Forget Berlin and Barcelona: your next hipster weekend away has to be Lisbon
If you like urban art, coffee, great food, quirky sights and street photography, Lisbon is your playground.
Being hipster millennials, my husband and I were in heaven, and I’ve done all the Instagram research so you don’t have to.
If language is a concern to you with visiting Portugal, don’t let it be.
I spent a happy few commuter hours on amazing app Drops and was rewarded with the childish joy of successfully ordering pasteis de nata and two bicas in a traditional bakery.
More on these two food groups later.
Areas to explore
Lisbon is, as legend goes, situated on seven hills.
I’m pretty sure that our feet experienced more than seven so make sure you pack your trusty trainers to make the most of the city.
My travel preference is always to identify an area to explore, follow Google Maps to get there and then let the universe take hold.
Here are the best areas to get lost in.
We were based in Baixa, which makes a great base for exploring but shouldn’t be the main location of your Lisbon adventures.
You’ll find high-street shops here and definitely too many casual drug dealers; Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001, which has led to fantastic reforms for their country but does mean, as a foreigner, you will be asked to buy weed on any corner at any time of day.
We took to taking the quieter side roads where the locals walk, such as R. dos Fanqueiros, rather than the main shopping streets.
It just made for a more peaceful route.
This said, it’s worth checking out the Praca do Comercio with views over the Tagus.
Be sure to bring some Euros and give them to the guy balancing stone sculptures along the front.
A great brunch spot is Nicolau Lisboa, R. Sao Nicolau 17, which is spearheading the clean food craze in Lisbon – think green juices and acai bowls.
If you’ve been obsessively following #streetartlisbon on Instagram – it’s OK, I have too – then Alfama is where your going to want to adventure.
Starting from Baixa, find yourself a staircase, honestly any will do, heading towards the Castelo de Sao Jorge.
On leaving Praca Martim Moniz square you’ll enter a maze of cobbled streets filled with life, washing lines, leftover plastic tinsel strewn over courtyards and some incredible street art.
There are tours to see the art but my recommendation would be to just get out and find your own route, taking in a few miradouros (look-out points) for amazing views and a cheap coffee.
Feira da Ladra
If it’s a Saturday or Tuesday you can continue on from Alfama to the flea market, Feira da Ladra.
Boasting anything from replacement phone batteries, house slippers to retro light fittings and war-time vintage cameras, it’s well worth an early morning wander.
You can also experience Lisbon’s third-wave coffee revolution at Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Rua Nova da Piedade 10, to warm your chilly hands.
This may be the only time in Lisbon that it’s acceptable to spend more than 75c on a caffeinated beverage, so savour it.
Santa Catarina and Barrio Alto
If you can’t get into PARK, Calcada do Combro, 58, the impossibly hipster rooftop bar – in, yes you guessed it, a car park – you could do worse than head for Noobai, Miradouro de Santa Catarina, or Pharmacia, Rua Marechal Saldanha, 2, for a sundowner with a stunning sunset over the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, which predates the Golden Gate, don’t you know.
Burgers have become increasingly popular in Lisbon recently and you’ll find the leading burger chain Honorato in the Time Out Market, Mercado da Ribeira.
Also make time to head to Cultura do Hamburguer, Rua Salgadeiras 38, for quirky but rustic burgers at a great price.
One of the best ways to get to Barrio Alto is to walk up Calcada da Gloria or take the Ascensor da Gloria tram up to emerge in the quirky area.
From great-value dinners at The Decadente, Rua Sao Pedro de Alcantara 81, to chintzy bars such as Pavilhao Chines, Rua Dom Pedro V, 89/91, there’e enough to entertain from day to night.
A few train stops, or a cheap uber from the centre of town, will bring you to redeveloped factory complex LX Factory.
Think London’s Brick Lane from about a decade ago and you are close to the genuine creativity and quirkiness of the area.
Come for the market on Sunday and stay for a lunchtime meat-and-cheese board at Cantina, dinner tacos and margaritas at Mez Cais – try to nab the table in the wrestling ring and a sundowner or three at the rooftop bar Rio Marvilha.
In true hipster fashion there’s a great outlet of a shop that only sells one thing – Landeau’s chocolate cake is actually to die for.
If LX Factory is Brick Lane, the Intendente is Dalston.
Until recently decrepit, the area teams with creativity.
On the day we visited there was a craft and vintage indie market on at co-working space Anjos70, 70 Regueirao Anjos; a great set breakfast to enjoy in the sunshine at O das Joanas, Largo do Intendente Pina Manique; and souvenir shopping next door at stunning A Vida Portuguesa.
When day turns into night there’s nowhere that shows off Lisbon’s creative culture than indoor-outdoor apartment venue Casa Independente, Largo do Intendente, 45.
A mere 30 minutes from Rossio station in central Lisbon and you will appear in the magical forest town of Sintra.
The train will be busy and you will exit the station into the welcoming arms of tour operators and scam artists looking to profit from your tourist nature.
Walk past them and stay in the town of Sintra to gaze at abandoned palaces up for sale – very #accidentallywesandersen.
Grab an espresso and snack at the Instagrammable converted garage Garagem, Alameda dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra No 12 A/B, before tackling the uphill walk to Sintra’s most interesting attraction, the Quinta da Reguleira, Rua Barbosa du Bocage.
Think of the Quinta as the adult playground you always wanted to exist: replace East London ball pits with secret passages, strangely cult-like upside-down ‘initiation wells’ and stepping stones.
There’s a reason this place featured heavily in Atlas Obscura’s first book.
After marvelling at the weirdness of it all be sure to sneak a peek at the derelict Moorish palace across the road from the entrance – Madonna bought it last summer.
You won’t find Marvila in many guide books… yet.
Head to this industrial part of town before everyone else does for crisp beers at local breweries Dois Corvos, R. Cap. Leitao 94, and live music with those beers at Fabrica Musa, Rua do Acucar 83.
Book a table at mysterious pizza and curry (yes, really) spot Aquele Lugare Que Nao Existe, Rua do Acucar 89, which doesn’t allow photos.
Be sure to get up in between courses to play pool and come hungry if you get the tasting menu.
Where to stay:
We stayed at mini hotel-chain Shiadu at their Tesouro da Baixa property.
As a crash pad to fuel up in the mornings at the excellent breakfast buffet and to pick the brains of the team members for off-the-beaten track recommendations, I don’t think you could do any better.
Main picture: Getty