As featured in The Weekend Australian newspaper, Regina Ferreira, Founder & Owner of Petite B&Bs, shares some of her favorite secret places in Lisbon, capital of her native homeland Portugal. The secret gem of Europe!
For History: Visit AlfamaGet lost in the colourful labyrinthine streets of Alfama—Lisbon’s old quarter and the only part of the city that survived the devastating earthquake of 1755 that almost totally destroyed all of Lisbon. This village winds down from (and around) the 14th century glorious medieval Castle 'Sao Jorge Castelo' offering with breathtaking views over the city and across the River Tejo. Enjoy daily village life, watch the local residnets who still reside in this cosy neighbourhood hang laundry and go about their daily lives, gape at medieval buildings, quaint cafes and enjoy eateries and traditional hole-in-the-wall wine bars selling Ginja (traditional sweet wine) and sangria, from just 1 euro. All through the tunnel like streets the traditional 'fado' music floats through the air and festivals occur throughout the year in this must-see village. Contained within this diverse and charismatic district are many historic buildings including the Se Cathedral, the Castle, the National Pantheon (climb to the top for amazing views over the river), Sao Vicente and Saint Anthony’s Church. Be sure to enjoy the spectacular Miradouro's (viewpoints) Miradouro de Graca, Miradouro Portas do Sol (literally translates as Sun doors), admire the Azjules (tiles) at Jardim Julio de Castilho. Finally, take the No 28 Tram as it rattles and screeches through the winding streets. I recommend taking the tram UP to Largo do Graca and walking downhill to/through Alfama, as this is an extremely hilly village and going uphill can be trying. Simply hop off and follow the tram tracks down the hill to all the beautiful sights.
For traditional music: Chapitô à Mesa
A trip to Lisbon isn’t complete without a live Fado (folk) show. Performed with one singer and two acoustic guitars players, it’s a spellbinding and romantically rich sound sourced from the despair Lisbon’s wives felt when their husbands were at sea. Hearing this unique sound and you will understand the pain of Portugal and marvel at its beauty. There are Fado restaurants on ever corner in Alfama you canot miss one. But I recommend catching a show at Chapito, an eclectic cultural arts centre for classic and contemporary Fados with excellent city views form a dream-like garden semi-outdoor terrace restaurant setting. Be warned the restaurant requires booking - especially in the Summer months; and to listen to the fados only in the underground bar requires early arrival too. 1, Costa do Castelo Lisboa Check the website for performances and other shows - www.chapito.org
Off the beaten track, find LX Factory and Principe Real. Principe Real is a chic shopping strip with trendy boutiques and up-and-coming local eateries and bars, new-age cafes with views and is home to Embaixada—a fashion bazaar in a Moorish-designed 18th century building that is simply exquisite, you'd be forgiven for ignoring the local designer fashions and staring at the building. LX Factory is a hip design district and arts centre/urban fragment that was kept hidden for years and now opens as a grid of converted factories turned into hip spaces for bars, cafes, designers, exhibitions, special events, boutiques, there is a weekly second-hand fashion market and it is also home to offices for creative professionals, artists and a co-working office space where Lisbon's entrepreneurs brain storm one of the endless 'start-ups' the city boasts. It is located under the Abril de 15 bridge. Get away from the crowds and hang out like a local with Lisbon’s best designers, entrepreneurs and artists. Embaixada - 26, Praca do Principe Real, Lisbon. LX – 103, Rua Rodrigues de Faria, Lisbon www.lxfactory.com
For Art: Museu Nacional do Azulejo
One of a kind, the National Tile Museum is an often overlooked (as it is a touch out of the city centre but well worth the extra 5 min tram ride) yet delightful museum sheltered in the convent of Madre de Deus. Explore centuries of the iconic decorative ceramic tiles (azulejos) that Portugal is so famous for. Don’t miss the splendour and opulence of the St. Anthony Chapel and Lisbon’s cityscape mosaic made in 1738. 4, Rua Me. Deus, Lisbon www.museudoazulejo.pt
For Pasteis de Nata: Chique de Belem
Sweet and flaky custard tarts are the signature pastry of Portugal. Head to Belem, Lisbon’s museum and palace district, for Pasteis de Belem. You can go joint the long line of tourists waiting for the famous tarts at Pasteis de Belem (a must see if anything for its incredible interior) OR walk east on Rua Junqueira to the small and charming Chique de Belem to try the locals’ choice of Lisbon’s best pasteis and avoid the lines. 524 Rua Da Junqueira, Lisbon
For a Daytrip: Sintra - Marvel at Portugal’s most extravagant castles, a whimsical and playful section of Portugal, a mountainous hilltop sprinkled with castles steeped in Gothic-Manueline design. Portugal’s fairy-tale castle region is one hour from Lisbon centre by train - go to the Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio (Rossio Train station) which is a magnificent display of Moorish-emanueline design in itself and purchase tickets to Sintra - direct. You’ll need a full day to enjoy the dramatic castles and sweeping mountainous views. The hilltop 19th-century Pena Nacional Palace is a must, and for something truly unique, eerily beautiful, visit Quinta da Regaleira’s enchanting gardens.
Must Eat: O Prego do Peixaria Burgers are in vogue and Lisbon has some interesting choices. O Prego do Peixaria is a vintage-inspired trendy locals’ spot that puts a new fishy spin on the traditional prego (steak) burger. Try burgers made with traditional cod, tuna or shrimp and squid, all served on different types of breads. 40, Rua da Escola Politecnica, Lisbon www.opregodapeixaria.comFor local Markets: Feira da Ladra, Lisbon Flea Market: A lovely way to spend a morning is strolling the stalls at the Lisbon Flea Market, aka ‘Thieves Market’, which began in the 13th century back in the Graca neighbourhood near Alfama. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning just beyond old town Alfama, find items that reflect Portugal’s awesome heritage. Carvings, lace, masks, pottery, even antiques from castles await the bargain treasure hunter. It's a great ay to observe the locals too. Campo de Santa Clara, Lisbon
More To Eat: O Amoraria A little gem in the hilly parts of Lisbon with an eclectic décor of vintage retro furniture and an equally eclectic and hilarious owner/chef, serving Portuguese-African infused dishes. The specialty plate is the delicious spicy bean stew. The atmosphere is casual-cool and charming. A great starting point before heading off into the deep dark tunnels of Alfama village for Fado's music and more wine. 2, Rua da. Achada, Lisbon
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