Once the stomping ground of Romans, Moors and Crusaders, this historic hillside city has culture, cobblestones, cafés, cable cars and cod aplenty. Sprawling across 7 hills, overlooking the River Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon offers a wealth of cityscape vistas.
We head to the medieval Castelo de São, and the arabesque hilltop gardens of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. We hop on the Santa Justa Elevator (designed by one of Gustave Eiffel’s apprentices) to the top of Cristo Rei, where we visit Palacio de Belém - not forgetting to sample the area’s legendary cinnamon-dusted custard tarts washed down with a Galau - coffee served milky and sweet in a glass.
For a contemporary art fix we visit the Museu do Chiado and the Museu da Marinha where we learn all about Lisbon’s sea-faring heritage. For architectural inspiration and designer-decor we wander the city’s narrow streets, admiring the intricately patterned mosaic stone pavements and the rainbow range of colours and patterns in the city’s distinctive hand-painted tiles or azulejos.
For retail therapy we shop at Tourist House for regional and retro crafts, Storytailors for fairy tale- inspired fashion fantasy, Vida Portuguesa for gorgeous stationery, jewellery and toys, and Luvaria Ulisses for exquisite leather gloves, traditionally made using the finest materials. We haggle and bargain hunt our way around Lisbon’s many markets: Feira da Ladra (Thieves Market) for bric-a-brac, Mercado da Ribeira for gorgeous produce, salt cod bacalhau, ruby red port and fragrant local honey.
By night, we head to Bairro Alto, where the bars and restaurants throb with the mournful passion of bluesy Fado, Portugal’s traditional music. We dine at Bocca, a dazzlingly chic restaurant, with a wow-factor menu, bursting with unexpected flavours and combinations and a wine list as long as Route 66. We round off the night at the Lux Club a nightspot, as theatrical and unique as its owner John Malkovich.
Flora Montgomery with a tile restorer at Bicesse factory
Flora Montgomery with artist Joana Vasconcelos