Instagram Travel Guide to … Lisbon
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Lisbon is hot, hot, hot right now, and these locals have the skinny.
By Mairi Mackay
OZY tasks the rising stars of Instagram to share their favorite little-known spots to eat, drink, shop and sight-see.
Maybe it’s all the sunshine, or the open spaces and never-ending views around every corner, but Lisbon doesn’t feel like other capital cities. Wandering the steep cobbled streets past tile-clad buildings and little shops that look like they’ve been there for 100 years can make you feel like you’re in a time warp. But Lisbon’s charms are not all in the past tense: Its unique vibe has been luring in arty types from all over for the past few years. Concept stores, galleries and coffee shops are popping up like mushrooms. The art scene is buzzing. Not to mention the surfing that’s less than an hour away. This grand little city at the edge of Europe is moving and shaking, and who better than the Instagrammers who love it to give us the lowdown.
Lisbonite art director, obsessive photographer and founder of #symmetriclisbon, Hugo Suissas sees his city through a lens like no other. Instagram is his “second life,” and his feed — a mesmerizing collection of visual puns that play with the city’s landmarks and hip hangouts — has a dedicated following.
Where to eat: Suissas loves LX Factory, a once-abandoned industrial strip under the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge now reinvented as one of Lisbon’s coolest collections of bars, restaurants and stores. Plus there’s a great bookshop and a woman called Madame Cheeselova who will sell you slabs of amazing cheesecake. “The incredible space that surrounds the food makes it a unique experience,” he says.
Where to drink: Lisbon is a city of grand spaces, and few are grander than the Praça do Comércio in the Lisbon Baixa district, which was completely remodeled after an earthquake in the 18th century. It has a bunch of bars under arched terraces on the sides of the square, Suissas says, with sea views and “plenty of space to walk.”
Where to shop: If anywhere could claim to be the beating heart of Lisbon, it’s Praça do Rossio. Its wavy black-and-white tile floor could also lay claim to the title of most psychedelic sidewalk in Europe. Suissas calls it the center of Lisbon “with shops for everything.”
Where to visit: Christ the King is Lisbon’s answer to Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. The giant statue sits on the other side of the Rio Tejo in Almada, looking benevolently down upon Lisbonites. From Almada, “the view of Lisbon is unbelievable,” says Suissas. “If you can get up to Christ the King, it’s perfect.”
Julia Vilaca believes that happy memories are priceless — and travel is one way to make them. So she created Lisboa Cool to curate the city’s best spots for newbies. “I want people who visit Lisbon to love the city as much as a local does,” she says. Vilaca is also an arch Instagrammer: Her feed is a hand-picked collection of the best stores, restaurants, art galleries and exquisite views of the city.
Where to eat: Vilaca swears by 100 Maneiras Bistro in Chiado. The name means “100 ways,” and it mixes Portuguese food with other cuisines in inventive ways — always exquisitely presented. It was the first place Vilaca added to Lisboa Cool, and she notes: “To this day it’s still perfect. Every time I eat there, I create a memorable moment with my friends.”
Where to drink: Vilaca likes PARK. As the name suggests, it’s located on the top level of a multistory car park, but you’d never know from the lushly planted garden terrace. “It has a cool vibe and a perfect view to end the day,” she says.
Where to shop: In an eye-popping palazzo of Moorish arches and pointed domes is Embaixada, a temple to style featuring many of the Portuguese brands you don’t yet know, but will love. “It’s a gorgeous palace that presents Portuguese brands you can’t find in larger commercial centers,” Vilaca says.
Where to visit: If you’re a culture vulture, get your dose of art at the Museu Coleção Berardo, in Belem. Vilaca says: “It’s a beautiful place full of modern and contemporary art.” The minimalist gallery houses a collection including works by Jackson Pollock, Cindy Sherman and Roy Lichtenstein. Even better, it’s free!
Nelson Carvalheiro used to be the general manager of Lisbon’s magnificent $1,000-a-night Palacio Belmonte hotel. He was such a badass host his guests invited him to stay in places like California, Italy and Germany. He caught the travel bug and, in 2013, hung up his suit, grew a beard and started travel writing full time. He’s now a leading light in Portugal’s foodie scene, and, thankfully for us, he also posts captivating photos of Portugal’s mouthwatering food and landscapes on Instagram.
Where to eat: If you’re into great views — and, let’s face it, this is what Lisbon is all about — then go to Ponto Final in Almada. “It’s one of my favorite places to eat,” says Carvalheiro. The food is traditional Portuguese, and he recommends the mackerel with tomato rice. His tip: Take the commuter ferry from Cais do Sodré, and enjoy an early dinner watching the sunset over Lisbon.
Where to drink: Carvalheiro also suggests PARK for its spectacular views, this time over the Old World-y Bairro Alto neighborhood. Indulge in a gin cocktail, and soak up the vibes: “It’s a very nice place to end the day,” says Carvalheiro.
Where to shop: If you’re on the hunt for a souvenir, Carvalheiro suggests going to vintage shop A Vida Portuguesa. In a pleasingly shabby warehouse in trendy Chiado, it sells books, old postcards, ceramics, soaps and olive oil. “It’s quite a famous lifestyle shop,” says Carvalheiro.
Where to visit: Carvalheiro recommends going to up-and-coming Mouraria, an old Moorish neighborhood. Once very rundown, now it’s full of art galleries and international restaurants: Indian, Chinese, Goan. “Instead of walking through the crowded areas,” he says, “I would go there. It’s a more alternative and authentic part of Lisbon.”
- Mairi Mackay, OZY Author Contact Mairi Mackay