The old city-centre districts of Lisbon – including Bairro Alto, Chiado and Alfama – are beautiful, with colourful pavements, steep hills at every corner and most of the things a visitor would want to see. The funicular railways, Rossio square, Arco da Rua Augusta… all are ace, all are thronging with sightseers. Fortify yourself with a custard tart and a strong coffee then head up the hill to Principe Real (or better still, get a hotel there), where a less busy and more in-the-know selection of attractions. Here are the highlights.
drink in the history AT PAVILHÃO CHINÊS
The traditional, melancholic singing style of fado is so adored that it’s been added to the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The 2017 Portuguese Eurovision winner, Salvador Sobral, was definitely fado-inspired, but for the traditional style, come to this warren-like, trinket-filled, collector’s den of a cocktail parlour on Tuesdays. The €20 entry includes a glass of wine. Or, on Fridays, Real Fado Lisbon takes the songs to the old vaults under Praça do Príncipe Real.
89-91 Rua Dom Pedro V
INVEST IN THE AVANT-GARDE AT GALERIA DE SãO MAMEDE
Browse the ever-changing art exhibitions at this cool, calm, two-floor gallery, tucked in between historic pastelerías and antique shops. Its origins are rooted in the 60s, but cutting-edge curation spotlights the very best in contemporary Portuguese artists, from modern classics to emerging talent.
167 Rua da Escola Politécnica
DISCOVER A LOCAL LEGEND AT FUNDAÇÃO AMÁLIA RODRIGUES
Born in 1920, the highest-selling Portuguese artist ever, Amália Rodrigues, lived her life as the nation’s most gushed-over fadista in a grandiose townhouse in Príncipe Real, after she rose to fame from a humble start. She passed away in 1999, but you can explore her home in all its lavish glory, then enjoy a tart in the café, where her parrot still noisily resides. Its small gift shop is a glorious gallery of sparkling Amália-inspired jewellery.
193 Rua de São Bento
CONSIDER THE OCTOPUS At A CEVICHERIA
A gargantuan octopus sculpture of sci-fi proportions with real likeness looms over diners at this deservedly much nattered-about pisco and ceviche bar from chef Kiko Martins. The open kitchen allows diners to see the dish – grouper, sweet potato, algae, red onion, tiger’s milk – prepared with precision after they’ve had a delectable starter of barnacles with green gazpacho. The original ceviche puro never fails to wow, but try the tuna version, accompanied by a pisco sour or two.
129 Rua Dom Pedro V
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NeSTLE NEOCLASSICALLY AT CASA OLIVER
Evergreen views of the Botanical Garden’s palm fronds and breakfast-time pastéis de nata with rich coffee are just two of the countless unpretentious pleasures at this traditional 1895-built guesthouse. Be greeted warmly with local maps and a tawny port tipple, before being guided to one of the 26 high-ceilinged rooms and suites. Staff are meticulously attentive but leave the premises at midnight, resulting in peaceful silence.
25 Praça do Príncipe Real
Go green at Jardim Botânico de Lisboa
In high summer Lisbon can get hot – real hot – but the Botanical Gardens of Lisbon is a great place to escape to. Established in 1874, it's a wonderful landscaped haven of palms, conifers, cycads and other trees to find shade under while reclining with a cool drink, before taking a stroll around and perusing the many rare and exotic plants. It's not free to get into but is well worth the price.
Rua Escola Politecnica 58