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A Guide to Creative, Cultural Lisbon

Lisbon tram

You’ll find much to explore in this thriving hub of local and international art, architecture and design talent, as well as great food and shopping options.

To eat… 

For the very best in traditional Lisbon food, a visit to the upmarket Solar dos Presuntos, just off Avenida da Liberdade, is a must. Nestled in the same locale is Cinema São Jorge, where you can tuck into pizza while enjoying a lovely view from the balcony on the first floor.

On the move? The various kiosks dotted about the city have you covered. Found in parks, at viewing points (miradouros) and squares, they serve coffee, drinks, snacks and sandwiches. Quiosque Clara Clara in Alfama’s Campo de Santa Clara comes highly recommended for the best homemade lemonade in town. Café do Monte in Graça, meanwhile, is a great all-rounder; good for lunch, coffee, drinks and cocktails. You can keep things lively by heading to Rua Nova do Carvalho, a bustling spot with bars aplenty and a great music venue in the MusicBox.

Pasteis de Belem

Treats at Pasteis de Belém

Often referred to as “the heart of Lisbon”, the downtown district of Baixa is home to many delights including Gelados Santini, arguably the finest ice cream parlour in the entire city. Close by on one of the main squares is Confeitaria Nacional, great for all manner of pastries, coffee and killer hot chocolate. You really shouldn’t leave without hitting Belém and indulging in some custard tarts (pasteis de nata) from Pasteis de Belém. Seriously, it’s mandatory. If heading further afield, different custard-based treats known as travessairos can be enjoyed in Sintra, with the very finest found in Casa Piriquita.

For culture…

Architecture aficionados can lose themselves in a world of contemporary design with the exhibitions and events of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, which continues up until December 11. Although this particular occasion only happens every three years, all around the city you’ll find innovative work by Álvaro Siza Vieira, Eduardo Souto de Moura and Aires Mateus, while MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) recently opened a new wing that celebrates contemporary art and architecture from Portugal and beyond.

Fundaçao-Calouste-Gulbenkian

‘Lines of Time’ at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Elsewhere, visit Museu do Chiado in the centre of the city for modernist exhibitions, while the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian boasts an impressive collection of 20th century art. Downtown, on one of Lisbon’s busiest shopping streets, Rua Augusta, MUDE, the city’s Museum of Design and Fashion, occupies a former bank. For a flavour of the contemporary, visit LX Factory to see art, design and dance studios, the city’s best range of magazines in MAG Kiosk (housed inside a shipping container) and Livraria Ler Devagar, a beautiful labyrinthine bookshop.

Fabrica Features

Fabrica Features

Some argue that Portugal hasn’t developed a design reputation to rival the big players in Europe, but it has cultivated a small, active scene. Located on the top floor of Benetton on Rua Garrett (across the street from art deco Café A Brasilia), Fabrica Features is a depiction of excellent contemporary work by Portuguese and international designers. Elsewhere, Re-Searcher on Rua da Conceição serves up a feast of graphic and illustrative work.

For shopping…

A Vida Portuguesa

A Vida Portuguesa

For classic Portuguese products of all shapes and sizes (think tinned sardines, children’s wooden toys and old-school decorative ceramics), visit A Vida Portuguesa on Rua Anchieta, and to get your fix of one of Portugal’s most prized native materials – durable and eco-friendly cork – visit CORK & CO on Rua das Salgadeiras for everything from homewares to hats.

Ultimately, a trip to Lisbon is best spent wandering through its beautiful streets and enjoying a coffee and pastéis de nata – custard tarts to die for. The Portuguese are known for taking life at a slower pace and when you visit Lisbon you’ll know why: this is not a city to rush through, rather a place to relax and soak up slowly, preferably with a glass of vinho verde.

Words: Aideen McCole

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