by Trisha Andres, The Telegraph, December 18, 2017
Lisbon, Europe’s coolest capital, offers warmth in winter, says Trisha Andres. Here she recommends the best things to see and do.
The summer crowds have left but the weather is still cheery at an average of 59F (15C). Europe’s coolest capital, Lisbon is developing fast, with hotels, restaurants and museums popping up between the waterfront and the old quarters. New centrepiece, the undulating Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), just happens to be across the road from legendary bakery Pasteis de Belem – the recipe for a perfect city break.
Pousada de Lisboa (1) is an 18th-century Pombaline pile converted into a modern hotel on the Praca do Comercio. The central location is hard to beat, and the rooms are stylishly restrained with epic city views. Doubles from £162 including breakfast. On a budget? The Independente (2), nestled between fashionable Principe Real and the sleepless Bairro Alto, is charmingly eclectic. Is it a boutique hotel? Or, a hostel? It’s both. Suites from £70 including breakfast.
Meander through Belem, where Vasco da Gama set out on his voyage of discovery. Start at Jardim Botanico Tropical (3) an hour and a half before sunset and spy waterfowl, peacocks, dragon trees and an avenue of Washington palms.
Then head for Pasteis de Belem (4), the café that invented the custard tart using a recipe passed on from the monastery next door. Order a pastel de nata to take away and saunter off to Jeronimos Monastery (5), built on the site of an old church where da Gama and his crew prayed.
Finally, make your way to the striking MAAT (6) along the waterfront. Head to the cantilevered terrace and, as the sky slowly turns into a dusky pink, marvel at views of the Moorish Sao Jorge Castle on the hillside and the Tagus river below.
Jutting out onto the river, the Byzantine and Gothic Torre de Belem (7) is overlaid with ornate stonework. Inside, climb the staircase to the tower for wide Atlantic views. Visit on a weekday to avoid the tourist crowds (€6/£5.30).
Hop on Tram 28 and trundle past the city’s higgledy-piggledy hills, the vistas in Alfama and Sao Jorge Castle (8). Buy a single ticket onboard for €2.90.
A Vida Portuguesa (9) (avidaportuguesa.com) is filled with retro curios made in Portugal.
Sophisticated Cinco Lounge ( cincolounge.com/en/ ) (10) is all glass-topped tables and sultry sofas. Inventive cocktails, such as Charlie Brown or Alfie cost €7.50-14.
A Cevicheria (acevicheria.pt) (11) has a marble counter bar overlooked by a giant octopus. Mains €6.70-13.70.
Off the map
“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes,” exclaimed Lord Byron after his 1809 visit to Sintra, a 30-minute drive/train ride from Lisbon. The romantic poet’s enthusiasm is justified: there are cobbled streets, majestic estates and lush gardens.