City Guide: Lisbon

Bar Terraço Limão.
Bar Terraço Limão.
Portugal’s capital city steps into the European spotlight.

Edgy films and exhibits at the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, upstart designers at LXFactory – Lisbon’s mural-splashed industrial complex that houses dozens of artisan shops – and the next evolution of the trendy Príncipe Real neighborhood are luring travelers back to Portugal’s capital in record numbers. Among the few things that haven’t changed: the meandering alleys filled with fado melodies, blue azulejo tiles, and views of the Tagus River around nearly every corner, making this city feel unlike any other.

The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.

Eat

A meal in the bright, leafy space of newcomer Prado Restaurante feels like dining in a terrarium. The look reinforces the chef’s love for vegetation: Rafters brim with ferns and succulents, which play off the produce-centric menu. Don’t miss the Minhota beef tartare, sandwiched between grilled kale.

Reserve a coveted spot at Local for a dinner-party-style experience. A sole ten-seat communal table occupies this tiny restaurant run by four young chefs, who serve some of the freshest fare in town. The menu changes according to their whims, but expect inventive dishes such as cherry gazpacho with fennel and goat cheese, and perhaps a tonka bean and toffee dessert.

Sink your teeth into a pastel de nata, Portugal’s famous custard tart, at Manteigaria, housed in a former butter shop. Count on a line out the door for the bakery’s thin, flaky pastries filled with thick, sweet cream and a dash of salt, and do as the lisboetas do: Savor one with an espresso at the narrow standing bar overlooking the open kitchen.

Prado Restaurante’s fig and smoked-milk ice cream.
Prado Restaurante’s fig and smoked-milk ice cream.

Drink

Bartenders at posh Cinco Lounge double as performers, shaking up concoctions with everything from fresh fruit to smoked ingredients, and the results are as visually stunning as they are potent. Popular cocktail workshops give patrons a chance to go behind the bar.

Vestigius provides a longshoreman’s-eye view of the Tagus River. The restored warehouse turned wine bar serves hard-to-find Portuguese vintages, bought at auctions, while giving a nod to the waterfront’s past with salvaged shipwreck decor.

An Atlantic-blue tiled floor and potted plants frame views of Lisbon’s skyline and the Tagus River at Bar Terraço Limão. It’s more intimate than most of the city’s rooftop bars, with indoor and outdoor sections that make it a quiet, cozy perch to watch the sunset with a cocktail.
Vestigius wine bar.
Vestigius wine bar.

Shop

The Embaixada complex houses 18 independent shops selling primarily Portuguese-made goods – handmade totes, fashion-forward shoes, housewares, and more – in a grand, nineteenth-century palace.

Since 1979, the family behind Cortiço & Netos has worked to preserve the art of Portuguese tile making. Travelers can pick up a range of classic or modern patterns, to use for anything from a kitchen sink backsplash to decorative coasters, from the tiny, family-run shop.

Portugal produces half the world’s supply of cork, yet this oft-misunderstood resource goes beyond bottle stoppers. Cork & Co. stocks stylish cork clutches, belts, and iPhone cases – plus high-end home decor.

Ecolã’s wool cloaks at the Embaixada complex.
Ecolã’s wool cloaks at the Embaixada complex.

Stay

It would be easy to mistake Valverde Hotel for an elegant Avenida de Liberdade townhome, with its promenade-facing lounge and the interior courtyard – an oasis of terra-cotta flowerpots, lounge chairs, occasional live music, and a pool. Dark walls complement light textiles and midcentury modern furniture throughout the property, and many rooms have balconies for admiring the city skyline. A current expansion will nearly double the number of guest rooms to 48 by summer. 

Bohemian Bairro Alto Hotel is in the midst of a major face-lift, overseen by Pritzker Prize-winning Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. While paying homage to one of the best-preserved eighteenth-century buildings in Lisbon, the renovations will introduce a sleek terrace with views of the Tagus River when the 87-room hotel reopens in April. 

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