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Spend just a day in Lisbon and you’ll learn an important truth about the city: Lisbonites can’t be kept down. Crowds form every night outside local restaurants. In neighborhoods formerly given over to ladies of the night, apartments and storefronts proliferate. Herewith, a guide to Lisbon in any season, from the sunshine and low 80s in the summer to the mild winter temperatures that hover around 60 degrees. The guide focuses on the hidden and the elegant when putting together a 24-hour itinerary, in a city where Portugal’s top families rub shoulders with cab drivers, who, in line with the city’s erudite vibe, play the blues in their taxis.
8 a.m. Start with breakfast at the mill, an Australian-Portuguese concept where the dishes are made from the best produce in the country and the coffee rivals your favorite coffee shop back home. They make great breakfast bowls—yogurt, fruit, protein, but surprisingly, no vegemite to be found. For their Australian twist, get the Sydney breakfast, which involves a corn fritter and smashed avocado atop poached eggs.
9:30 a.m. Visit the quintessential Lisbon piazza: Praça do Comércio. The vibrant yellow facade against the ornate statues carved into the central arch could catch the eye from miles away. After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, Praça do Comércio was constructed in the wake of the Baixa district ruins. Visitors can climb to the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta, the central arch, to take in the piazza at a bird’s eye view. If you’re a 60-minute-guided-tour type traveler, the Lisboa Story Centre is a museum off to one side of the piazza that gives a historical overview of the city.
11:00 a.m. You know what they say: 11 a.m. is castelo time. Walking distance from Praça do Comércio is Castelo de São Jorge, a castle that’s seen the highest highs and lowest lows of Portuguese history. Restored in the 1940s, the castle now has beautiful gardens you could spend your entire afternoon languishing in. Visitors can explore the castle’s ins and outs, and find the Praça d'Armas lookout over the city center.
1:00 p.m. Have lunch at Sea Me—peixaria moderna, a Japanese-Portuguese fusion restaurant not far from where you had breakfast. It will take about 15 minutes by car to reach Sea Me after wrapping up at the castelo. Sea Me is meant to be a nod to the past fishing villages of Portugal while also acknowledging the global culinary influence that’s taken hold in the city. Try sardine sashimi or sushi if available—sardines are of course a classic Portugal delight, but how does the Japanese preparation change the flavor?
2:30 p.m. Take a well-deserved Lisboa shopping break. Shopping in Embaixada is a bit like shopping in Grands Boulevards in Paris. In the très chic Principe Real neighborhood, Embaixada is in Ribeiro da Cunha Palace and houses bespoke Portuguese labels as well as the global brands luxury travelers love. Be sure to stop by ISTO., a Portuguese brand selling chic basics and Organii Cosmética, a bio-focused skincare brand that also does customer treatments in their storefront.
3:30 p.m. Grab an afternoon drink at Gin Lovers & LESS in Embaixada. Gin enthusiasts will revel in their selection, but this is also a place for the non-Gin drinkers to become converts to the spirit. These bartenders are definitely spirit artistes, with vast knowledge of the gin distillation space, ready to mix you whatever you’re truly in the mood for if you ask nicely. Enjoy your cocktail with a side of olives or a cheese plate while enjoying the afternoon in the charmingly historic Ribeiro da Cunha Palace.
6 p.m. Watch the sunset from Miradouro de Santa Catarina. Known as one of the best overlooks in the city, you’ll be able to see the Tagus River and a city-wide smattering of red-roofed houses from the park. It gets crowded at sunset, so head over there a little early. Miradouro de Santa Catarina at sunset feels like an expansive restaurant patio that’s open to the public and especially welcoming to street musicians. Grab a snack from the local kiosks or BYO drinks and snacks if you want libations for your twilight viewing experience.
8 p.m. Book a Michelin-starred dining experience at LOCO for dinner. Chef Alexandre Silva and team are laser-focused on sourcing local, all-natural produce. After forging for the best-quality food, the chefs at LOCO fire it over a grill or engage in another meticulous preparation to bring the ingredients’ flavors to light. LOCO serves a set 17-course meal and the menu revolves around small batch, micro-seasonal food to encourage as little waste as possible.
Where to stay
Palácio Belmonte is a national treasure—the $33 million dream of a French-born cultural philanthropist, Frédéric Coustols, who rescued the building dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. The Palacio has no sign, spa, or bar (instead, there are complimentary drinks in a hidden cupboard). There are 11 suites in the hotel, a favorite being the Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, with 18th century tile paneling, a marble bathroom, and a private terrace the same length as the suite itself overlooking the castle grounds and river beyond.