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The beauty and Magic of Lisbon

Por Tensi Sánchez de Actitudes Magazine

Lisbon is without doubt one of the most beautiful and magical cities in Europe. As soon as you arrive, you feel immersed in a world of new sensations that only Lisbon can offer.  Historic Lisbon stands in perfect harmony alongside the more modern features of this vanguard city, where its wide range of leisure activities and cultural options have made it a highly fashionable destination.  Each area of the city offers a vast array of attractions to make sure you’ll always have plenty to do and the streets are teeming with ambience both day and night.

Lisbon’s winding and sometimes steep streets can make it difficult to get around the city, but the public transport services and even taxis are not expensive.

Here are some useful travel tips that don’t appear in many guidebooks.

Port – Santa Apolonia area

This is a fairly new part of the city that has attracted many new restaurants and shops to set up in old port warehouses, creating some unique and spectacular spaces. Be sure to visit the excellent delicatessens or have breakfast at Gourmet Deli Deluxe, try the international dishes at Bica do Sapato restaurant and the  vintage furniture shop known as Loja da Talaia.

This area also boasts some fabulous nightspots, including the famous LUX discotheque, but if you’re not on the “guest list” or you know someone who can get you in, the queues outside are horrendous, though it’s well worth the hassle.

Bairro Alto – Principe Real area

Barrio Alto is home to the Principe Real area, an old residential district next to the Botanical Gardens and where you’ll find many of the city’s most modern shops and restaurants, including trend-setting  concept stores  Espacio B,  21 pr Concept StoreReal and  Fabrico Infinito.

If you love fashion, be sure to visit such shops as  Nuno Gama,  Alexandra MouraKolovratRicardo Preto and Nuno Baltazar. These top designers all attend Moda Lisboa, Portugal’s most important biannual fashion show that is becoming increasingly famous the world over.

Next on our route is Poison d’amour, a cake shop that is sure to make your mouth water, boasting a wonderful terrace where you can enjoy a moment of pure magic. The terrace of the Lost In café-bar, which has an Indian-style decor, offers breathtaking views over the city. For some authentic Portuguese home-cooking, we highly recommend Tasca Do Urso at 32 Rua Do Monte Olivete. And last but not least, theFacto Royale hair salon with its exquisite decor and reputation as one of the finest in the city.

Baixa and Chiado area.

A great way to spend the afternoon is to stroll through the streets of Baixa and Chiado, taking in the most authentic side of Lisbon, its houses, cafés, streets… this is home to a shop called Pelcor, famous throughout Portugal for its cork fashion accessories and incredible handbags. Along Rua Nova do Carvalho you’ll find a bar called Sol y Pesca where you can enjoy a glass of fine wine, then go for a cocktail in the pub known as Pensao Amor, a former brothel that has managed to preserve much of its original decor and boasting a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Don’t miss even the smallest detail!
Close by is the restaurant  La Velha Senhora offering superb local cuisine at affordable prices.

Alcántara area

Another of Lisbon’s lesser known gems, this area is home to some of the city’s coolest shops, cafés and restaurants, alongside the trendiest advertising agencies and photographic studios.
It’s like a small city in itself, a dream factory where everything is ad hoc and created for LX Factory.

Sunday is the perfect time to visit this area and check out the LX Market where you can find fabulous porcelain, books, clothes, live music, etc.…All the shops and businesses have managed to preserve the essence and decor of the industrial spaces they once were.  There are over one hundred unique premises, such as the stunning  Achimpa bookshop,  La Cantina restaurant and even a press kiosk inside a container called Mag. All this and so much more is available in LX Factory.

Olivais area

Another fascinating area to see is the so-called  new Lisbon which arose from the EXPO 1998 World Exhibition. If you like architecture, you’ll love the Portuguese Pavilion by Álvaro Siza, winner of the Pritzker prize, along with many others. The area is fully inhabited and all the pavilions have been reused. A fine example of urban renewal that other European cities would do well to copy.

The Expo area gives shape to the Olivais district, which is linked to the city via underground, Vasco da Gama Bridge (the longest in Europe), and the intermodal station designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Must-do

*Try the best sweet in the city (and it’s not the famous Bethlehem Cake) at the cake shop called Pastelería do restelo “Careca” on Rua Duarte Pacheco Pereira. The delicious Palmees do Careca!

*Admire the work of a possible future Pritzer prize winner,  Charles Correa, the Champalimaud Foundation building and have lunch in the incredible Darwin restaurant on Avenida de Brasilia.

*Choose a good hotel such as Eurostars Das Letras offering first-class service to make your stay even more enjoyable.

*Visit the MUDE museum of fashion and design, a building dating to the 1950s and former headquarters of Banco Nacional Ultramarino. Its original use can still be appreciated thanks to the decadent industrial ambience that makes it all the more fascinating.

By Tensi Sánchez from Actitudes Magazine

Photos by Rubén Seco

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