By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: December 14, 2008
¬ďETERNALLY whimsical and singing with joy,¬Ē goes the classic song about longing for Lisbon, ¬ďLisboa Antiga,¬Ē that is still performed in the city¬ís fado clubs. Indeed, Lisbon is flaunting its playful side these days, from edgy design shops to chic late-night lounges that have turned this old port city into a youthful place to party. But the Portuguese capital hasn¬ít turned its back on its revered traditions. Built on seven hills along the Tagus River and blessed with sunshine, Lisbon remains a place for idle strolling, ecclesiastical stirrings and Old World splendors. Around every corner are unpretentious buildings with worn and graffiti-scarred tile facades that still dazzle. You¬íll leave longing to return, and who knows, maybe even singing with joy.
1) CHANGES BY THE HOUR
In the mornings, the historic Bairro Alto quarter belongs to the old men and women who navigate the hilly cobblestone streets with ease. At night ¬ó and the later the better ¬ó it belongs to frenzied club-hoppers (stay away if you¬íre over 35). But in the afternoon, it¬ís a lovely time to explore the neighborhood¬ís quirky boutiques and art galleries. To get your bearings, pick up a copy of ConVida¬ís free bilingual guide to the neighborhood available at most shops. Start with a nibble at the tiny Pastelaria-Padaria S√£o Roque cafe (Rua Dom Pedro V, 57; 351-21-322-4356), an old bakery with a curved, Art Deco-tiled bar that offers pastries like coconut-topped p√£o de deus (literally god¬ís bread). Then stroll into shops like Jangada Solta (Rua da Rosa 73; 351-21-346-3138; jangadasolta.com), which sells offbeat handicrafts from faraway places like South Africa and Brazil.
2) SAILING EASTWARD
Portugal was the first European country to reach the farthest corners of Asia. And after a 20-year wait, there is a new museum dedicated to the country¬ís eastward explorations and colonization. Opened last May, the Museu do Oriente (Avenida Bras√≠lia; 351-21-358-5200; www.museudooriente.pt; free Friday evenings) offers both fine art and the ordinary: rare Chinese folding screens, a wall of snuff bottles, Japanese armor, Timorese ritual masks and a 19th-century Qing Dynasty opium pipe.
3) WINES MATTER
An 18th-century stone aqueduct has been transformed into one of Lisbon¬ís most intriguing wine bars: Chafariz do Vinho (Rua da M√£e d¬í√Āgua √† Pra√ßa da Alegria; 351-21-342-2079; www.chafarizdovinho.com). The enoteca prides itself on offering wines of small, unknown producers, changing the list often and charging rock-bottom prices. But this is more than a place to drink. The kitchen serves its wines alongside lovingly prepared small dishes such as smoked sausage with cabbage, shrimp with mushrooms or smoked codfish with grapes. A four-course tasting menu, paired with wines, starts at 32 euros ($41.28 at $1.29 to the euro).
4) JAZZY PORT
In the short-haul days of propeller planes, American jazz musicians touring Europe had no choice but to stop first in the Continent¬ís most westerly city. Waiting for the next plane to arrive, they¬íd jam at the Hot Clube de Portugal (Pra√ßa da Alegria, 39; 351-21-346-7369; www.hcp.pt). These days, the sparsely decorated 60-year-old club attracts young musicians, many of them attached to its jazz school. Most nights, Paulo Gil, one of the club¬ís longest-tenured members, is there, proud to show off a 50-year-old photo on the wall of him playing drums with the tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Sets are at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
5) TROLLING FOR TREASURE
In the market for handmade Portuguese linens? Don¬ít bother with the shops in central Lisbon, where a formal embroidered tablecloth from Madeira can easily fetch 6,000 euros. An alternative is to head to Feira da Ladra (Campo de Santa Clara), a dawn-to-dusk flea market since 1882 that offers homier versions at bargain prices. Maria C√≠lia Narciso, one of the dozens of vendors, will open up boxes of hand-crocheted doilies, embroidered napkins, even large tablecloths. Other vendors sell espresso cups from old cafes. Have patience ¬ó a lot of vendors sell worn shoes and electrical wiring.
6) SPIRITUAL SONG
The acoustics in the late-16th-century Jesuit S√£o Roque Church (Largo Trindade Coelho; 351-21-323-5383) are so good that even eight or so parishioners can fill the noon Mass with song. The exterior may look austere, but the interior is gloriously ornate, adorned with a kaleidoscope of lapis lazuli, amethyst, agate, alabaster, colored marbles, dizzying tile work, gold and silver.
7) LIGHTER FARE
¬ďOur salads used to attract only girls and cool gay guys,¬Ē said Ana Faro, the 29-year-old co-owner of the cozy Royale Caf√© (Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, 29; 351-21-346-9125; www.royalecafe.com) in the chic Chiado area. ¬ďNow we¬íre universal.¬Ē It¬ís easy to see why. Creative salads like the Salada Royale ¬ó with arugula, feta, avocado, sesame seeds and chocolate for 8.70 euros ¬ó are a welcome alternative to the usually heavy Portuguese fare.
8) TINNED FISH AND CANDLES
Lisbon¬ís artisanal shops appear frozen in time, a byproduct of Portugal¬ís 40-year dictatorship that mandated the preservation of tradition. Many are clustered in Chiado, whether it¬ís a candle-making shop like Casa das Velas do Loreto (Rua do Loreto, 53-55; 351-21-342-5387), established in 1789, or a formal glove shop like Luvaria Ulisses (Rua do Carmo, 87-A; 351-21-342-0295; www.luvariaulisses.com), which still makes gloves the old-fashioned way: by hand. One of the liveliest is the Conserveira de Lisboa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 34; 351-21-886-4009), a preserved-fish shop in the Baixa neighborhood. Its wooden shelves are piled high with dozens of different kinds of tinned fish, from smoked mackerel to sardine eggs. The shop, with its mosaic stone floor and wooden cash register, looks much as it did when it opened in 1930. Three-tin packages start at 6.20 euros, preciously gift-wrapped in brown paper and yellow twine.
9) DINING BY THE RIVER
Bert√≠lio Gomes, the 31-year-old chef at Restaurante V√≠rgula (Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, 16, Armazem B; 351-21-343-2002; www.restaurantevirgula.com) is celebrated for his inventive Portuguese cuisine. Housed in a warehouse-like structure overlooking the Tagus River, the restaurant serves playful dishes like a chicken salad with slices of poached pears, as well as salt cod with spaghetti-thin swirls of deep-fried potatoes ¬ó a variation on a classic Portuguese recipe. Dinner for two, with wine, from about 115 euros.
10) ANTIQUE COCKTAILS
For a cafe-bar that you can call home, head to Pavilh√£o Chin√™s (Rua Dom Pedro V, 89, 351-21-342-4729). Look for a small gold sign and buzz the doorbell. Every nook of this former grocery store and woodworking shop is filled with the owner¬ís personal items, including model trains, antique mugs, china teapots, ceramic bulls, silver bowls and thousands of miniature soldiers. Nothing is for sale, except the drinks. The place attracts whiskey-sipping regulars and beer-drinking students in the front rooms and billiard players in the back.
11) LUSCIOUS MYSTERY
The service may be brusque and the crowds overwhelming, but the super-heated ovens at Past√©is de Bel√©m (Rua de Bel√©m, 84-92; 351-21-363-7423; www.pasteisdebelem.pt), a 171-year-old bakery on the western edge of Lisbon, make arguably the city¬ís flakiest custard pastries and at .90 euros apiece, the best culinary bargain. The recipe remains a deep secret. Buy some extra and enjoy the powdered-sugar-and-cinnamon-dusted confections like a local: in the afternoon with chilled white wine.
12) CRYSTAL PALACE
The monumental art collection at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Avenida de Berna, 45A; 351-21-782-3000; www.gulbenkian.pt) spans 4,000 years and offers surprises with each visit. Jewelry fans will no doubt want to explore the magnificent Lalique collection ¬ó born from the close friendship between Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian oil man who amassed one of Europe¬ís finest private art collections at the time, and the French jeweler. The museum¬ís landscaped garden with its winding paths and stone benches offers a quiet refuge from the urban noise.
Continental and TAP fly direct from Newark Airport to Lisbon, with fares starting at about $600 for travel next month, according to a recent online search. Lisbon is easy to navigate on foot, and taxis are plentiful and cheap.
Pestana Palace Hotel (Rua Ja√ļ, 54; 351-21-361-5600 ; www.hotelpestanapalace.com) bears witness to the fanciful taste of its original owner, Jos√© Constantino Dias, the Marquis of Valle Flor. The hotel features elegant 18th-century sitting rooms, a stained-glass chapel, lush gardens and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Doubles start at 220 euros; Internet prices can be lower.
The Solar dos Mouros (Rua do Milagre de Santo Ant√≥nio, 6; 351-21-885-4940; www.solardosmouros.com) offers five-star city views at one-star prices. Located near a castle high above central Lisbon, the hotel¬ís 13 rooms are lovingly furnished by the owner, Luis Lemos, a painter whose works hang throughout. Doubles with breakfast start at 119 euros.