First it was Prague, and then it was Berlin. Now, Lisbon has taken on the mantle of Europe’s vibiest capital city. Like its predecessors, the Portuguese capital has that alluring blend of old-school European nobility with cheery urban dishevelment, making it the perfect backdrop for artists and artisans to do their thing: heading to open galleries and restaurants, throwing wild parties, and drinking late into the night. Go now, while its wave is still cresting.
Where to stay
Chiltern Firehouse supremo and local-boy-done-good, Nuno Mendes, oversees all the food at Bairro Alto Hotel, a handsome, wood-panelled bolthole that’s ideally located right in the heart of the action. Be sure to check out the excellent restaurant, BAHR, and then head to the in-hotel cocktail bar, 18.68, for a night-cap.
Location: Bairro Alto Hotel, Praça Luís de Camões, 2
What to do
The city’s ancient trams are a convenient and atmospheric way to get about, so be sure to grab one at some point. Line 28 is the tourist favorite, with long queues and always bustling cars. If you can’t be bothered to wait, then walk its route from Bairro Alto up to Alfama, a scenic neighbourhood with cobbled streets and a hilltop castle. For something more modern, head to the waterfront neighbourhood of Belém west of the centre and its many galleries, among them MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, which hosts an ever-changing roster of multidisciplinary exhibitions.
Location: Line 28, Bairro Alto
Location: MAAT, Av Brasilia
Where to go for breakfast and lunch
As it is the world over, the best brunch in Lisbon is an Aussie affair. Neighbourhood in Cais do Sodre is a pretty blue-tiled café that does avocado toast heaped high with feta, breakfast burritos, and a killer flat white. For lunch, book a table at Fidalgo, a charming family-owned restaurant that’s famous for its Toucino-do-céu, a traditional cake that is sweet, light, and not to be missed.
Location: Neighbourhood, Largo do Conde Barão 25
Location: Fidalgo, Rua da Barroca 27
Where to go for dinner
For a properly immersive Lisbon dinner experience, seek out the relaxed yet brilliant Taberna da Rua das Flores in Bairro Alto. The place has an authentic neighbourhood feel, with locals sitting on the steps in the back room when they can’t find a table. The food is rustic, the wine natural, and there is a great sense of theatre about the place.
For something a little showier, head to António Galapito’s Prado. Housed in a smart and high-ceilinged space in Chiado, the restaurant serves a menu that takes its cues from classic Portuguese cooking, reimagined with great verve and flair. Expect dishes like squid with potatoes and ham butter.
Location: Taberna da Rua das Flores, Rua das Flores 103
Location: Prado, Travessa das Pedras Negras 2
Where to drink
There’s a youthful, exuberant vibe to Rua Nova do Carvalho, the famous “pink road” in the once rundown, now-buzzy neighbourhood of Cais do Sodre. Grab a beer at Sol e Pesca, an understated bar that sells dozens of aesthetically packaged tinned fish. For a taste of Portugal’s many brilliant low-intervention wines, head to bottle shop Comida Independente, where they’ll happily fill a couple of glasses for you to try.
Location: Sol e Pesca, Rua Nova do Carvalho 44
Location: Comida Independente, Rua Cais do Tojo 28
What to wear
Whether you’re exploring the city under the blazing sun or having a post-dinner stroll in the cool evening breeze, a carefully considered wardrobe is essential when you’re packing for the trip. A blend of light-to-midweight fabrics is great because they can easily be layered, allowing for a wide range of styling possibilities.