- Luminescent and lovely
- City life
- Singing, salt cod and cinnamon pastries
Once the stamping ground of Romans, Moors and Crusaders, this historic hillside city has culture, cobbles, cafés, cable cars and cod aplenty.
Discover Alfama’s medieval Moorish charm, Baixa’s bustle and chic Chiado; every district boasts character, calm and cool in abundance. By night, head to Bairro Alto, where the bars and restaurants throb with the mournful passion of Fado, Portugal’s traditional music.
The longing, lingering laments of Fado are one of Portugal’s most iconic cultural curiosities. The word Fado means ‘fate’; the genre’s exact origins are unknown; some say it’s a legacy of the Moorish occupation, others believe it evolved from Portuguese sailors, singing wistfully of home during long absences on the oceans. In Lisbon, Fado is performed by solo singers, and the best bars and restaurants can be found in Bairro Alto and Alfama. Try Senhor Vinho (+351 213 972 681) on Rua do Meio à Lapa for an authentic experience. It’s owned by one of Portugal’s top Fado stars, Maria da Fé, several singers perform during the course of the evening and the food is fantastic.
- Lisbon has taxis in abundance and they are pretty good value; it’s unlikely you’ll spend more than €10 on a fare.
- Tipping culture
- The standard European 10 per cent is fine.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Taking a Mediterranean approach to life, shops in Lisbon are open late, until around 10pm. Don’t go for a mid-afternoon browse, though, they shut between 1pm and 3pm, allowing Lisboates to linger over lunch. If you want to dine surrounded by locals, aim to eat around 9pm. For post-dinner fun in this nocturnal city, be prepared for a late night, some of the clubs don’t get lively until around 4am.
- Packing tips
- Mrs Smiths should leave their stilettos at home and bring some rubber soled walking shoes to tackle the slippery mosaic-adorned streets. To familiarise yourselves with local listenings, bring Fado legend Amalia Rodrigues’ album The Art of Amalia.
- Recommended reads
- Dip into something by António Lobo Antunes, an award-winning novelist, practicing psychiatrist and Lisbon local. Try Fado Alexandrino or The Fat Man and Infinity: and Other Writings. Don’t expect a light read though; Antunes is heavily influenced by William Faulkner and Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
- Early Portuguese sailors developed the country’s national dish of bacalhau, when they dried and salted cod for their long exploratory voyages. Today, there are countless versions; look out for bacalhau á marinheiro, which has fried potato cubes nestled under the cod’s crispy skin. For sweet-tooths, there’s Portugal’s legendary cinnamon-dusted custard tarts – Belém boasts the best ones, cooked to a secret recipe.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- +351 for Portugal; 21 for Lisbon.
- Do go/don't go
- The best time to visit Lisbon is late spring, when the city is sun-drenched and the sardines are in season, freshened up to perfection by the nearby sparkling cold waters. That said, there really isn’t a bad time to visit Lisbon, due to its temperate climate and countless things to do, see and eat.