Portugal has a newfound optimism. Yes, it has successfully weathered government imposed austerity measures but it also has so much to offer the discerning traveller. A diverse nation, with a rich design heritage, ancient walled towns and mountaintop palaces, it also has magical Mediterranean landscapes, delicious food and earthy wines. Here are our top tips when you visit this year round holiday destination.
The Portuguese capital is one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Built around seven hills its streets are dotted with pale stone buildings, patterned limestone pavements, white-domed cathedrals and grand plazas lined with sun-drenched cafés. Look for the trams clattering through tree-lined streets and enjoy the abundance of riverside bars, boutiques and clubs.
Time Out Marcado da Ribeira
Originally a fish market, dating back to the 13th century, it is now a hub for restaurants, food stalls and workshops, with the opportunity to cook your meal. Peruse the fresh produce and dine on traditional Portuguese cuisine.
For typical Portuguese seafood (think shrimp, scampi and crab) and local beer, this is the place to go. It's abuzz - noisy, full of locals and bookings aren't accepted so get in early to be assured of a table.
Bistro 100 Maneiras
Formerly located in Cascais, this restaurant moved to Lisbon's Bairro Alto in early 2009. The chef is Bosnian-born Ljubomir Stanisic, who presents some of the most creative dishes in Lisbon. All of the ingredients are fresh, bought on the same day at the city's Ribeira Market. The dishes are therefore always different every day and you can try them in reasonably-priced tasting menus.
Located next to the São Carlos opera house, this restaurant has been serving Portuguese cuisine since it opened in the 1950s, and was taken over by Michelin-starred chef José Avillez in 2011. Here, Avillez has decided to keep some of the previous restaurant's classic dishes, but his own old favourites and new innovative dishes are also part of the menu. Taberna da Rua das Flores For a slice of old Lisbon, grab a spot in this nostalgic tavern with its marble-topped tables and classic Portuguese products on display. Excellent cocktails and local wines are available with tasty tapas plates.
Olissippo Lapa Palace
This stately 19th century building is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Tagus River. It's peaceful garden is full of centuries-old trees, streams, and fountains and is a relaxing oasis in the elegant Lapa district. Every room has its own balcony, with magnificent views of the grounds and the city, as well as sublime bathrooms with hand pained Portuguese tiles and massive bath tubs.
A wonderful, very secret hotel on top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills. It has vast, colourful and eclectic rooms and a beautiful black-slate pool.
Unusual and unique collection of tiles that date back to the 15th century. Housed in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent, which after renovation following the Great Earthquake had its interior turned into one of the most magnificent in the city. The splendour and opulence of the chapel dedicated to St. Anthony and the chapter house is particularly impressive. The highlight of the museum is a blue and white composition of 1300 tiles, 23m (75ft) in length, of Lisbon's cityscape made in 1738, prior to the Great Earthquake, and reputedly the country's longest tile piece.
Originally an industrial complex for two fabric and thread companies, the LX Factory arts centre is a place where visitors can participate and interact. Each year, the Arts Centre plays host to several significant artistic events, one of which is “Open Day” which showcases the work of almost 150 resident artists and companies, all in the name of celebrating contemporary art.
This whimsical Moorish-inspired palácio is the 19th-century romantic folly of English millionaire Sir Francis Cook. Located near Sintra and easily visited in a day, the extravagantly decorated palace blends Portuguese, Arabian and Indian architectural styles and is one the most beautiful buildings in the area. Its grounds are impressive too with wooded hillsides bristling with exotic foliage, from Chinese weeping cypress to dragon trees and Himalayan rhododendrons.
Vintage department store, A Vida Portuguesa, is the place to buy soaps hand wrapped in beautiful papers, pencils, traditional notebooks and wooden toys, beautiful hand-painted tiles as well as chocolates, tea, coffee, wine and more. Its iron pillars and polished floorboards provide atmospheric surrounds in which to shop.
Said by some to be Lisbon’s best shopping district, head to Principe Real for designer boutiques, handmade jewellery, antique shops, lifestyle concept stores, artisan chocolates and buzzing cafés. It’s also a sought-after residential district with beautiful gardens, squares and brightly coloured houses.
For the love of gloves
Luvaria Ulisses is a tiny jewel of a shop, founded in 1925 in Lisbon’s Chiado district. Devoted purely to the design and sale of fine gloves, each pair is made from the best leather using traditional methods. Providing good old fashioned service and gloves to the city’s political, cultural and artistic upper class for nearly 100 years, this is a shop not to miss.
The oldest market in Lisbon, Feira da Ladra (Thief’s Market) has origins dating as far back as the 12th century. Held every Tuesday and Saturday, you’ll find antiques, artisan products, furniture, books, magazines, vinyl records, vintage pictures, old cameras, tiles and more. Bargaining is expected!
Portugal’s vibrant second city is a World Heritage site built on a steep slope above the River Douro. Home to the famous Port wine it also plays host to a creative culinary scene with undulating medieval streets, stately bridges, Baroque churches and splendid tiled walls.
Restaurante Boa Nova
Set high on a cliff overlooking the sea to the north of Porto this eatery was designed by leading Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira in an impressive contemporary building framed with imposing white boulders. Siza first completed the Boa Nova Tea House in 1963, just nine years after he founded his architectural practice. 50 years on the space has been transformed into a restaurant where Portuguese chef Rui Paula serves delicious, modern food in a fantastic setting.
This is an exceptionally good restaurant forming part of the Caves Taylor port wine cellars. The cuisine is of a high standard, served in a beautiful setting with superb views over the river to old Porto. The menu is known for its superb seafood.
Opened in 1921, the cultural elite flocked to the Café Majestic in its hey-day and it was known for its atmosphere of lively debate. The Art Nouveau setting is decorative and flamboyant and the café serves up everything from coffee to absinthe.
This classic wine hotel and spa is set in extensive grounds amidst the historic Port wine lodges of Porto. Each of the spacious bedrooms and suites has its own private terrace where views of the Douro River and city are breathtaking. In its Michelin star restaurant, the traditional flavours of Portugal are served up with contemporary flair and award winning wines. Its cellar houses the most comprehensive collection of Portuguese wines in the world.
Our Suggested A&K Journey - Portuguese Delights
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