One of the oldest capital cities in Europe, Lisbon – with its seven hills and proximity to the Tagus River – has a pleasing tempo afforded by its largely sunny climate and penchant for terraços. Modern architecture and newly renovated public spaces nestle amid winding Moorish streets and centuries-old edifices; an outdoor kiosk with a view is never too far away. This city of about three million is also increasingly cosmopolitan, with more and more foreigners setting up small businesses alongside traditional restaurants and cafés.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Find your way: Use Lisbon’s legendary seven hills to orient yourself. In the centre with the river behind you? Príncipe Real and Bairro Alto are on the São Roque hill to your left, while Alfama and Castelo are on the Graça and São Jorge hills to your right.
  2. Best foot forward: Exploring the city on foot? Steep inclines combined with Lisbon’s pretty but precarious cobbled streets mean that comfortable shoes are a must.
  3. Beach bound: Take the short drive over the Ponte 25 de Abril to the 15km of surf beaches and bars on Costa da Caparica, a lively resort that’s adored by the Portuguese but virtually unknown by tourists.
  4. Little and often : Add a couple of euros to your bill in tascas and cafés and 10 per cent in more upmarket venues. It’s customary to round up taxi fares too.
  5. Midnight feast: It’s normal to dine quite late here: most people meet for pre-dinner drinks at 20.00 and have dinner at 21.00, although some restaurants serve until 23.00 or even later.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. Casa C’Alma, Príncipe Real

    Eye for design

    Casa C’Alma’s interiors come courtesy of Lisbon-based Arkstudio and combine Portuguese tradition and Scandinavian design. Each of the five bedrooms has a distinct character.

  2. Santa Clara 1728, São Vicente

    Royal flush

    Every fixture in this light-drenched hotel has been carefully considered, from the freestanding Portuguese stone baths to the pinewood floors.

  3. Palácio Belmonte, Castelo

    Secret history

    The 15th-century Palácio Belmonte is a listed national monument. A combination of old and new runs throughout the 10 suites.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Obrigado: Thank you (women say obrigada)
  2. Bom dia: Good morning
  3. Boa tarde/noite: Good afternoon/night
  4. Bica: Espresso
  5. Imperial: Small draft beer
  6. Tudo bem? : Literally, “Everything well?”
  7. A conta: The bill
  8. Lanche: Not lunch, not dinner but that vital late-afternoon snack

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Bistro 100 Maneiras, Chiado

    It takes two

    Spread across two floors of an art deco-style mansion in Lisbon’s upmarket Chiado, the white-walled Bistro 100 Maneiras serves painterly dishes with Portuguese, Yugoslavian, Italian and French influences.

  2. Bairro do Avillez, Chiado

    Portuguese provenance

    Chef José Avillez sources Portuguese ingredients, serving them with both reference to traditional approaches and a much-refined palate. Seafood and fish predominate and the lobster-and-crab rice is exemplary.

  3. Tapisco, Bairro Alto

    Dining car

    The long room offers both table and bar seats and is reminiscent of a railway lounge, with industrial lighting and red-leather upholstery. The name is a play on tapas and petiscos (the Portuguese word for snacks taken with drinks).

  4. Hello, Kristof, Santa Catarina

    Say hi

    Along with coffee you’ll find breakfast offerings, a selection of homemade cakes and a range of toasts topped with ingredients such as avocado and smoked salmon. There’s also a back wall dedicated to international magazines.

  5. Park Bar, Bairro Alto

    Blue-sky thinking

    Lisbon’s original rooftop bar can be tricky to find, situated as it is on the roof of a municipal car park. But it’s worth searching for. There’s a friendly atmosphere thanks to a mix of local and international guests and DJs and the bar serves cocktails, wine and beer, as well as various snacks.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. A Vida Portuguesa, Anjos

    Good for gifts

    Chock-full of beautiful Portuguese-made products – from port to preserves, soap to stationery, kitchenware to shoes – Catarina Portas’s alluring shops are unrivalled for souvenir-hunting and personal treats.

  2. Cortiço & Netos, Graça

    Piles of tiles

    Displayed on simple pine shelves in a pixelated patchwork, the ever-expanding collection now includes more than 300 different patterns and millions of square metres of tiles, which are sold both individually and in batches.

  3. Casa Pau-Brasil, Príncipe Real

    Brazil in Lisbon

    A celebration of Brazil in the capital, Casa Pau- Brasil features some 20 brands from the South American country.The colourful products on offer include Granado soaps and Nina Write notepaper, or full-on carioca classics in-the- making, such as furniture by Jader Almeida.

  4. Mini by Luna, Príncipe Real

    Woman’s touch

    This attractive shop, complete with a garden, has been treating women and children to the finer things in life since 2012. The womenswear range includes pieces by Pomandère, Anniel, Polder and American Vintage.

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