There has never been a better time to visit Lisbon, Western Europe’s quietest, and some say most romantic, capital. Even though tourism has almost doubled in the last few years, it’s still possible to experience the historic cobblestone streets of the Alfama district or the beachside beauty of Cascais, the last stop on Lisbon’s legendary troll cars, undisturbed.
Now, as more and more folk are discovering this vibrant city, the art and design world have too taken notice. Events like ARCOLisbon, Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Lisbon’s Fashion Week and the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival, all bring the global design set to the city, while the Lisbon Triennial and the newly opened Museum of Art and Architecture (MAAT) bring cutting-edge art to the city. Meanwhile, the city’s legendary graffiti culture made it the prime candidate to host the recent International Street Art Festival, while the local government’s efforts to rehabilitate historic buildings and turn obsolete infrastructure into nurturing creative districts have all had the cumulative effect of providing moments of art, culture and beauty that almost anyone can appreciate. All the buzz has been heightened no doubt by the recent partnership between TAP, Portugal’s official airline, and JetBlue, which has made direct flights to Lisbon even more cost effective and accessible than ever before.
Though it’s still possible to get a table at one of the city’s chicest eateries or explore one of the area’s many palaces unencumbered, we recommend stopping by one of these design destinations, while you still can.
SEE - When in town make sure you add these little pieces of prefect eye candy to your plans:
Once an 18th-century brothel in Cais do Sodré, this one space now holds a bar, erotic bookstore, concert space, trendy hair salon, Peruvian restaurant, and artist workshops, with a decor that features painted frescoes, paintings, and vintage interiors that recall its racy past.
R. Augusta 24
Home of the Francisco Capelo Collection, this chic museum houses unique design objects from both Portugal and the global design community. Despite being currently closed for a complete refurb - you can still grab some cultural candy with the pop-up exhibitions with MUDE outside. Current highlights include the history of Tattoos and a fascinating insight into Ibero-americana design.
Some of our favorite highlights include António Sena da Silva’s modernist chairs and Joe Colombo’s Mini Kitchen from 1963.
Av. de Berna 45A
Curated from the rich collection of British businessman, Calouste Gulbenkian, this one-of-a-kind museum houses over 10,500 pieces of Eastern and Western art, all within a modernist space designed by architects Ruy Jervis d’Athouguia, Pedro Cid and Alberto Pessoa.
Don’t let pictures of the formal concrete exterior scare you off - the Gulbenkian’s lush natural surroundings will make time feel like it’s standing still.
With architectural styles that range from Gothic to Moorish, Baroque and early Renaissance, the monastery is held up as a scion of the Portuguese spirit of discovery and contains the remains of legendary explorer, Vasco De Gama.
Praça do Império
An ambitious cultural centre with the aim of promoting cross-genre theater, dance, classical music, jazz, opera and cinema, with a restaurant and cafe with a terrace overlooking the river, the Centro Cultural de Belem (referred to as the CCB) should be on the list of all culture lovers.
With free entry, no one should have to pass up the chance to view Chagal’s luminous de Cena para A Flauta Mágica de Mozart.
Avenue Joao II
Created to house Expo ’98 almost 30 years later it still remains one of the main attractions of the city, and perhaps one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in Europe.
Inside is the dazzling Oriente Station by Santiago Calatrava, as well as L-o-and the Oceanarium.
R. Fábrica de Material de Guerra 1
Formerly an abandoned factory before it was repurposed as an artistic squat, today this colorful venue is a (legal) music and art venue, and one of the best places in the city to meet the young creative set.
Largo do Conde Barão 49
Known more for its soaps than its (highly under-rated) perfumes, here you can score rare fragrances from Saboaria Confiança, Miller et Bertaux, and Absolument Absinthe, as well as ceramics by Flemish artist Piet Stockmans.
R. Trinas 25
Known for its palatial interior and cozy seating areas, as well as its decadent after-hours parties, this chic cocktail bar is the perfect nightcap for a day spent exploring the nearby shops and museums of the Lisbon boardwalk area.
R. Ruben A. Leitão 17A
Right in the heart of historic Lisbon, this splashy cocktail bar has an almost intimidatingly comprehensive catalogue of mixed drinks, set inside a chic modern interior with plush red details.
Retro and quirky, these “refreshment kiosks” are located throughout the city center at Largo Camoes, Jardim do Principe Real and Praça das Flores.
In the 19th century, they had both important cultural and socially significance, but later were abandoned and fell into disrepair. Today, their modern incarnations serve traditional refreshments like leite perfumado (perfumed milk) as well as iced tea, horchata (almond milk) and traditional lemonade.
Praça do Príncipe Real 26
A shopping gallery that’s flourished within an 1800s Moorish-style palace, it’s been said Embaixada is one of the world’s most unusual and beautiful ‘shopping centres’.
Fully restored, walk its grand entrance to a leafy courtyard before entering a store area that showcases everything from up-and-coming Portuguese designers to bath products.
Rua D. Pedro V, nº16, Pátio do Tijolo
One of the few MoMA-approved destinations in Lisbon, Pelcor offers award-winning cork design pieces, decor, and collectables meant to excite the hearts (and eyes) of design lovers.
Calçada Nova de São Francisco
Located in Lisbon’s historic Chiado district, this cafe-cum-interior design shop is a dash of vintage mixed with modern comfort, and boasts rustic furnishings, bookshelves, refurbished pieces and a maze of seating areas.
R. Anchieta 11
Created by journalist Catarina Portas, A Vida Portuguesa sells traditional Portuguese products given a contemporary makeover.
Pick up retro-style soaps, interior design objects, furniture, and any sort of ephemera, created by Portas’ trusted team of designers. This shop is ground zero for any and all souvenier shopping.
Rua Rodrigues Faria 103
A must-visit for any artistic guru, this concept design centre features shopping as well as atmospheric eateries, start-ups, advertising companies, communications teams, artists, and temporary exhibitors who are using this space as a pop-up art gallery.
Finally, there's one act of utter self reward that no trip to Lisboa is complete without - the mandatory and delicious Pastel de Nata. You should do this at the almost institutional, Casa Pasteis De Belem. At this centuries-old coffee house Lord Byron and Goethe enjoyed coffee, while it’s rumored that Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt once met for pastries.
The only place to soak up the true Lisboa lifestyle through and through is at cool culture kid of bohemian allure and artistic flair, Casa Amora. A guesthouse filled with humour, fun and rare eclectic flair, kitschy-cute vintage finds are paired against soft gelato tones with such a careful eye for design and detail, it is like staying with an old friend. In Lisbon, you simply won't find us anywhere else.
If you liked this, then you'll absolutely love our other design guides on PARIS, ZURICH, VIENNA, NYC, BARCELONA, COPENHAGEN and STOCKHOLM, bursting with all the best on under-the-radar places to go and tip-top treats in design, style and fashion.