Seven cinematic hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo cradle Lisbon's postcard-perfect panorama of cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins and white-domed cathedrals – a captivating scene crafted over centuries.
Beyond Bacalhau: Lisbon for Foodies
Dining in Lisbon is far more dynamic than navigating countless preparations of Portugal's beloved bacalhau (dried and salted cod fish; 365 recipes and counting!). While bacalhau à Brás (shredded cod with onions, eggs and potatoes; a Bairro Alto original) is never far, Lisbon's strategic seaside position on Europe's doorstep means a bounty of fresh seafood (octopus, tuna, monkfish, shrimp, sardines, clams, snails) rules the city's kitchens, from Michelin-starred restaurants to gourmet-food markets to countless corner tascas (taverns). Top-grade Alentejan beef beckons with juicy steaks and gourmet burgers, and you'll find everything from tantalising Indian curries to authentic Moroccan couscous in between.
Last Call, Lisbon!
Cheap booze and the absence of open-container laws means Lisbon loves a night on the town! Don't be fooled by Bairro's Alto's sleepy daytime feel – by night, these narrow cobbled lanes transform into one of Europe's most raucous drinking locales. Student dives, traditional fado houses, upscale wine bars and LGBT hot spots merrily coexist among the muddled mess. In Cais do Sodré, Pink Street and environs are home to some of the city's classic nightclubs and rowdiest cocktail bars, while trendier megaclubs stretch along the waterfront from Santos to Santa Apolónia. Last call? Sunrise!
The Great Lisbon Earthquake
You couldn't blame your average lisboêta for thinking of the Apocalypse when the ground gave way just before 10am on 1 November, 1755. What followed was eight astonishing minutes of city-shattering shaking spread across three tremors, followed 40 minutes later by a massive, city-engulfing tsunami, culminating in a week-long firestorm that incinerated what little was initially spared. Lisbon was decimated. Today, the modern city is shaped by these cataclysmic events – nearly everything is defined as before or after the earthquake – and the Pombaline architecture that defined post-quake Lisbon reconstruction was some of the first seismically protected building in Europe.
Miradouro Mania: Scenic City Views
Lisbon's trademark seven hills are spread across the cityscape like lofty guardians of colour and history. Capped by a collection of terraces known as miradouros (viewpoints), a must-see web of no-filter-necessary views over Lisbon, the Tejo and beyond is formed. Our favourite miradouros – Portas do Sol, São Pedro de Alcântara, da Graça, da Senhora do Monte, Santa Luzia and, of course, Castelo de São Jorge – all offer stunning spots to get your bearings and while away afternoons over bica (espresso), elegant glasses of Touriga Nacional or refreshing pitchers of sangria, while rubbernecking the city's stupendous horizons.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Lisbon.
Belém’s undisputed heart-stealer is this Unesco-listed monastery. The mosteiro is the stuff of pure fantasy: a fusion of Diogo de Boitaca’s creative vision and the spice and pepper dosh of Manuel I, who commissioned it to trumpet Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India in 1498.
Towering dramatically above Lisbon, these mid-11th-century hilltop fortifications sneak into almost every snapshot. Roam its snaking ramparts and pine-shaded courtyards for superlative views over the city’s red rooftops to the river. Three guided tours daily (in Portuguese, English and Spanish), at 10.30am, 1pm and 4pm, are included in the admission price (additional tours available).
Wander downhill (to save your legs) through Alfama's steep, narrow, cobblestoned streets and catch a glimpse of the more traditional side of Lisbon before it too is gentrified. Linger in a backstreet cafe along the way and experience some local bonhomie without the tourist gloss.
Set in a lemon-fronted, 17th-century palace, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is Lapa’s biggest draw. It presents a star-studded collection of European and Asian paintings and decorative arts.
Famous for its outstanding quality and breadth, the world-class Founder's Collection at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian showcases an epic collection of Western and Eastern art – from Egyptian treasures to Old Master and Impressionist paintings. Admission includes the separately housed Coleção Moderna.
Jutting out onto the Rio Tejo, this Unesco World Heritage–listed fortress epitomises the Age of Discoveries. You'll need to breathe in to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the tower, which affords sublime views over Belém and the river.
Don't leave the city without riding popular tram 28E from Largo Martim Moniz. This rickety, screechy, gloriously old-fashioned ride from Praça Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique provides 45 minutes of mood-lifting views and absurdly steep climbs. With its polished wood panelling, bee-yellow paint job and chrome fittings, the century-old tram is like the full-scale model of a fastidious Hornby Railways collector.
Hitch a ride on vintage Ascensor da Glória from Praça dos Restauradores, or huff your way up steep Calçada da Glória to this terrific hilltop viewpoint. Fountains and Greek busts add a regal air to the surroundings, and the open-air kiosk doles out wine, beer and snacks, which you can enjoy while taking in the castle views and live music.
Lisbon's hub of cutting-edge creativity hosts a dynamic menu of events from live concerts and film screenings to fashion shows and art exhibitions. There's a rustically cool cafe as well as a bookshop, several restaurants, design-minded shops and cultural spaces. On weekend nights there are parties with a dance- and art-loving crowd.
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