Bathed in pure Atlantic light, crowned by the storybook St. George’s Castle and straddling seven hills, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most visually striking capitals. Looks aside, the city will surely win you over with its genuine friendliness and blissfully laid-back pace. At once nostalgic and progressive, Lisbon’s charm shines through in everyday life, listening to the mournful fado songs in the Moorish Alfama‘s alleys, indulging in custard tarts in gilded Art Nouveau patisseries and living it up at a Bairro Alto street party.
Nothing says Lisbon like a ride on century-old tram 28, which trundles past stately plazas, Estrela Basilica’s graceful dome and the Romanesque Sé Cathedral. Jump off at hilltop St George’s Castle for a rampart stroll and views reaching to the Tagus River. Just steps away, the Moorish Alfama quarter’s mazy lanes are full of laundry billowing, neighbors gossiping and melancholic fado songs. Down by the river, Jerónimos Monastery’s fantastically ornate Manueline cloisters whisk you back to Portugal’s Age of Discovery.
Kid leather gloves, tawny port, tinned fish, you’ll find it all in the specialty stores lining Pombaline Baixa, Rossio and Chiado. Compare purchases over a bica on the terrace of Art Deco A Brasileira café. Young Lisboetas combine bar crawling with late night shopping in the Bairro Alto, where boutiques stock vintage fashion and the sassy collections of Portuguese style icons Lena Aires and Fátima Lopes. Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s catwalk of big-name designers.
Join locals for sunset shots of ginjinha. The Ginjinha or Ginja is a liqueur made from black cherry, typical of Lisbon, Óbidos and Alcobaça. The history of this liquor dates back to 1840 when a Galician monk, Espinheira Francisco had the idea to infuse in brandy, cherries with sugar, water and cinnamon. The intention was to create a medicine that could cure a variety of ailments but instead of a panacea it worked like nectar for drunks. Lisbon’s unrivalled hotspot is the bar lined Bairro Alto, where revelers hit the street to chat, drink and dance before heading to riverside mega club Lux. The mood is more relaxed in the lantern-lit Alfama, where fado songs recalling lost love and destiny fill the atmospheric vaults of Clube de Fado.
Arrive before the crowds at the famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belém to devour crisp, cinnamon-dusted custard tarts hot from the oven. Lisboetas make the most of warm nights by dining alfresco on fresh fish in the Alfama‘s lantern-lit lanes and world flavors on pavement terraces in the buzzy Bairro Alto. The ornately tiled monastery turned beer hall Cervejaria da Trindade pairs cold beers with local specialties like bacalhau com natas. Go north of the city center to the stylish Michelin starred restaurant Eleven.