lisbon must dos

:: by Lizzie
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T H E  I N D E P E N D E N T E  S U I T E S  &  T E R R A C E  :

We’ve been in lovely Lisbon! We took a few days off to celebrate our 3 year wedding anniversary and totally feel in love with the city. I’d been before with my parents (about 10 years ago) but it was Danny’s first visit. It was also our first time staying in a ‘postal’ (posh hostel don’t you know!?) The Independente is housed in an amazing building with two nice restaurants on site. We did stay in the ‘terrace and private suites’ wing, rather than the hostel proper – but still, a new kinda thing for us. Think hotel meets Airbnb, meets staying in an old museum. It sort of reminded me of a cross between places we’d stayed in Bangkok and Buenos Aires. Shabby chic but very spacious and cool. Not particularly luxurious but definitely opulent, in a crumbly way, if that makes sense?

 

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M U S E U M S  :

The National Tile Museum – or Museu Nacional do Azulejo as it’s called by the locals, is a little bit of a journey out of the centre of Lisbon, but well worth the bother. If you’re kinda visiting Lisbon mostly for the tiles (like I was), then this place is your best bet. Housed in a former convent, the museum takes you through the history of tiles in Lisbon from the 15th century to the present day and boasts a stunningly ornate tiled chapel which is not to be missed.

Mude Fashion and Design Museum – This centre for design and fashion is right in the heart of Lisbon’s shopping quarter. Perfectly placed to celebrate the bringing together of the two streams of design history. Even with all the design and fashion museums in London and beyond that I’ve visited, I’ve never seen an exhibition telling the story of how the two have worked/existed/developed together in such a seamless and complete way. Entry is free.

 

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P A R K S  :

Estufa Fria – The absolute best thing we did in Lisbon was explore the cities’ parks. As I mentioned in my Glasgow post, Danny and I like to get to know a city by visiting its botanical gardens. Lisbon has so many gardens and parks that it was hard to work out how many we could squeeze in. The one I would most highly recommend would have to be Estufa Fria. It’s a huge greenhouse situated beside Parque Eduardo VII and is made up of what they describe as a ‘hot house’, ‘cold house’ and ‘sweet house’. The sheer scale of this place is amazing and the cacti are particularly fabulous. If you only do one thing in Lisbon, visit Estufa Fria.

Museu Calouste Gulbenkian – Now this, our second favourite garden/park in Lisbon, is actually simply the grounds around the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. This generous fellow bequeathed the grounds, buildings and contents by his last will and testament and the foundation is run focusing on ‘fostering knowledge and raising the quality of life of persons throughout the fields of the arts, charity, science and education.’ It’s full of beautiful artefacts, objects, art and more and well worth a look inside. We were totally spellbound by the grounds and ran out of time to enter the buildings but I’m sure it would be well worth doing both. The grounds themselves are like a cross between Central Park (but on a much smaller scale), so maybe more the Highline, and the Barbican. Ingenious yet satisfyingly simple landscaping and planting mixed with brutalist Architecture. A pretty perfect combination. You can tell I’m sure that the grounds of Museu Calouste Gulbenkian were a very close second for us, so if you can do two things while in Lisbon, visit both parks!

 

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S H O P S  :

Under the Cover – Upon leaving Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, we discovered this small but perfectly formed magazine shop. They have a wonderful selection of volumes and the shop itself is a lovely space and a particularly nice atmosphere to browse in. Danny grabbed up a copy of Openhouse, a new magazine to the both of us and well worth read if you like interiors, plants and slow living. I’d recommend popping into Under the Cover for a purchase before making your way into Museu Calouste Gulbenkian’s open air concrete auditorium pictured above. We sat, along with many others, in the vast and beautifully brutalist auditorium, reading silently and collectively. There’s plenty of room so you feel you have your own space but the shared experience of reading together is something really special. Probably my top Lisbon tip.

A Vida Portuguesa – This is the classic Portuguese shop to visit if you’re looking for some well designed souvenirs. We visited the Porto store a few years ago and wanted to make sure we checked out the Lisbon branch too. Everything, be it sardines or soap, seems to come in beautiful packaging. Great for gifts and momentos. How cute are these Pineapple Mini Cake Molds?

Luvaria Ulisses – A bit of a niche stop-off I know but this neoclassic glove shop, or kiosk really, must be the nicest place to buy gloves anywhere in the world. It’s been open since 1925 and doesn’t seem to have changed at all. Gloves are stored in walls of wooden drawers and presented to the customer on silk cushions. It’s a bit like Ollivander’s Wand Shop but for gloves.

 

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E A T S  :

The Insolito – This restaurant is one of two on site at The Independente, so we had the pleasure of eating breakfast here every morning with a gorgeous view of the city. We started each day the right way – not only with combinations of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, juices, yogurts, cereals, breads and pastries, but of course, with the traditional Portuguese breakfast delicacy – cake! Yum :) And all included in your b&b rate. Unfortunately the restaurant was less enjoyable for dinner. In our opinion they tried a bit too hard to be clever (Daniel’s desert came with its own speaker playing a song about pineapples and coconuts). All good fun if the food is up to muster but the flavours were a bit lacking sadly.

The Decadente – The slightly less fancy restaurant of the two but actually with a much better chef and menu in our opinion. The decor was nice too. Our meal was really delicious – I had sea bream, Danny had seafood risotto – and we would certainly go again. Skip The Insolito for dinner and make a beeline for this place instead.

The Chinese Pavilion – If you’d like to start or finish your evening with a cocktail, then pop up the road to this wonderfully weird bar. Its floor to ceiling cabinet-lined walls are full of 1st and 2nd world war era toys. I visited 10 years ago with my dad and it certainly inspired the first incarnation of SMUG. Having been to countless car boot fairs since then, I’m a little more used to the ‘look’ but still to this day have never seen anything else quite like it. Don’t expect the staff to be all that charming, but the cocktails both hard and soft are fantastic.

Mercearia – The best meal we had on the whole trip was at this little find. I’m trying desperately to find their address. Will keep your posted. We stopped off for an impromptu lunch and experienced one of the best meals we’ve had on holiday. We started with squid carbonara which was slightly coconutty and came with a raw egg yolk on top which you broke and mixed into the warm squid. We then moved on to barely seared tuna steak rolled in sesame seeds and we finished with breaded goats cheese with a delicious onion chutney and salad. The whole meal was just perfect.

Gelados Santini – You must get ice cream from this place when in Lisbon. It’s an institution. We went twice! Once in downtown Lisbon and once at the beach in Cascias.

Pasteis de Belem – High up on my todo list for the trip was to hunt down the best Portuguese tarts on offer in Lisbon. This is the place to go! It’s a little out of the centre so needs a special trip but is well worth doing. Queue for a takeaway box of 6 and eat yours in the botanical gardens near by. There is lots to do in Belem so you could make a day of it if you like. We stopped off on the way back from the beach. If you get a day pass on the train, which is not at all expensive, you can hop on and off to your heart’s content.

 

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B E A C H E S  :

Cascais – This is the beach that everyone recommends and says the locals go to and it’s lovely. Don’t forget to stop off for ice cream at Santini (as mentioned above).

Estoril – This is the beach that the locals actually go to now that all the tourists are in Cascais. It’s just one stop on the train before Cascais so get out early and enjoy before hopping back on the train to Cascais. We hired loungers and an umbrella for the day (pictured above) and had probably the most relaxing beach experience we’ve ever had together. Bring a packed lunch though. The food in the restaurants along the boardwalk was disappointing.

 

It’s a random last but not least thing to mention but we stumbled upon a really wonderful building which gave us both so much pleasure that I wanted to share it with you. Eden Teatro opened in 1931 in the main city square, Praca dos Restauradoresand. Sadly this epic cinema closed in 1989 and lay unused until it was converted into an apartment hotel in 2001. The large billboard poster screens were removed and the space opened up to create the atrium full of palm tress you see below. Pretty cool eh?

 

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So that comprises by Lisbon Must Dos. If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, have been before or are even a local, please do let me know your favourite haunts in the comments below. I’m sure we’ll be visiting again and would love to add more to this list. Thanks for reading.