One of the first things you will think of when reaching Lisbon will be: white.
You will surely notice the smell of sea and coffee, the sight of the ancient houses and the beautiful tiles and the taste of the delicious food and pastry. However, more often than not, you will have to close your eyes to this whiteness, the excess of brightness that Lisbon is famous for. This special light is the reasons why locals call Lisbon a cidade da luz (the city of light) and it will give you a warm feeling just by looking out of the window.
Trust me, you will fall in love with the brightest of all cities. Now let me tell you how.
Where to go
Bairro Alto is possibly the happiest district in Lisbon, if not all Portugal. It is famous for its nightlife, as in restaurants, bars, pubs and any other entertainment you might need for a night well spent; it will also charm you with its narrow streets and its typical, small houses.
Area of Cais do Sodré
Take a walk next to the river and enjoy the sound of the seagull, a typical bird and symbol of Lisbon. When you are tired from walking breathe in the fresh air and order a refreshing drink at one of the cafés. For a longer walk, there is a newly-build, perfect promenade next to the river that leads up to the Museu do Oriente, for a bit of Asian-European/Portuguese culture and history.
Alfama is the birthplace of Fado, UNESCO immaterial patrimony of humankind, and here the music will follow you on every step, be it out of the open doors of one of the many Fado restaurants or coming from a private house it will certainly make you fell wonderfully nostalgic and melancholic. If you are around at night, listen to some live Fado while having dinner at one of the many restaurants with Fado nights in Alfama.
Santos e Madragoa
Santos is not exactly on the tourist map, but I would urge you to go anyway. It will provide you with a glimpse of everyday Lisbon life in a beautiful, calm setting and its restaurants, squares and museums, such as the Museu de Arte Antiga, will not disappoint you.
With its 51 nationalities, Mouraria is the most colourful neighbourhood of the city. Whatever you might be craving, here you will find it: gastronomy, shops, design, architecture, monuments and last but not least: the Castelo de Sao Jorge!
Santa Catarina/ Bica
Santa Catarina easily is one of the most traditional neighbourhoods around. You will find timeless with their timeless cats looking out of windows, tiny shops and cafés at every. However, it is also becoming a space where you can discover innovative shop and design as well as new ideas and ways to make the tradition more sustainable and contemporary.
Bélem has one of the highest densities of museums and cultural institutions of all Europe. Even if you don’t care about art whatsoever, you will still enjoy the voluptuous parks, including the flowery botanical garden, the monuments and the particularly laid-back way of life.
Baixa-Chiado is a very, very complete district. Convenient for shopping in all kinds of stores (the chains and the small ones), it has some of the most touristic spots (such as Largo de Camões or the café A Brasileira with a sculpture of the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa sitting in front of it) and offers marvelous historical architecture and churches.
Just a short car/train/bus ride away, you will find a place where magic happened. Uncounted small castles built and hidden in an seemingly endless forest will transport you back in time. Prepare to feel like a princess (or a prince)
Take the train at Cais do Sodré for a perfect surf trip, white beaches and fresh seafood right next to the city.
Conclusion: Lisbon’s got it all!
What to do
Visit São Domingo Church
No, you needn’t be religious for this singular church. It is not the catholic spirit, but the fact that the city decided to let it untouched after a fire that gives it its dark beauty and a unique, spooky atmosphere.
Drink a Ginginha at Amigos da Severa, Mouraria
The cherry liquor.. you will see signs of it everywhere: but I’m letting you in to a real secret here. This is a tiny, very traditional place where you will find not only everything from Holy Mary to soccer shirts stuck to the wall, but one of the best Ginginhas too. Not to speak of the most authentic bartender around..
Viewpoints of the city
Try some traditional Portuguese food
Don’t eat it all, it will make you feel heavy not happy. Choose for yourself if it should be feijoada (a stew with beans, cabbage and lots of pork), Francesinha (a specialty of the North of Portugal) or carne a portuguesa (a huge amount of meat accompanied by potatoes and lemon to cut the heavy flavour). By the looks, and it will be easy, choose some small, old-fashioned restaurant, order the house wine and listen to this soft and sad language that all of a sudden can be cheerful and joking too. If you are not into meat, try the fish it is straightforward excellent in Portugal.
Take the historical line 28 and get mind-blown by how it climbs the hills
Take the cutest of all cable cars, the 28, to go up to Graça, a typical neighbourhood at the top of one of the hills. You will feel like you just jumped into history and the heights it goes are surprising (no worries, it is safe)
The castle is a must-see, the fortification built by the Muslim population in the XI century. You will be tired from the climbing, consider stopping at Chapitô for a nice glass of Portuguese wine and some delicious appetizers.
Attend a Concert at Renovar a Mouraria, Mouraria
Renovar a Mouraria is an association, social project, coffee shop and much more. It is known and loved for its diverse activities that often try to represent the ethnic diversity of the neighbourhood. Simply pass by and check it out -at night, there is always some good music and nice atmosphere going on. You can even book tours here.
Discover Rés do Chao, Santa Catarina
If you are looking for something special to take with you from Portugal, do not look any further. This great fusion of co-working space, gallery, social project and shop offers you unique pieces, be it a shirt, a bag made of cork (a typical Portuguese product) or a unique cup, hand-made by a designer from Lisbon. Next door you will find similarly wonderful projects, such as A Avo veio trabalhar, where all objects are created by charming senior ladies, or Clube Royale, a enchanting mix of an English Burlesque bar with delicious cocktails and a Portuguese touch.
Eat Pastel de Nata and Pastél de Belém
Some say when travelling calories don’t count. For Portugal, this has to be true because there is no way to resist. Indulge in this freshly-made, hot and creamy egg tart. At Belém, you might have to cue up for your share of their Pastel de Belém– but you won’t regret! Wherever you go, never miss a café or bica , an espresso prepared in perfection at ridiculous prices (ranging from 0,40-1,50 Euro).
LX Factory, Alcantara
A mix of design and vintage stores, restaurants, small projects and a varying market of food, clothes or other objects, this space is almost a small neighbourhood in itself uniting fun and cool people from all over Lisbon and Portugal. On Sunday you will find a convincing variety of food products that are exclusively produced in the region, all being strictly organic.