Lisbon: Europe's Most Under-Appreciated Capital
Where to drink
Lisbon is famed for its incredible rooftop bars, which serve great drinks with even greater views. The best of these has to be “PARK bar” in Bairro Alto, which is situated on the 7th floor of a multi-storey carpark. Up six flights of stairs and a ramp, you go from a very ordinary carpark to an ultra-cool rooftop bar serving tasty food, interesting cocktails and playing relaxed house music. We recommend arriving in the early evening to experience the breath-taking views in daylight, and to stay for the night when the party gets started.
Located on the famous “Rua Cor de Rosa” or “Pink Street” is the mysterious and coolly seedy Pensão de Amor. Although unassuming from the street, this bar was converted some years ago from a brothel into what is now one of Lisbon’s most vibrant night haunts. The cocktails are fantastic, there are burlesque shows and you can even have your fortune read.
If a proper nightclub is what you are looking for, LUX is the best that Lisbon has to offer. The upstairs of the club is relatively(!) relaxed with lots of seating and access to a balcony which has an amazing panoramic view, as it is several floors up from the ocean beneath. The lower floors of the club, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different; pumping techno music and strobe lights entertain the very enthusiastic crowd of Lisbon’s party-goers.
Where to stay
Although it may seem a strange concept, Independente blends the relaxed community feels of a hostel with high-end suites. You can either stay in innovatively designed dorm rooms (£24/night) or treat yourself to one of their beautifully designed suites (£163/night). Independente also has a restaurant and rooftop bar, both of which are very reasonably priced given the quality and ideal location, on the out-skirts of Bairro Alto.
For a more luxurious stay in a more peaceful area of the city, Verride Palacio Santa Catarina is the best pick in Lisbon (from £444/night). Situated on the top of the Santa Catarina hill, the views of the red roofs and the Atlantic Ocean from the restored 18th century palace are breath-taking. The hotel is warm and classically Lisbon, despite being very elaborate and palatial. The rooms are contemporary in design, incorporating the famous Lisbon tiles, as well as Aesop bathroom products. The hotel has a modern rooftop restaurant, serving à la carte and tasting menus with amazing views. The bar downstairs also serves great drinks and is definitely worth a visit!
Where to eat
You can’t visit Lisbon without sampling some tapas. Tapiso expertly executes a modern variation of Catalonian tapas classics, using the best ingredients. The food is paired with great wines and a calm, chilled atmosphere in the intimate restaurant. Start with the deliciously smokey and crunchy jamón croquettes and make sure to leave space for the chocolate mousse with sea salt and olive oil caviar - it’s insanely good. Tapisco also boasts the best vermouth selection in the city; we can testify that their Negroni’s are especially good.
Just over the road from Tapisco is Tapas 52. This little tapas bar also serves traditional Spanish inspired tapas plates such as Tapisco. It is, however, much more rustic, both in terms of the food and service. The more laid-back food and service is matched well with the lively atmosphere; the tables are very close to one another and the restaurant is loud with great music. Our menu picks would be the padrón peppers and the calamares.
Highly popular with the locals and those in the restaurant business, is Taberna Rua das Flores. Dishes are changed daily, the décor is very 'old hat' and you can only pay in cash; all of which contributes to the charm of the ‘tavern’. Order fresh fish and snacks to share, once you’ve got in that is. The queue can be enormous, so get there early... or late.
What to see
Príncipe Real is a very cool, up and coming neighbourhood with a bunch of antique and design stores, as well as the weird and wonderful Natural History Museum. Not only are the exhibitions slightly out of the norm, but unlike the Natural History Museum in London, you are able to freely roam around the whole museum and old university lecture theatres, some of which were used by Charles Darwin after his South American expeditions - geeky but cool nevertheless.
The historic area of Belém is famed for being the departure point for European explorers leaving the continent to discover new lands such as India and the USA in the 1400s. Major attractions include the Torre de Belém, an Amanda Levete designed art museum and the Monument to the Discoveries. Belém is also home to the world's greatest Pastel de Nata (Custard Tartlets); head to Pasteis de Belém (Rua de Belém 84-92) for the very best, the queue is worth it.
Just a short train ride along the coast from Lisbon, is the picturesque beachside town of Cascais (pronounced Cash-Caysh). We'd recommend Cascais to those who are in Lisbon for a week or so, as it has great shops and restaurants, and gives a flavour of the greater Lisbon area. Don’t miss out on having drinks on the terrace at Reserva de Villa.
Photos by Jamie Vaughan