I always dreamed of Lisbon or Lisboa (the original name in Portuguese) as a city of colors, colonial history, sweet weather and warm people and of course as the mother of the exotic Brasil!
Well, reality was far beyond imagination! Visiting Lisbon for the first time last December, I am still impressed of the beauty and bliss this city offers to visitors. Without exaggerating Lisbon is listed among my top five cities of Europe. Combining luxury, classicism, modern and postmodern touch and Latin-American influences the whole city is under reconstruction being a jewel that brings together Berlin, Barcelona and San Francisco lovers.
Taking good care of what the Portuguese empire created during the golden age of 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the city seams being reborn under a creative architectural and cultural orgasm. But above all, all you see is colors, shiny sun, beautiful smiley people, all you smell is roasted chestnuts, baked pasteis de nata (mini egg-custard tarts) and cooked bacalhau (local cod fish) and all you hear is seagulls chirping, old tram belling and melancholic fados melodies.
Lisbon is built between 7 hills and Tejo river which is just about to meet the Atlantic. So be prepared to walk a lot because it is faster and it’s so beautiful to!
Where to stay?
As I’m a city center kind of person, I love beinzy destination on foot. I would totally recommend Bairro Alto (literally meaning High District) built on beautiful hills with picturesque apartments and small boutique hotels.
Most of them are greatly renovated on the inside making Bairro Alto nowadays modern and hip. The neighborhood is full of cafés, restaurants and clothe shops. It’s five-minute walk away from Avenida da Liberdade boulevard, where you will find numerous high-end designers, and from Cais do Sodré district, where you find the Time Out Market and a lot of bars.
Where to eat?
Dietitians always claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to be frank I can’t disagree: who could resist to beautifully poached eggs, forest-fruit pancakes and a cup of aromatic Arabica espresso?
Lisbon has a lot of modern cafés where you can pick a bite.
Personally I adored the brunch at Chérie Paloma (148, Calçada Marquês Abrantes str.), the Latin-American little sister of the famous Dear Breakfast, which has just opened in December.
“All you see is colors, shiny sun, beautiful smiley people, all you smell is roasted chestnuts, baked pasteis de nata and cooked bacalhau and all you hear is seagulls chirping, old tram belling and melancholic fados melodies.”
I had the best huevos rancheros, with a more Mediterranean twist to the original Mexican style and the Thank-God absence of cilantro (which makes a lot of people feel sick), an antioxidant green smoothie and a well-balanced rich double espresso. The stuff is hyper-friendly- when I left my cellphone plugged they didn’t hesitate to run in order to catch me and give me my phone- and the decoration blends the pre-war Portuguese style with modern minimalism.
For a gastronomic, still no-fancy, experience you shouldn’t miss Prado restaurant on a hill near Baixa (the historic center of Lisbon). The menu is inspired by the Portuguese traditional cuisine balanced between sea and land raw material: in fact, traditionally the Portuguese didn’t eat that much fish as we believe.
“If you need a boost of color, inspiration, sun and positive energy Lisbon is the ideal destination.”
In a vintage industrial ambience, I enjoyed most the tremendous beef tartar stuffed in grilled cabbage and the savory red mullet in onion broth paired with organic white wine from Bairrada region (situated north of Lisbon near to the Atlantic Ocean).
The wine menu is quite elaborate having a wide variety of organic and biodynamic wine from Europe and from Greece too! The sommelier is friendly and a connoisseur.
Note: you should definitely make a reservation in order not to wait a lot!
Life is nothing without coffee and drinks!
You should definitely go for a walk to the LX Factory: the ex-industrial zone of Portugal that was converted into an arty and multi-culti hub in Alcantara district.
With lots of cafés, ethnic restaurants and concept stores LX Factory is the ideal destination for a sunny weekend, starting from the center of Lisbon walking by the river shore.
You can provide yourself with the traditional canned sardines and codfish at the Comur Store: they got lovely taste and cool packaging!
Don’t miss to visit the colorful psychedelic bathrooms!
If you’re lazy- and we love laziness don’t doubt about it- I recommend to taste the coffee and hand-made chocolate brownie at the family owned coffee shop Bettina & Niccolò Corallo (Rua da Escola Politécnica 4): mother and son run the café so the atmosphere is quite cozy and they have loyal gourmet clients. You should definitely taste the dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts.
After your coffee, walk a hundred meters to the Embaixada Concept Store (Praça do Príncipe Real 26) a 19th century palace with premium quality clothes and accessories shops and the Gin Lovers& Less bar and restaurant where you can drink amazing cocktails based on gins from all over the world! I adored the gin&tonic with bergamot and grapefruit!
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Av. de Berna, 45 A), especially their Modern Collection focused on Portuguese and Latin American artists.
The museum has one of the most beautiful urban gardens with mini-lakes, ducks, geese and lots of grass for contemplating or passing some quite romantic time with your special one.
The Belém Tower (Avenida Brasília), on the shore of Tejo river is definitely in the must do list even though I’m not fond of classic sightseeing. I recommend visiting the tower just before the sunset as the last sun beams make the water turn golden and the late renaissance manuelino architecture is more evident: contemplating on the Moorish- influenced balconies you get the feeling of those great explorers and marine voyagers, their dreams, their thoughts.
Summarizing, if you need a boost of color, inspiration, sun and positive energy Lisbon is the ideal destination. Can’t wait for the next time!
P.S. Next time, I will definitely include Sintra, the Medieval town on the Atlantic coast near to Lisbon where the amazing film of Wim Wenders “The State of Things” was shot in 1982.