Lisbon is a perfect city for a week end getaway tete-a-tete. It’s not too big yet it has a tremendous lot to offer in terms of art and culture. It’s full of charm yet it all comes naturally, at no big expense. And Portuguese people are just very kind. Plus they know a thing or two about good food and delicious pastries.
I am glad we were just the 2 of us though. I would not have wanted to push Amalya’s stroller on all those cobbled stone streets and narrow sidewalks, going up and down around town (the city of the seven hills!)…With children in age of walking all day long, then it’s a perfect family-destination too.
As we did not research anything prior to arriving (a first in BozAround life! a real refresher!), I don’t have a proper city guide to share here. I’ll just throw in some of my favorite souvenirs…
Being a super last minute getaway, and a holiday week end for most Europeans, we were lucky to get the last room available at Bairro Alto hotel, at a real bargained price (remember the rule: you don’t get anything without asking). And what more: they even upgraded us because they felt sad of our story of the day London-Marrakech-Lisbon. It’s very centrally located, right in front of a tram 28 stop, the line that goes all over town to the best areas. And Bairro Alto is the area of the night, where you will find all the bars late at night, a lot of fun.
In Chiado, the neighborhood below Bairro Alto, you can buy some very chic little dresses from Papo D’Anjo shop. It’s the posh English meets Portuguese children’s fashion brand from designer Catherine Monterreiro de Barros. And in the same street, a few numbers down, indulge in a delicious yet affordable 3-course meal (Eur23) at Restaurante Tagide, with the best view over the river and the city.
My favorite part of town was Alfama, a very old neighborhood with lots of winding little streets (a labyrinth, really) going from the river all the way up to the famous castle of Lisbon. I would have been happy staying there too. Lisbon is very pleasant to visit because you can very well do without a tourist guide book. There are lots of pleasant cafes and old shops and workshops, and little back streets where it’s great to get lost. It makes a stay there quite relaxed. Loved our lunch at A Morgaginha de Alfama on Beco de Alfurja, 4. But good luck finding it… (tel: 21 886 5424). Alfama is also the place to come at night to listen to Fado music.. A good address apparently is Parreirinha de Alfama (Largo Chafariz de dentro – tel 21 886 82 09) but it was closed when we tried..
Also in the heights of Alfama, we stumbled upon this little art gallery called ArteFacto – galeria de arte popoular. The owner Rosa commissions local artists who keep in the traditions of folk art, with many beautiful gifts to bring back to the children. I fell in love with the work of Cuban artist Lorenzo Lozane Rivera. Originally from Cuba, he moved to Lisbon not so long ago after marrying his Portuguese wife. And he creates little bundles of love with the remains of old women stockings. The result is very poetic. Amalya loves her little brown heart bear.
Another shop with interesting folk art was Almalusa, right near the entrance of the Castle de Sao Jorge (a worthwhile visit, if only for the stunning views over the city). You could easily miss it as it’s mixed with all the other touristy places, but it stands out once you get in. The owner is passionate about respecting old traditions whether it’s embroideries, ceramics and porcelains. Liked it quite a bit..
Lapa was another atmospheric part of town, to the west of Bairro Alto. Lots of cafes and small shops, and lots of azulejos too. Coincidentally, Monocle Magazine (issue 43) is running a feature this month about Lapa which we happened to have with us, and it’s full of good addresses. The editors argue that it’s time to look at properties in Lisbon, because prices are much lower than where they should be. But beware, on many accounts of people we’ve talked to, Portugal is on the verge of a worst crisis than it is in right now..This week the country got a bail-out package from the IMF for $78bln.The period of economic austerity has only just started it seems.
And if you have one extra day, it’s really worth taking the 45 minute train ride to the town of Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage site. It’s famous for its romantic architecture with pastel colors in shades of pinks and yellows; it’s also famous for its delicious queijadasat Sapa (21 923 0493) and its old moorish castle perched atop in the mist (don’t go without a good pair of walking shoes!).
Oh, and I was going to forget one memorable dinner place for meat lovers, Cafe Sao Bento, rua San Bento number 12. A hidden gem recommended by our Portuguese friend Antonio…hmmm..
Ps: Beware, many museums were closed due to the May 1st holiday…so we have a reason to go back one day