Where to eat, stay, shop and play: Cecilia Yee of Flight Centre Hong Kong reveals why everyone is suddenly obsessed with Portugal’s pretty little capital.
I remember the exact moment that I fell in love with Lisbon. I was standing at the Portas do Sol viewpoint with the city’s postcard-perfect panorama laid out in front of me. I saw whitewashed houses with terracotta-tiled roofs, white-domed cathedrals, narrow cobbled alleyways and the river Tagus, all glistening under a cloudless blue sky.
WILDEST TRAM RIDE
Lisbon is spread across seven steep hills, and one of the best ways to explore it is by hopping on the famous Tram 28, which packs in a number of the city’s attractions for the price of your ticket. You’ll also want to navigate the narrow lanes in the old town – Alfama – on foot, admiring the beautiful azulejos (painted tiles) on the buildings as you go.
When it comes to sightseeing, head straight to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Torre de Belém (the fortified tower of St. Vincent) and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome). Castelo de São Jorge (St George Castle) is another must-visit – it towers majestically over the city and is a great spot to get your bearings.
A converted 19th century townhouse, Valverde Hotel feels sumptuous but effortlessly comfortable. The handsome rooms are individually decorated with vintage and contemporary furnishings, art, porcelain and fabrics from around the country. For a historic building, the bathrooms are spacious and there’s even a swimming pool in the courtyard.
YUMMIEST EGG TART
Lisbon’s pastel de nata (egg tarts) are world-famous. First made by nuns in the 16th century, they are now sold throughout the city. While guidebooks would point you to Pasteis de Belém, I prefer the tarts at Manteigaria – they give the ones on offer at Lord Stow’s Bakery on Coloane Island, Macau a run for their money.
After a hard day’s sightseeing, what could be better than soaking up spectacular views over Alfama and the Tagus with a glass of Portuguese wine in hand? The rooftop bar at Memmo Alfama Hotel Lisboa is a great find, with a minimalist, white marble decor and an inviting (if tiny) red-tiled infinity pool.
Every Saturday, farmers from across Portugal gather at the Mercado Biológico (Biological Market) to sell organic fruit and vegetables, along with homemade olive oils, soaps and cereal. Bargaining is acceptable. Take a stroll around the adjacent gardens once you’ve shopped, and then have lunch at one of the open-air cafés.
TRENDIEST HANG OUT
A visit to LX Factory is a must. This ultra-hip industrial complex contains a fantastic selection of boutiques, art galleries, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, and above all, people! The best time to visit is on a Sunday, when the central space is taken over by local vendors selling art, crafts, food, vintage clothes and more.
Thanks to its coastal position, Lisbon boasts some of the freshest fish in Europe, dished up in unpretentious restaurants, such as the ever-popular Cervejaria Ramiro. This informal little joint has been the top place for foodies to gather since the 1950s. You have to try the bacalhau (salted cod) at least once, but why limit yourself to just one plate of fish?
UNMISSABLE DAY TRIP
A 40-minute train ride away from Lisbon lies the fairytale-esque town of Sintra, which is overlooked by the imposing Castelo dos Mouros. Head to the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, which was once Portugal’s royal residence, before exploring Quinta da Regaleira, a romantic dream of a palace with vast manicured gardens, towers and wells.
Flight Centre Hong Kong specialises in tailor-made travel experiences; the widest choice of airfares, accommodation and tours; plus 24-hour emergency assistance. To book your getaway, call 2830 2776 or visit www.flightcentre.com.hk. For a local consultation, contact DB-based Flight Centre representative Jennifer Durbridge on [email protected]
Photos courtesy of Flight Centre Hong KongTags: what to do, lisbon, cities, day trips, portugal