Once the HQ of the largest and longest-lived empires in the world, back in its glory days Lisbon gleamed with gold. But since the lost days of the Portuguese Empire, the historic city has flown under the radar, that is until now.
Home to clued-in entrepreneurs and creative folk, Lisbon is experiencing an exciting rebirth. In this highly photogenic city, you’ll see a creative culinary scene, a burgeoning street art capital and some of the oldest stores in the world happily collide.
But this lesser-known European gem isn’t going to stay underrated for long. Here’s why…
You Don’t Need To Fork Out To Get A Lot On Your Fork
Famed for its experimental cuisine and surprisingly affordable fare, there’s no point in searching for a feed when you can sample all the best food in the city under one roof.
The Time Out Market Lisbon burst on the scene in 2014 and quickly cemented itself as a favourite food haunt for locals and expats alike. In efforts to maintain its high standard, all the restaurants are watched, shortlisted and then approached by Time Out editors. Meaning, whether you plan to dig into a dirty burger or juicy ceviche, you know it’s going to be worth the calories.
Stuff Your Mouth With The World’s Best Custard Tarts
Aside from cheap as chips seafood at Cervejaria Ramiro, when it comes to exploring Lisbon’s culinary delights, you can’t look past the city’s widely-exported delicacy, pastéis de nata (custard tarts).
Since 1837, generations of the Clarinha family have shared what we like to call ‘God’s Gift to the World’, but don’t expect to be let in on this well-guarded recipe.
Rumour has it that only the cafe’s owner and its three chefs know the monk’s secret to the melt-in-your-mouth pastry.
Indulge in Slice of History
Lisbonites were pioneers in the Age of Discovery and this is a fact that they won’t ever let you forget. From the Old Square to the shoreline of Belém, the city is littered with reminders of the city’s glorious past. One of the most opulent churches in Portugal, the Santa Maria de Belem Church contains the tombs of royalty – such as Prince Henry Navigator – and other historical figures, and is well worth a visit.
However, if burying your head in a book sounds more appealing that Gothic architecture, then there’s no better place to do so than Livraria Bertrand. The oldest bookstore in the world has played host to many literary debates and political discussions in its 285-odd years, and even has a room after its most loyal customers, novelist Aquilino Ribeiro.
Get Lost In A Fairytale
From afar the pop-coloured Palace of Pena looks more like a Disneyland attraction than a royal residence, but one step inside you’ll beg to differ. This sprawling estate is located a half-hour train ride from capital, in town called Sintra – an otherwise sleepy district if it weren’t for the herds of day-trippers.
Best described as the Monaco of Portugal, Sintra was once a playground of the rich and famous. So if there’s one place to follow the crowds to, it’s to uphill to the Monserrate Palace and hidden grottos of Quinta da Regaleira. Staying a bit longer? The beaches of the Portuguese Riviera are just a hop, jump and skip away, and a much welcomed break from the flocks of people.
You Can Balance It All Out with Plenty of Art and Design
From its hard-working trams and patterned building tiles to its vibrant street art, great design everywhere in the Portuguese capital. And you don’t have to seek it out to find it, stroll the streets and you’ll easily come across it.
Guaranteed to charm any interior lover looking to refresh their humble abode is independent boutique, Loja Real. One of our favourite boutiques in the Lisbon, it’s where to go if you want to pick up a sentimental memento. Scour it’s three branches, and you’ll find traditional bars of soaps and vintage crockery that you’d find a Portuguese grandmother’s house among its treasures.