A Weekend in Lisbon
Spread over seven rolling hills, the picture perfect panorama of Lisbon’s cobbled alleyways along with its riverside location makes for a captivating weekend away. The cityscape of hills is a picture of colour and history with a scattering of miradouros offering #nofilter views in every direction. Urban street art brings life to run down buildings while trademark yellow trams run up and down hills and wind in and around alleyways to create the unmistakable Lisbon scene.
In the Baixa area, Brown’s Central Hotel makes a great spot for visiting the city. Located in the narrow streets of lower Lisbon between the hills of Alfama and Barrio Alta, it’s location makes getting around by foot less exhausting. The 18th-century pistachio green building with 84 rooms has a buzzy feel in its trendy bar and brasserie.
Contemporary furniture throughout, the small bedrooms are full with retro furniture, design books, white marble bathrooms and illuminating lighting make the space just perfect.
Arriving in the afternoon, take a stroll through Baixa, the historic heart of the city, bustling with pedestrianised streets and traditional restaurants. Pass the Elevador Santa Justa, designed by a follower of Gustav Eiffel with clear resemblances to the French monument. It’s the only street lift in Lisbon for public service with nice views from the top, but with queues of tourists, it is quicker to walk up.
Head instead towards Praça do Comércio with its grand 18th-century arcades and lemon facades. People arriving by boat would disembark here and it still feels like the gateway to the city, opening out to the river Tagus and giving your first sight to the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge.
It comes as no surprise that the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge is the sister bridge to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, designed by the same architect in 1966.
Head right along the river, past all of the curiosities that this touristy spot will bring.
Head back inland and up into Barrio Alto, Lisbon’s bohemian district that transforms drastically between day and night. Full of endless bars and restaurants, it’s an area where visitors of all walks of life can seamlessly blend together to give an avant garde feel mixed with old-fashioned influences.
Once the red light district, Rua Nova do Carvalho or “Pink Street" was surely created especially for Instagram. In 2011, an attempt to turn around the neighbourhoods atmosphere brought a pink road full of cosy cafes and new bars that have maintained some hints to its past. The nearby Time Out for court in the Mercado da Ribeira has helped to make this a stand out hotspot.
For late afternoon sundowners, head to Park Bar, a rooftop parking lot turned into a hip elevated garden terrace with 180º views over Lisbon. Potted plants, wooden furniture and a dj all team up to make this a perfect spot for a casual sunny afternoon.
Mornings don’t start early in Lisbon so take your time to stroll over to Praça da Figueria. Eight The Health Lounge serves up delicious bowls that will get you ready for a day of walking.
The Little Yoga Space in the heart of historic Lisbon is a light and peaceful space offering an oasis of calm amongst the bustle of city life. Classes run throughout the day with a programme of yoga, meditation, workshops and women’s circles as well as occasional park yoga sessions.
Catch tram 28 up into Alfama and save your legs by wandering back down through Alfama’s steep, narrow cobblestone streets. Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district, was spared from the Great Earthquake of 1755 so still shows signs of the Moorish presence in the city with buildings very close together amongst irregular streets. It’s a great place to simply get lost wandering its labyrinth streets with picture perfect sights of trams winding up narrow, cobbled, hillside streets lined with rustic houses and sprays of graffiti.
The streets here are full of inviting cafes and restaurants to entice you in. Princesa do Castelo serves delicious home-style dishes as well the famous Pasteis de Nata which can’t be missed on any weekend in Portugal.
The 11th-century Castelo de São Jorge fortifications towers dramatically over Lisbon, sneaking its way into almost every panoramic snapshot. The pine-shaded courtyards offer incredible views over the city’s red rooftops looking out towards the river. These cobblestones have been home to the 5th century Visigoths, the 9th century Moors, 12th century Christians and royals from the 14th to 16th-centuries, packed with history and a standout view.
Wander over to Barrio Alto to enjoy late afternoon drinks in the Lisbon sun at the Pharmacy Museum. A vast garden with sun lounge chairs make this the perfect spot for soaking up the afternoon sun with creative cocktails designed around the tools of a pharmacist.
Fado, a melancholic musical style of storytelling was born in the streets of Alfama. Powerful and heart wrenching, a great fado singer can entrance the senses even of non-Portuguese-speakers. Alfama’s tiny cobbled streets are lined with restaurants offering fado alongside dinner. None are plant-based yet but they are happy for you to go in for a drink to enjoy the music. Aldega dos Fadistas had a male and female singer and I heard they were amongst the best.
You can’t visit Lisbon and miss out on Sintra, a stunning Unesco World Heritage site about 40 minutes by car from Lisbon. The most visited landmark in Portugal, it’s worth getting up early to have it a little more for yourselves.
Pena Palace has most certainly been plucked straight from a fairytale and has now been crowned my favourite castle in the world. One of the seven wonders of Portugal, and considered the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, Pena Palace sits colourfully at the top of the Serra de Sintra in a world of imagination. It’s truly unique, having been put together in a range of styles and colours that combine beautifully to create a fairytale land.
The interior is equally extravagant with huge attention to detail in the Portuguese-style furniture and frescos dotted all over the walls, everything very luxurious. Heading out to the Queens Terrace offers the best views of the palaces architecture.
Being perched up high on the Serra de Sintra, walking through the park is full of beautiful viewpoints where you can look back to Lisbon and further up into the mountains.
Lined with grandiose nautical monuments, boats gliding along the Rio Tejo, the Atlantic breeze sweeping in, Belém casts you back to the Age of Discovery when the world was Portugal’s colonial oyster. A fine example of this is the Torre de Belém, a Unesco World Heritage-listed fortress that perfectly epitomises Portugal’s days gone by and stands alone as a significant sight lining the river bank.
Further along the river stands the Monument to the Discoveries with a wide rooftop platform to look out over the river and back towards the Belem Tower. Continue wandering back towards town passing harbours filled with boats and promenades lined with restaurants and bars to enjoy your final Lisbon hours.