New year, new Lisbon

Places

New year, new Lisbon

The sun still glints off its azulejo tiles but the Portuguese capital is a quieter, calmer, more reflective place in January

Hannah Dace

BY Hannah Dace5 January 2022

Well, that was a year. If you, too, are feeling wearied by the twin perils of Omicron-dodging and festive overindulgence, we might have just the place for you. Leave behind the stale gingerbread houses for the higgledy-piggledy homes of Lisbon this January – and the chance of actual sunshine isn’t the only reason to do so.

Our latest Lisbon addition, the Valverde Hotel, prides itself (discreetly, mind you) on its concealed corners and hidden hideouts. It’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it arched entrance is centrally located but remarkably undisturbed. Inside you’ll find a warren of tucked-away spaces, each more elusive than the last, meaning you can curl up in one of the sultry corners and let out a celebratory end-of-2021 sigh.

The courtyard is framed by foliage, and a leftovers-free afternoon tea can be taken in the dappled shade of a palm tree. The first-floor reception-side terrace is hidden in plain sight. The snug, just steps from the restaurant, has an L-shaped sofa to sink into, a projector and coffee-table books to flick through. Plus, you can have a crisp vinho verde by your side quicker than you can say ‘dry January’.

There are plenty of cafés within walking distance of Valverde to hunker down in, too. Tiny Hello, Kristof has excellent coffee, lime-washed walls, shelves of magazines and a soundtrack of peaceful murmurings – rustles, clinks, considered chatter. The nearby streets of Bica are atmospheric, aesthetic and far less astir than better-known Barrio Alto – clear your head with a potter through the quiet streets of pastel-coloured houses and leafy cafés.

Lisbon has some lovely parks, though none as lovely as Jardim do Torel. The 19th-century garden has plenty of benches for you and your book-of-the-moment, with views of Avenida da Liberdade – you can even see over to the more populated central park: Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. Jardim do Alto de Santa Catarina might not be overly green, but the sun-trap stones are a favourite amongst rest-seeking locals. You may even give or receive a considered nod of approval – from one seclusion seeker to another.

Graça is another neighbourhood without the watch of others: particularly Jardim da Cerca da Graça, a lush hillside view spot that won’t appear on the first page of a Google search. And if city vistas help quell your festive-season comedown, the sunset views from Park rooftop are certainly away-from-it-all-inducing. As the skyline turns to amber, the space becomes busy with Aperols; but that doesn’t deduct from the repose. The same goes for Taberna da Rua des Flores – a real hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is known for having a queue by the door (get there at 6pm) – but once inside has just 10 tables, so you can enjoy your mussels and okonomiyaki on a candle-lit table without the thrums.

Above all, congratulations are in order. You made it through December – something you might take time to reflect on, pastéis de nata in hand.

Discover more cultural highs with our where to stay in Lisbon guide