A Guide to Lisbon's Best Neighbourhoods
Chiado is as prestigious as Lisbon gets, with its glamorous (and Michelin-awarded) restaurants, century-old cafés and streets with complicated cobblestone designs that are more like optical illusions. Before McDonalds and fast-fashion giants landed, it was Portugal’s best shopping destination. Here, you’ll be only five minutes away from one of the prettiest viewpoints in the city, just look for the plaques that say “miradouro”.
With that in mind, keep your eyes open for beautiful façades and typographical elements, as well as the Lojas com História signage, a program by Lisbon City Council to preserve some of the oldest businesses still in operation.
Chiado is a huge part of Lisbon’s soul and even when being gentrified at fast and furious speed, it still deserves a small slice of your trip. Walk around the main shopping areas, look at the Ruins of Carmo, and stop at Trevo for a very traditional bifana, a fried steak sandwich with cheap, delicious mustard, accompanied by an imperial (Lisbon’s way of asking for a tap beer). Quickly, before it’s completely gentrified.
It’s time for some real Lisbon. After the Fado joints and Alfama tourist-traps, Graça is where the locals are at, being one of the few areas that some locals are still able to afford. The housing crisis is real, and it leaves no area untouched.
In Graça, you’ll get a better idea of what Lisbon is really made of. Sit and watch people stopping for a coffee at the same square where revolutionary poets once plotted their interventions (Largo da Graça), notice elderly people going about their park strolls, as well as a mixture of tiled-façades that will stop you in your tracks. You can also visit the infamous flea market Feira de Ladra (which translates to thieves market), which takes place every Tuesday and Saturday.
Where there are hills, there are good views. For a quick respite from all the uphill walking, be sure to enjoy the views at two of the highest viewpoints in the city, Miradouro da Graça (high) and Senhora do Monte (even higher), where a cute garden is accompanied by, guess what, another quirky chapel.
Watch the vibe shift from day to night. Portuguese people will always sing and dance, even when the situation doesn’t really call for celebration, just head to Voz do Operário (The Voice of the Proletariat) and you’ll get what I mean. For live music and vegan bites head to Damas, a local favourite.
Santos has been on a high since a number of design stores created the Santos Design District, a business association spotlighting decoration and design stores around the area. The positive light that shined on Santos eventually created its reputation as one of the coolest areas around town. A preferred destination for creative agencies, it’s full of trendy brunch spots like Fauna & Flora, and one of the coolest tattoo shops around town, Arca Tattoo Parlour.
It’s complete with restaurants serving up local cuisine to busy workers from the surrounding areas, and the Portuguese parliament which is just one street away. When it comes to picking a restaurant, always opt for an eatery with a big queue as it normally means they have a strong local following willing to wait in line. Check out O Soajeiro for Madeira-style beef skewers, O Tachadas for typical Portuguese dishes and A Merendeira for classic bites like chorizo bread and caldo verde soup. Parlamento is also in the area, an obligatory stop for hypebeasts.
Take a walk around Santos for the views, enjoy the post-gentrified area of Madragoa (which was once plagued by violence), and dive into colourful streets packed with typical, tiled-buildings. Need some inspiration? José Saramago, writer extraordinaire and Portugal’s only Nobel Prize in Literature winner, used to live right on Rua da Esperança, go visit.
During Jacarandá season (May through to June), the streets of Santos are bathed in the prettiest shades of lilac from the blooming flowers overhead; but beware, they do stick to your feet.
One of the most eclectic neighbourhoods in the city, Arroios moved from being a commercial area to the centre of Lisbon’s multicultural scene. Packed with restaurants and bars, set against a backdrop of political propaganda, street art and graffiti, Arroios sets a scene of pre-gentrified Lisbon.
If you’re into Indian flavours, don’t miss Rosé Stupa, one of the most loved eateries in town. Don’t miss the former clandestine chinese restaurant on Rua do Benformoso 43, which is now legal; you can write on the walls while you wait for the food.
The seafood classic Ramiro is worth waiting in line for. After all, it is one of those places that always had a queue, way before gentrification settled in. Expect incredibly fresh seafood sourced from fishing towns closeby. The prego (beef steak fried in butter on bread) doubles down as a kind of dessert.
Don’t forget to check out Mercado de Arroios (Arroios Market), which is full of organic products and seasonal fare, it’s a great alternative to the boring supermarket chains.