With its winding alleyways and small side streets, Lisboa is best explored on foot. Here’s some great neighborhoods to get your started:
Baixa and Chiado: Baixa was rebuilt in a grid in the Enlightenment style after the 1755 earthquake. Wide promenades and vast squares (Rossio and Praça do Comércio, also known as Terreiro do Paço) house the commercial heart of Lisboa. Roman ruins lie just a few feet beneath the street. Check out the Elevador de Santa Justa, built by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame) with great views and even a café at the top. Chiado is the heart of the historic city center of Lisbon: an upscale shopping district with coffee and book shops and statues of several of Portugal’s great writers, including Fernando Pessoa and Camões, and the DISQUIET homebase, CNC.
Alfama: This jumbled old Moorish neighborhood surrounding the Castelo de São Jorge is the place to go for Fado. Not to be missed, it is one of the few areas that survived the 1755 earthquake (an event so devastating and spectacular it helped inspire Voltaire’s take on humanity’s unhappy existence). The 12th-century Sé Cathedral stands on the site of a former mosque.
Bairro Alto and Bica: The spots to drink and eat. The streets are packed at night with Portuguese revelers and tourists from veritably everywhere. Each bar and club spills out into the street. Up above elderly locals hang their laundry and scowl at the noise.
Belém: known for gardens and museums, as well as the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery, this district also houses the most famous Portuguese custard tart (pastéís de nata) bakery in the land (Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, also known as the Pastéis de Belém). This warm tart is worth the trip alone. And worthy of its own monument.