Friday, 19 October 2012

Lisbon: Top 5 Top 5s

View from Elevador de Santa Justa

Here's a post I've been planning to do for a while, but I kept getting distracted by goings on in Dublin and putting more layers of clothes on... There are so many great things and places and sights in Lisbon that I want to tell people about so I thought I would compile a few Top 5s to give you a sense of what the city's like to spend time in. And then I'll calm down with the effusing about the place, I promise. Without further ado...

Top 5 viewing points
Lisbon's something of a reflexive city: always looking at itself from the top of its seven hills. No wonder really, when you see what a good-looking city it is. My favourite places to gawk at it from are:

Elevador de Santa Justa
Elevador de Santa Justa is an iconic iron structure in Baixa opened in 1901 as part of a number of elevators and funiculars designed to move people up and down some of downtown Lisbon's steeper hills. Elevador de Santa Justa was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel and it was originally steam-powered. You can still travel in the elevator for a couple of euro or have a walk around the lower viewing platform for free in the evenings.

Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is a two-tiered garden in Bairro Alto. Complete with fountain, statues, benches, kiosk and a whopping view of Baixa below.

Jardim do Torel
This one, which faces São Pedro from the other side of Avenida, features wooden benches with foot rests. Ideal for some sunny reading.

Miradouro do Monte Agudo
This was the miradouro closest to where I lived in Lisbon, its entrance just up the street from my apartment building. Though it's not got the most breathtaking view of the city (see below for that) it's got a fantastic kiosk open from morning until early evening. If I could, I'd be there drinking a glass of vinho branco RIGHT NOW.

Miradouro da Graça
It can be hard to decide which lookout point has the best view of the city, but I reckon this one might just beat the others. Looking out from Graça you are north west of the city centre, and can view the castle, the river, the 25 April Bridge and downtown Lisbon all in one go.

Espaco Nimas signage

Top 5 cultural spaces
Lisbon's got a great cultural scene, with heaps to see and plenty of places to go. The top 5 is a little cinema heavy, but for good reason:  the city has a great range of places to watch films and going to the cinema is always such a treat there.

Cinema São Jorge
Cinema São Jorge is no stranger to this blog, featuring in a write-up of its own as well as part of my picks for Lisboa Open House. São Jorge is a great place to watch a movie, see a gig or grab a pizza, brownie or beer. Easily one of Lisbon's best cultural spaces.

Espaço Nimas
Espaço Nimas is a small cinema (just one screen) in the Saldanha neighbourhood which still sports an old-fashioned outdoor sign and shows films as part of programmed seasons.

Cinemateca is Lisbon's museum of cinema, showing a programme of old (sometimes really old) films for next to nothing per ticket. It's also got a nice cafe with an outdoor terrace serving tasty wine, also for next to nothing.

Trienal HQ
This spring saw the team behind the Lisbon Architecture Triennale move into not just any premesis, but a palace on Campo de Santa Clara. Palácio Sinel de Cordes will host exhibitions and events as part of next year's Triennale, as well as a handful of events before then. The building's in a pretty raw state right now, but I can't wait to see what is done with it between now and September 2013.

LX Factory
A former set of factory buildings located underneath Lisbon's 25 April Bridge, LX Factory is now home to artist and designer studios, cafes, bars, a dance school, indie shops and more. Well worth a wander through on a sunny afternoon to see what's going on.

Park at Campo de Santa Clara, home of Clara Clara kiosk

Top 5 places for coffee/beer/snacks
As important as it is to see sights and soak up history and culture when you're visiting a city, you can rarely beat kicking back with a coffee or a beer in between excursions. Better still in an outdoor place in the sun.

Clara Clara
This kiosk in the park at Campo de Santa Clara in Alfama has a really nice menu of sandwiches and salads and makes the best lemonade I tasted in all of Lisbon.

Cafe do Monte
Cafe do Monte in Graça is great for brunch and/or cocktails, or just to relax in with a coffee and play one of the many boardgames they pile on their shelves.

Loja is a small cafe in Alcantara serving coffee and cake, including the best chocolate cake I've eaten in a reeeeeally long time.

In Chiado, Santini is Lisbon's best known gelateria, with a great selection of ice cream flavours served up in a bright red and white interior.

Pasteis de Belém

Re-Searcher gallery and shop

Top 5 design places
The Portuguese aren't widely known for a design culture, but there's some great stuff there if you know where to find it.

Re-Searcher is a gallery and shop in Baixa that puts an emphasis on illustration and graphic arts. They have a great selection of children's books and other illustration projects for sale and regularly changing exhibitions.

Lisbon's Museum of Design and Fashion is called MUDE - the Portuguese word for change. Housed in the shell of a former bank it hosts a range of changing exhibitions upstairs and a nice overview of design and fashion from the late 19th century to the present day in the permanent exhibition on the ground floor.

A Vida Portuguesa
With branches in Lisbon and Porto, A Vida Portuguesa celebrates Portuguese produce, often with an old-time feel. On top of buying notebooks and tile-related merch for myself, I came out of there with a heap of beautifully-packaged tinned sardines and St Francis Xavier menthol sweets for my family.

Fabrica Features
The top floor of Benneton in Chiado is dedicated to Fabrica Features, a design shop and exhibition space. A great spot for books, stationery, some ceramics and accessories.

Mag Kiosk
Mag Kiosk in LX Factory is a bright yellow shipping crate filled with international design, art and fashion magazines as well as newspapers and tobacco. Expect all the major titles as well as a cool selection of smaller-run indie publications.

Top 5 things that make the city what it is...

Little Yellow Trams
Though some tram routes are partly serviced by newer vehicles, Lisbon's 1930s yellow trollies are still in regular use, and are the only trams to service routes through Alfama and Graça (the new larger trams just wont fit through the windy streets).

Lisbon's streets are beautifully cobbled in both dark and sandy tones, and you'll often see footpaths covered in patterns or find building names or numbers set into the ground in front of shops and cafes.

Tiles were bound to turn up in here somewhere...

Light and colour palette
One allows for the other: Lisbon's sun leaves the city basking in a warm glow for many months of the year, allowing for an overall colour palette you are unlikely see further north in Europe. From sandy offwhites through various shades of yellow and orange to rich terracotta reds (all contrasted by the sparkly blue of the river) it's a palette I wont forget any time soon.

O Rio Tejo / the Tagus river This has to be one of the city's best resources, or at least the walking/cycle path and green space along it is. Strolling river-side is one of the loveliest things to do in the whole city. Ever.