As one of Europe’s fast-growing cities, Lisbon hangs in the balance of old and new, grand and charming, historic and forward-thinking. There, you can shop at a luxury store in the morning, see 17th century monuments during the day, and take your pick between traditional Fado and house music at night.
Wrinkled women peer through their laundry line to observe the streets below them, while youthful joggers run in pairs along the Tagus River. Home to Web Summit and f.ounders, Lisbon is attracting startups at a startling rate—boosting a previously dwindling economy. But locals are still fighting to hang on to the authenticity of their city of hills, where good music, better food, and history reign supreme.
Santa Clara 1728
In the residential Alfama neighborhood, around the corner from the Santa Engracia church and the Feira da Ladra flea market, João Rodrigues rescued a 300-year-old building from despair and turned it into a haven of calm. Using limestone, pinewood, and handmade tiles, Santa Clara 1728 is more home than hotel, and is part of Rodrigues’ “Silent Living” concept, which has to do with living simply, and is a theme that runs throughout his other properties in Comporta and Porto.
Lisbon’s swanky Lapa district is removed from the busy, winding streets of other neighborhoods, and this hotel is as grand as the neighborhood. Built in 1870, Lapa Palace was originally the residence of Luís Leite Pereira Jardim, the Count of Valenças, with ballrooms, tower views, and a lot of marble to prove it. Behind the 109-room building you’ll find a heated swimming pool and landscaped garden—an ethereal space in a fast-paced city.
A Padaria Portuguesa
Ideal for grab-and-go breakfasts when you want to get on with your sightseeing, this popular chain sells pastries, sandwiches, coffee, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Its many locations are full of locals who know how the ticket and ordering system works, and tourists, who shouldn’t be afraid to engage with the strictly-business employees.
This is the best seafood you’ll find in Lisbon, and maybe anywhere. Tanks of lobsters line the fluorescent-lit space, and are snatched from their cages to go right into the pot as diners order them. Anthony Bourdain visited here, and it’s old school while still being an extremely popular destination for tourists and locals. While you wait, you can purchase coins for beer that go into a slot in the wall outside the restaurant—grab a cup and pull.
With its white-washed walls, cement arches, and a perfectly pink lower level, this cafe, which opened in July 2017, looks made for Instagram. But fortunately the food stands up to the work of architects Carlos Aragao and Joao Pombeiro Machado. Chef Raquel Patronilho, who formerly worked at the Ritz, serves an all day breakfast menu of eggs Benedict, avocado toast, and açaí bowls using organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Pasteis de Belem
The egg tart reputation precedes Pasteis de Belem, but for good reason. Go at lunchtime and sit for toasties, quiches, and chocolate cappuccinos, instead of waiting in line outside. Then, order a plateful of tarts for the table, plus a box to go.
Fortunately there’s a bar with great craft cocktails to hold you over while you inevitably wait for your table here. Located inside the Swiss Ambassador’s former residence, reclaimed and rustic decor is the backdrop to a modern take on Portuguese food. Order the arroz de braga, and continue to imbibe with a healthy amount of Sagres (beer) and Vinho Verde (wine).
Copenhagen Coffee Lab
This Danish coffee shop opened a second outpost in Lisbon in 2014, and was the first of its kind in the city. Locals post up here with their laptops to do caffeine-fueled work and snack on breads and cake. It’s also worth dropping in at lunchtime for their sandwiches or grain bowl.
Formerly home to prostitutes, strip clubs, and junkies, this section of Rua Nova do Carvalho, where the street is painted pink, is now super popular for its nightlife. Bars and clubs line the road, but most people hang out on the street, drinking and mingling until its time to head inside to dance, well after 1 a.m.
You have to be in a certain mindset to enter Lux, a mega club with Studio 54 vibes that’s partially owned by John Malkovich. We recommend going with a group and dancing with abandon to house music, then watching the sun rise on the rooftop at the end of the night.
Eduardo V11 Park
Formerly called “Liberty Park,” this 26 hectares green space features dramatic hedges and views of Lisbon and the Tagus River. It’s a large scale feat in a city of quaint corners.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Meant to look like the hull of a ship, this monument on the Tagus River pays homage to the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th Centuries. In a way, Lisbon is undergoing a new “age of discovery” currently, though instead of venturing out to explore India and the “Orient,” people are moving into Lisbon to explore tech opportunities and creative passions.
The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology hosts exhibits such as “Electronic Superhighway,” with multimedia works that show the impact of the internet on artists, and “Quote / Unquote. Between Appropriation and Dialogue,” which includes works related to the theme of appropriation in contemporary art. Part of an effort to revitalize the riverfront, this architectural feat just opened in 2016.
This former printing factory was left vacant on prime waterfront real estate, but locals petitioned to block high-rise buildings from taking its place. Now LX Factory is home to a creative mini city, full of restaurants and shops plus a co-working space and offices. Don’t miss Let Devagar Bookstore or A Praça, a restaurant serving Portuguese classics like vegetable soup and octopus.
Berardo Collection Museum
This art museum in Belém has more than 900 works, from artists like Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. Admission is free on Saturdays!