We’ve just had 3 days KID FREE in Lisbon. It was bliss, Lisbon was magical, welcoming, pretty, hilly, hot & inspiring. It’s a great city for design lovers, a town of typography and tiles, pretty paving, colour, great food and a really convivial culture. We packed so much into a short time, I knew I had to see beautiful Sintra and also to escape to the beach for a few hours so fitting in all the cultural sights and the things highlighted in the fabulous Wallpaper* guide was a bit of a squeeze but well worth aching feet for. Today I’m sharing the top things we saw, did & ate in the city and on trips around which I think you could comfortably squeeze into a long weekend, wherever possible I have included a google map for directional purposes. If you get to go for longer lucky you, do share any places I’ve missed.
A Vida Portugeusa
I read about this store in quite a few places and it really didn’t disappoint, in fact it may be one of my favourite shops ever, so many pieces of truly beautiful packaging and typography (I’m all about the typography) including a shelf devoted to one of my first ever design crushes on the blog – beautiful Portuguese paste Couto. Below are some of the items I couldn’t leave the shop without, though to be honest if hand luggage had permitted I would have taken the entire shop with me, a definite must for design lovers. Address: R. Anchieta 11, 1200-023 Lisboa, Portugal Find here.
This is more of an elaborate kiosk than a store. One of Lisbon’s oldest and tiniest stores, room for one customer at a time but small things can be perfectly formed and this doesn’t disappoint, the shop fittings are all original and beautiful. If you need gloves or would like to peruse wares in a space with a true aura of the past then this is the place for you. Address: R. do Carmo 87, 1200 Lisboa, Find here.
Au Bonheur Des Dames
Ok, so this is now a bank, but if you have a love of European literature then you will know why I gasped to find a nineteenth century shop fitting cast in stone with the title of Emile Zola’s classic French novel Au Bonheur Des Dames set in a department store during the Fin de Siecle! It was apparently a perfumery and the stonework above the entrance way is the only surviving relic of a fire in the eighties. Address: R. do Carmo 11, 1200-093 Lisboa, Find here.
Independente Suites & Terrace, Bairro Alto
Having not stayed in a hostel for more than a decade we decided to try a postel for Lisbon – posh hostel dontchaknow? Wow, this place was amazing, like walking around a more decayed version of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest, it ticked all the style boxes for me. My secret wish is to live inside that film and I think booking a suite here is about as near as one might expect to get to it in a lifetime. I can’t recommend this place highly enough, it was cheap & clean, in a great location, the breakfasts were yummy, staff brilliant and friendly and a design or colour lovers dream. And did I mention the lift? Could have stayed here for the lift alone, it comfortably fits two people, I would say it was original nineteenth century to the building, two round mirrored doors (great for checking vanities) and lined in a toile de jouey fabric! Such beautiful and authentic faded glamour. Quite sad to check out of this beauty and it’s pretty rare for me to like a space as much as my own meticulously decorated home! Address: R. São Pedro de Alcântara 81, 1250-238 Lisboa, Website here.
Lisbon being a city of hills, the European San Francisco, has developed a pretty comprehensive tram system. We took a few rides for the experience but to be honest just seeing them around the town is a great pleasure and the cobbled streets are all rather pretty to walk along even if the inclines can be slightly vertiginous. We didn’t use the metro or buses at all but if you’re a fan of vintage travel, then the Elevator de Santa Justa is definitely worth journeying up, despite the queues, the vintage fittings in the lift (below) are very impressive, perhaps more so than the views… You can use a daily travel card (€6.50) on both the elevator & trams I believe.
Lisbon truly is a town of typography and tiles, each time I put the camera lens back on, a beautiful patterned tile would glint into sight from round a corner or some fabulous lettering would peep out from above a shop window. I captured so many that if I included them all it would be boring, but believe me it’s nothing like boring to see so many wonderful examples in the flesh. I found most of my favourites in the Chiada district but the yellow tiles that stole my heart (below) were on the main parade in Belem.
The city of Lisbon is famous for its use of colour, and they use muted blues and greens very well, for each flourish of brightly shaded hues you are sure to find a cool and dreamy cold tone to counterbalance, this green (below) in a hot side street is almost like being offered a mint gum for the eyes.
If you are passing between Restauradores & Avenida then the modernist building (below) now the headquarters of the Portuguese Communist party is well worth a look for its beautiful curves and form. You can’t officially go inside but I have read that if you ask nicely you will likely be able to view its beautiful internal modernist architecture. Address: Avenida da Liberdade 180,1250-142, Lisbon, Find here.
If you’re a design kid with a love of cacti (who isn’t these days?!?) then Estufa Fria is a must. Gently stroll up the boulevards with a gentle incline before taking on a pretty steep hill at King Edwards statue to find a tropical oasis of steamy calm on the east side of the park. There’s a sauna like temperature in some of the rooms for cultivation but on a 32 degrees day this is surprisingly nice! Address: Parque Eduardo VII, 1070 Lisboa, Portugal, Find here.
Pao a Mesa
Literally the best cheese I’ve had this year came as a starter alongside lovely bread with chorizo infused butter. The mains we had were cod a with mussel and peppers reduction and steak. Really well priced honest and delicious food, would not be out of place to be described as artisan but without the pretension. Wholeheartedly recommend a meal here, if not only for the cheese and because they have lovely chairs with green leather cushions! Address: 1250 096, R. Dom Pedro V 44, Lisbon. Find here.
This one was in the Wallpaper* guide, and happily on the doorstep of our suite, it’s very busy with the locals so almost impossible to shoot even at 7.30am! But if you’re staying in the Bairro Alto it’s worth an early trip to enjoy it’s art nouveau opulence in relative peace. The Pastel de Nata here are delicious. Address: R. Dom Pedro V 57, Lisboa, Portugal, Find here.
Established in 1949 and with cute branding and black & white beach photos from their first store in Cascais Santini’s is a bonafide institution in Portugal. Everyone goes here, the whole of Lisbon, so be prepared to queue! I got peach, coconut, caramel & hazelnut. The peach was to die for… Address: R. do Carmo 9, 1200-093 Lisboa, Find here.
A Cultura Hamburger
A little off piste for a Mediterranean city break, I found this via Trip Advisor reviews after we were turned away from the much raved about Taberna da Rua das Flores which had a 2.5hr waiting list at 8.30pm! This little restaurant also gets busy, we were the last in before waiting list and with good reason, the burgers are amazing and the price pretty astonishing for the quality. For under €25 we got a Salgadeiras burger (manchego, bacon & basil mayoniase) a Mother’s burger (Alentejano cheese, aubergine sauce in a garlic and olive bun), a beer and a pretty scrumptious mixed berry Gin cocktail. Address: R. das Salgadeiras 38, Lisbon, find here.
If I were to describe this place to somebody I’d say it’s like Peter Blake’s Museum of Everything but with cocktails! If you are looking for quirky, then you’ve reached your destination. Originally opened as an antiques shop and turned into a bar after the owner ended up using it so much to host drinks, this labyrinthine space decorated with the owners collection of toys and ephemera from the first half of the twentieth century is a must-see. I loved the old shop fittings from when it had previously been a grocery store and the vintage Tintin displayed around the bar, my husband rather liked the various representations of Lenin! Address: R. Dom Pedro V 89, 1250-093 Lisboa, Find here.
Another one of Lisbon’s small but perfectly formed stores, this ones for coffee lovers, not much room to swing a cat but very pretty if you are passing. Address: R. da Misericórdia 9, 1200 Lisboa, find here.
Out of town: Sintra & The Beach
Cascais is Lisbon’s most well known beach and traditionally where the locals head to play, it’s only about 25 mins on the train from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station and passes through Estoril on the way. Estoril is a town with wonderful art nouveau & art deco architecture that you can glimpse some of from the platform. We went on a weekday and hired a lounger for a few hours, it was pretty busy but not uncomfortably so. If you want to go to the beach for just a few hours you can comfortably fit in a trip to Belem on the outskirts of Lisbon on the way back where you will find a stunning white stone monastery and after a little walk the very beautiful fortress of Lisbon torre floating out to sea. I would recommend splitting the day & doing both.
Sintra is surely a town dreamt up by Salvador Dali or Lewis Carroll, or even Theophile Gautier (who I love). It is Sublime, somewhere between grand and kitsch, defying categorisation. Here you will find beautiful gardens, elaborate mansions, impossible castles and winding roads through forests. An hour on the train from Lisbon, it feels like a fairytale of otherworldliness. As a town it trades on Byron’s endorsement that it is as close to Eden as earth gets, and when you look out from the fabulous Pena Palace (which wasn’t built when Byron was there) you can’t help but wonder how the vista would have looked before major development when the land was mainly forest which now only dots the landscape here and there.
If you only see one thing make it the Pena Palace (above) and take the bus from the station straight to the top. This multicoloured palace atop a mountain was home to the Portuguese Royal family at the turn of the nineteenth century. It is unlike any other palace I’ve seen, it has the decadence of the Brighton Pavilion but without the pastiche, it is completely itself, kitsch, unapologetic, really quite beautiful in its boldness and with a hint of the fin de siecle hedonist motto ‘dance for tomorrow we die’. I could actually live here, I never say this about castles, I usually love the architecture but find the interiors conservatively drab. Not here, I loved the patterned tiled bathrooms, the trompe l’oil ceilings, the lifesize standard lamps of gold Turkish men holding elaborate candelabras above their heads. The palace is a feast of the senses, J.K Huysman would have died very happily amongst it’s sensual overload. If you go to Lisbon you must see this!
If you are going to make a day of it see all the palaces, definitely the Quinta da Regaleira. Eating wise the town is full of pretty standard tourist fare. Sintra has its own local pastry delicacy which is filled with almond paste, the most well regarded place for this is Piriquita (below) with its gorgeous yellow tiles. Address: R. Padarias 1, Sintra, Portugal, Find here.
Have a good trip! Let me know if you find anything we didn’t. Boa viagem!