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It’s late March in Lisbon and the cool Portuguese winter months have finally given way to a tangible burst of spring. Dainty wallflowers reach towards the blue skies in pursuit of the sun. From Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, nestled in the trendy district of Bairro Alto, Lisbon is best described like a 19th century post-Impressionist painting – vivid, dynamic and innately detailed. Delicately scattered amidst burnished terracotta tiles and sun dappled sweet orange trees you will find the time-warped façades of Lisbon’s ancient bars, Portuguese eateries, Art Nouveau theatres and traditional pastelarias. Bathing in the mid-afternoon sunshine, ornamental cast-iron balustrades decorate the aged walls with swirling baroque shadows as the heady aroma of fresh fish and seafood fills the air. In the harbour, colossal naval boats maunder steadily through the bracing waters and in the distance, dwindling sailing boat melt into the horizon.

Incidentally situated on a natural fault line, the Portuguese capital ‘Lisboa’ has a long history of tectonic activity with the most notable incident recorded being the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Beautifully positioned on the banks of the mighty Rio Tejo – the city’s lifeblood, housing a myriad of sea life – the enchanting city sprawls as far as the eye can see and is brimful with architectural marvels. From the noble São Jorge Castle perched majestically on one of Lisbon’s seven monumental hills to the neo-gothic Elevador de Santa Justo erected in 1902 by Gustave Eiffel’s apprentice, each unique build reveals the city’s geographical trajectory.

Beneath the Roman castle walls are a labyrinth of hidden pathways leading to the bustling downtown district of Baixa Pombalina. Rebuilt in 1755 following the Great Earthquake, the beautifully tiled thoroughfare is home to some of the city’s most frequented stores, restaurants and cafés. Neatly concealed on the corner of Praça de São Domingos you will find chocolate box sized store A Ginjinha, the original supplier of traditional Portuguese bitter cherry liqueur. Designed and built following the Pombaline archetype, the buildings have a distinctly functional quality inspired by the fashion of sobriety at that time. From the lofty Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta, the perfectly cobbled boulevards lined with the latest fashions reaches infinitely into the city. Perhaps a little touristy in my opinion, but worth a visit nonetheless.

Next to Baixa sits the stylish Chiado district. Rebuilt during the late-1990s following the infamous fire of Chiado, here you will find a delectable blend of timeless architectural detailing and cool modern aesthetics. Also recognised as the home of Lisbon’s thriving theatre district, historic Chiado is brimming with decadent playhouses such as the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos, hosting a variety of musical spectacles throughout the year. Poised and beguiling, Chiado houses only the most coveted ateliers, providing high quality goods from reputable local artisans. Look no further if tailor made shoes and designer interiors are your kind of thing. ICON on Rua Nova da Trindade is filled with handmade ceramics, wall hangings and a collection of fine bespoke jewellery. A Vida Portuguesa was without a doubt my favourite design store in the neighbourhood. As you enter, you will notice an array of tall display cabinets chockful with books, traditional Portuguese homewares, fragrances and gifts. It’s worth noting that it’s lesser known flagship store residing in the offbeat district of Intendente however, has even more on offer!

Located in a beautiful tile fronted building, design store A Vida Portuguesa (directly translating as ‘the Portuguese life’) is the locals best-kept secret. Absolutely chockablock with everything from decorative olive oil tins, Claus Porto soap bars and handwoven textiles – it’s the crowning jewel of Intendente. Just a second away, situated on Largo do Intendente you will find the cool hipster hangout Casa Intendente. Recently heralded a cultural landmark of the once disregarded neighbourhood, this small institution is the preferred haunt of all the young Lisboetan hedonists and designers. Indistinguishable from the surrounding houses, once inside you will discover a wonderfully random bunch of antique filled dens. Higgledy-piggledy is the best way it can be described, jam-packed with flea market finds, wall murals, and outside on the sundrenched cocktail terrace – a jungle of lush green plants.

Resting gently on the hillside above Intendente you will find the lively Bairro Alto neighbourhood. If you don’t feel brave enough to tackle the towering hill, take a swift ride on the 19th century graffiti painted Ascensor da Glória and browse the eclectic Galeria de Arte Urbana on your right. Often cited as the cultural heart of Lisbon, Bairro Alto is a hive of activity once the sun goes down. Modest by day, the undulating cobbled hills burst into life in the late afternoon, with cocktail bars and rooftop hangouts rolling out their al fresco drinking terraces. Revellers fill the streets with animated chit-chat and the vibrant party scene well and truly digs its heels in. Not to be missed is aptly named bar and restaurant The Decadente on Rua de São Pedro. Blessed with panoramic views of the city, this quirky eatery is tailored for locals and travelers alike, offering visitors many interesting twists on traditional Portuguese cuisine. Mixed with vinho verde, Porto wine, triple sec and other heritage ingredients, the in house cocktail ‘Lisbon Beach Tea’ is not one to be missed. It goes without saying that the food is also incredible – take note: the raspberry Port sorbet is mind blowing.

Don’t forget to mooch around the chic Príncipe Real district, burrowed in the hilltop just north of Bairro Alto. At the heart of the neighbourhood you will find a peaceful garden bursting with exotic plant life, often the fashion savvy will retreat here for respite during a keen bout of shopping. As luck would have it, Jardim do Príncipe Realis also home to a century old Mexican cypress tree which reaches out nobly not unlike a parasol. Under its regal branches in the cool shade you will find two elaborately decorated kiosks selling beers and a bite to eat. Nestled south facing, overlooking the garden is Ribeiro da Cunha, a New-Arabian palace of sorts. Elegantly designed, the 19thcentury interior is home to Embaixada – an innovative gallery of Portuguese design stores showcasing everything from handicrafts to locally sourced delicacies, handwoven textiles and not forgetting its carefully preserved architectural heritage. If cutting-edge design isn’t your thing, don’t fret; littered throughout Príncipe Real you will find an abundance of bohemian antique shops bursting with hidden gems.

Be sure to visit the historic epicentre of Lisbon, Alfama, at night, when dimly lit Fado cafés echo with the soulful melancholy of Portuguese folk music. Meanwhile, the winding cobbled streets twinkle as flecks of soft billowing light tumble down from the crackled lanterns above. In the surrounding houses the familiar sound of clattering plates signal time to eat as families sit down for their evening meal of ‘Bacalhau com Natas,’ salted cod in a rich cream sauce. If you visit Alfama on the right day you could be in for a bargain at the famous Feria da Ladra flea market. Residing above the 17thcentury Santa Engracia Panteao Nacional, the hillside is home to a rambling jumble of bits and bobs, from second hand books and children’s toys to hand crafted jewellery and a mishmash of disused furniture. Beginning at Arco de São Vicente, be ready to jostle your way through the excited crowd but keep an eye out for pickpockets as the Portuguese “ladra” translates, ‘a woman thief’.

It would be foolish to visit Lisbon and not call in on the charming suburb of Belém. Resting graciously on the banks of the Rio Tejo, Bélem is situated to the west of the city at the mouth of the river and within easy travelling distance either by train or tram. Largely unaffected by the Great Lisbon Earthquake, the delightful neighbourhood is blessed with much of its original architecture and this is cherished by those who live here and all who visit. Often associated with the era of Discoveries, Bélem seafront houses the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monolith in respect to Portugal’s intrepid seafaring history. Also worth visiting is the beautifully adorned Torre de Bélem, a regal maritime fortress built during 1521 in defense of the mighty estuary. Climb the tower for captivating views down river towards the Golden Gate-esque Ponte 25 de Abrilbridge. Besides it’s nautical history, the quaint suburb is also well known for birthing the nations most beloved ‘Pastéis de Nata’. Built during the early 19th century, Pastéis de Bélem has been home ever since to the famous Portuguese pastelaria and its chockful of deliciously sweet cakes – my favourite being the rich ‘Pão de Deus’ bun. For the creatives amongst you, a look around Lisbon’s renowned Museu Coleçåo Berardo is a must. Featuring works by Picasso, Dali, Rothko, Lichtenstein, be sure to allow an hour or two to browse the full collection.

Directly beneath the burning red Ponte 25 de Abril bridge resides the cool artist hangout LX Factory. Hop on one of Lisbon’s famous sunflower yellow trams and you will find the urban bolt hole buried inside a huge ex-industrial building, not far from the Bélem suburb. Noticed by the discerning few, the build is accessed via a narrow tunnel and was once the affluent home of a Portuguese fabric company. After falling sadly into disrepair following the Golden Industrial Age, in 2008 the lofty warehouse was converted into a thriving creative hub for businesses, studios and agencies alike. Nowadays the site is a wealth of graffiti strewn walls, chic boutiques, editorial pop-up stalls and urban cafés. Despite its gritty façades, the site is magnificent. It could even be described as palatial. Next in line to the urban throne is The Village Underground just a brisk walk from LX Factory. Built resourcefully from disused freight containers, the outlandish formation operates as a studio and office space for the radical and enterprising young creatives in Lisbon.

Before your stay in Lisbon comes to an end you must traverse the humble waters from Cais do Sodré to Almada. Once you disembark the ferry, bare right and stroll leisurely along the boardwalk towards the bridge. Don’t be discouraged by the urban scrawl adorning the tile fronted walls, it’s all part of the magic. Notice the mural depicting the seafaring people of Lisbon, beside the effervescent face of a beautiful Portuguese woman. Not far from here you will find yourself at Atira-te Ao Rio, a charming seafood restaurant with its very own sun terrace and beach. As you sit down, Ponte 25 de Abril bridge glimmers in the warmth of the sun and to the right you have a postcard perfect view of the captivating Portuguese capital, in all its glory. What a way to remember Lisbon.