known as a writer’s hang out—Fernando Pessoa still has a table booked exclusively for him, even more than 80 years after his passing. Here, the tarts are so homemade, that even the cinnamon ‘”packets” are handmade.
A Vida Portuguesa
This gorgeous store tucked into a side street in Chiado should not be missed. Founded in 2007 by former Portuguese journalist Catarina Portas, A Vida Portuguesa is full of artisanal blankets, ceramics, Portuguese tiles, old-school soaps, gourmet food products and other made-in-Portugal pieces that honor the country’s cultural traditions. If you find yourself in Porto, Catarina has a second outpost there as well.
A multi-brand boutique that features international brands at accessible prices, Véronique carries See by Chloé, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Vivetta, Paul&Joe, and Orla Kiely, among others.
Under the Cover
Across the road from the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, under a royal blue awning, there’s an adorable magazine shop appropriately named Under the Cover. Filled to the brim with an impressive line-up of unique and interesting local and international titles, it’s worth making a stop here after spending some time across the road at the museum.
The Feeting Room
A favorite place to find some of the best local Portuguese brands, The Feeting Room is a beautiful store, with a cafe on the way. Keep an eye out for incredible leather shoes by JAK shoes and jewelry by Inês Telles.
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) opened a little over 12 months ago on the edge of Lisbon’s Tagus River in the Belém neighborhood. Designed by London-based architecture firm AL_A, the building is covered in 15,000 white ceramic tiles with an incredible undulating shape inspired by the rippling of water. Sitting pretty alongside the river, the museum also occupies the former Central Tejo—a red brick thermoelectric power plant building that has now been converted into a gallery space.
An open-plan, light-filled studio in the heart of Lisbon’s most charming neighbourhood “Principe Real”, A Sociedade is a creative gastronomic studio founded by Lisbon local Cláudia Villax. Here, they hold workshops, private dinners and events with a mission to promote the coming together of creative and inspiring people around the table. Their recent “Taste of Home” dinner collaborated with food designer Linda Lezius of Wild & Root, chef Tolga Von Klein of Supermarmita and photographer Filipe Lucas Frazão. At the event, guests had the chance to discover the culinary stories and emotions of an individual inhabitant of Lisbon with each dish. For those wanting to learn more about the local grocers in the area, they offer a walking tour around Principe Real with chef Tolga Von Klein.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo
It would be impossible to visit Lisbon without noticing its hundreds of walls laden with hand-painted tiles (or “azulejos”). Around every corner, another stop-you-in-your-tracks wall display and another more colorful and beautiful tile-pattern than the last. At the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, housed in the former convent of Madre de Deus founded in 1509, you will find a tribute to and history of this unique and iconic art form throughout the ages. With a lovely open-air courtyard cafe, this is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Japanese in design, the gardens at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum make for a lovely, relaxing place to while away a couple of hours before or after spending time in the museum. With one of the largest private collections in Europe and the world, the museum is part of a bigger complex made up of the center for modern art, library, garden and auditorium where there is often live music and other performances.
Beato and Marvila
In the eastern industrial part of the city, between Alfama and Parque das Nações, up-and-coming neighborhoods Beato and Marvila are full of abandoned warehouses and buildings that are quickly being filled up by start-ups, co-working spaces and craft beer breweries. Grab a beer at Dois Corvos or Musa, then lunch or dinner at Lugar que nao Existe (“the restaurant that doesn’t exist”). There are heaps of galleries as well (look for Underdogs), a cute cafe called Café with Calma, and huge vintage warehouse Cantinho do Vintage.
Azenhas do Mar
In search of a spectacular sunset, head north along the Atlantic Ocean until you reach Azenhas do Mar. If you’re game, rent a motorbike or scooter in Lisbon and do the drive along the coast from there—it’s truly a magical ride. In this stunning cliffside town, you’ll find the freshest, most delicious seafood lunch or dinner. Enjoy the ocean views and stay for that sunset if you can.