Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel

14th Apr 2013
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 1/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Flea Market
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 2/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 3/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Luvaria Ulisses
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 4/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Ponto Final
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 5/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Walking along the Tagus River
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 6/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
National Tile Museum
Photo of Lisbon: Shop, eat, travel 7/7 by Nelson Carvalheiro
Tram ride in Lisbon

Once called the “Ocean Capital of the Western World”, Lisbon has a very interesting array of architectural and cultural influences mixed with a very vibrant Southern European feel. A young generation of artists, cultural entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and business owners are taking back the Roman, Moorish, Medieval and 18th Century city maze, converting it into a boutique little city by the ocean, where locals and visitors can enjoy the best of Portuguese Good Life!

Watching a spectacular sunrise in Alfama is the perfect way to start your trip. There are very few sunrises, like the one over Alfama seen from the top terrace of Suite Bartolomeu de Gusmão at Palacio Belmonte. Once a mosque and the location of where morning prayers were announced during the Moorish occupation of Lisbon, this tower suite has its main façade turned towards Mecca. Lisbon is best seen walking its cobble streets, so always have in mind that for your better sake you need sensible comfortable shoes. I am quite adamant when I told my guests at Palacio Belmonte to forget the tourist map and just navigate themselves the back streets of old town Lisbon with only a few waypoints that I show them from the Palacio’s terraces.

Casa Dos Bicos is a rather unusual 16th century building, with its unsymmetrical but carefully embroidered large window frames and the distinct diamond shape stones which cover its façade. Initially built to be Lisbon Palace of Bráz de Albuquerque, the second governor of the Portuguese India, it saw its top two floors destroyed with the 1755 earthquake. It found later usage as a warehouse for storing products of the Portuguese New World Colonies and a salt cod trading post.

Igreja de Sao Roque can also be called as Lisbon's Golden Wonder. This was the first Jesuit Church in Portugal. Remember to keep your sunglasses on when you enter the Church of São Roque! Its inside is completely lined with gold leaf paint, from shrines, saints, walls and ceiling.

Walking in Lisbon is the best way to absorb the timeless beauty of this city. Walking along the Tagus River is one such experience. The slowing river provides a spectacular ambience to walk and is a must-do for travelers. You can walk from the northern tip of the Parque das Nações to the western end of Algés, and this is just the end of the Lisbon municipality jurisdiction. You can continue another 30 km until you reach the Atlantic Ocean Front in Cascais at the Praia do Guincho.

I have to confess that I am addicted to Portuguese tiles. Some people are addicted to chocolate or singing in the shower, while others like me are constantly taken by the intrinsic detail and colourful patterns of one of the most beautiful forms of street art in the world. Serving a dual purpose of decoration and temperature control,  the glass glazed hand painted 15X15 squares were introduced to Portuguese façades in the early 15th century to reflect the torrid summer heat away from the interior of the building. The National Tile Museum is a great and unique place to visit.

Praca Do Comercio at the end of the Tagus River is yet another spot that will take you closer to the natural as well as historic beauty of Lisbon. When The Portuguese Empire was at its peak, there was a cue of ships waiting to unload the precious Gold, Silver, Spice, Silk, Wood, Cacao, Coffee and Tea. Here the ships would harness their ropes on the very same pillars where those two seagulls are standing and all the population of Lisbon would gather around to witness what exoticness was brought back this time. Up the road from this location, the streets of Baixa (downtown area) are named after the specific item that was traded there.

Where to Shop? – Brilliant but yet unknown artists and shops make up the most of Lisbon’s bohemian boroughs, where you can grab yourself some original or some vintage objects to take home. I would like to tell you about the place where you can the authentic real stuff those ordinary persons are selling on the street. The Flea market is the best place to shop for Vintage goods. I remember on one of my first trips I managed to grab a beautiful vintage 1940’s white linen hand braided table cloth that was custom made for the Henrique Family’s new dining room table. 

The cream of the Lisbon society has been its avid clientele since 1925, procuring high quality leather tailor made gloves for those days when the sunshine is not enough to warm the hands. The Lavaris Ulisses is the reminder of those days, still selling great quality leather gloves. 

Lisbon’s food scene is definitely on the rise, and as fellow dedicated food lover, I will be sure to share my preferred markets, eateries, watering holes and restaurants.I have listed some of the great restaurants which will certainly enrich your eating experience below in the itinerary.

Lisbon has it all- Beaches, Shops, History, Nature, Architecture and great Cuisines at the finest restaurants. What more could you ask for?

Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon. It is an architectural beauty lined with the rich history of the place. From here you can see that big orange & red fireball rising over the water, right next to the Alfama skyline silhouette made up the churches, bell towers and the maroon clay rooftops, while dispersing its amber light on the tiles that line the buildings. Some call it a photographers dream place, I call it an everlasting memory of that Lisbon trip, it is well worth the early rise, specially combined with your breakfast being served as the sun makes it journey up on a hot summer morning.
Photo of Alfama, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
Home to the José Saramago Foundation, the Casa dos Bicos, whose name literally translates to the House of the Beaks, is one of Lisbon’s most recent attractions and a cultural landmark to the Portuguese Literature. It was carefully reconstructed according to the original plans during the early 80’s to become a prominent Lisbon exhibition centre, having been completed and given a proper eternal life in 2012, as the house of the 1998 Nobel Literature Laureate and international writing reference, José Saramago.
Photo of Casa dos Bicos, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
Remember to keep your sunglasses on when you enter the Church of São Roque! Its inside is completely lined with gold leaf paint, from shrines, saints, walls and ceiling. One of the earliest Jesuit churches in the world, this wonder of baroque architecture is home to 12 chapels, a museum and an outdoor café, where brunch can be taken on Sundays. The best time to visit is around three in the afternoon when it is flooded by the golden reflection of the southern sun.
Photo of Igreja de São Roque, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
Stretching for more than 10 kms and majestically south facing, the Lisbon Tagus Riverside walk is one of the most impressive natural beauties that the city has to offer. In the last couple of years there has been an impressive development and refurbishment of the Lisbon Waterfront, making it one of the best water walks in Europe, full of trees, parks, plenty of open space, cafés, bars and restaurants for you to enjoy the fall sun.
Photo of Tagus River, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
I have to confess that I am addicted to Portuguese tiles. Although the most elaborate examples were kept for the interior of the houses, these are in its great majority painted with a Lapis lazuli blue on a white background and are best reviewed as paintings. Lisbon has an Azulejo Museum of its own, that I strongly urge you to visit, as a complementary educational visit to the ones you find in the narrow back streets of the Alfama, Castelo, Baixa, Bairro alto, Chiado and Principe Real districts.
Photo of National Tile Museum, Rua Madre Deus, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
At the end of Praça do Comercio, on its border with the Tagus you can see the location where the old Discovery Caravels landed with the goods that the Portuguese brought back from the new found territories overseas.
Photo of Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
An open air market called Feira da Ladra (Flea Market). It takes place around the Church of São Vicente de Fora on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6h00 till 13h00. Here you can find everything that is characteristic about the Portuguese culture in objects, which once belonged to someone, and that someone made it a part of their life for a number of years! Now they are almost giving it away
Photo of Flea Market, Lisbon by Nelson Carvalheiro
Ponto final is recognizable on the distance by its striking yellow chairs that line its private pontoon. I always recommend that you call ahead and reserve a table at its end to be sure you can enjoy unimpeded magnificent views of the water and of Lisbon. Here the food is all about deep traditional Portuguese home cooking flavours, so the must haves starters are the salt cod with chick peas, the escabeche sardines which are served with very candid Alentejo bread.
Photo of Restaurante Ponto Final, Torres Vedras, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
This small little wonder of a shop is located at 87 Rua do Carmo, the most fashionable street in Lisbon after the superseding Rua Garret. It is the last shop in the whole of Portugal, which is exclusively dedicated to the bespoke hand manufacture of leather gloves. At about 50€ per pair, depending on the model and leather, you do not have to go to Italy to get a product of this tremendous quality.
Photo of Luvaria Ulisses, Rua do Carmo, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
If Lisbon is a trip back in time by itself, then the Chapelaria Azevedo is one of its most prominent pinnacles, keeping close to its founding origins since its establishment in 1886. Quite literary the last bespoke hat shop in Lisbon; this centenarian boutique is kept alive by the same family and is already going on its fifth generation. It is quite interesting that the most interesting and attention grabbing hats are the ones made specifically for the female gender, however the shop only started to cater to these clients in 1988.
Photo of Chapelaria Azevedo Rua Lda, Praça Dom Pedro Iv, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
Without question the best restaurant in Lisbon, Belcanto serves elaborated contemporary Portuguese cuisine. You should save it for your last night in town as you’ll want to remember this experience for a very long time! Chef José Avillez kick started a much needed revolution in contemporary Portuguese cuisine, when he presented bold Portuguese flavours in his dishes at Belcanto, granting him yet another Michelin Star just a few months from the opening.
Photo of Restaurante Belcanto, Largo de São Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro
If you want to experience authentic Lisbon this is the place. Family run, this tiny restaurant (just seven tables) has been open for 40 years and the décor has not changed in that time. The food is basic and unpretentious with dishes like monkfish stew and char grilled fish but the real draw is the fado, Portugal’s traditional, melancholy folk music sung by a female vocalist with two or three guitarists accompanying her.When the singing starts, everything else stops, the kitchen, the table service – and even the neighbours who often drop in for the performance.This is the place to hear raw original Fado music, so remember: no lights, no PA, just the singers, the guitars the candles and your tears.
Photo of A Baiuca - fado vadio, Largo de São Miguel, Alfama, Portugal by Nelson Carvalheiro