Lisbon: A Day in Alcântara

The capital of Portugal is well-known for many things, from its buttery pastries to its sweep of colourful houses. The area of Alcântara, however, is often overlooked. Found roughly 1 mile outside the city centre, and tucked underneath the famous Ponte 25 Abril, this residential neighbourhood is friendly, traditional and worth a visit if you’re looking to escape from the buzz of the city centre. It’s the perfect place to get a taste for local Lisbon life!

Here are my top picks for places to see in the area, from the best food and drink spots to the prettiest views.

 

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Where to go for coffee

 

Seara Verde

Possibly the most well-located spot in the area, this tiny, traditional Portuguese bar often goes unnoticed by visitors. With its large, sun-trapped seating area in the neighbourhood’s main square, the Largo das Fontainhas, this is the perfect welcome as you step off the tram or bus. A coffee here ranges from 0,60EUR to 1,20EUR, with a range of pastries or biscuits to accompany it.

 

Wish Slow Coffee House

Found within the graffiti-clad walls of the LX Factory are endless amounts of boutique stores, unique restaurants and, of course, coffee houses. Wish Slow Coffee House is possibly the biggest and most popular of these places, with its clean-cut, white-washed decor, and selection of beautiful magazines to choose from. The cafe also boasts a concept store filled with simplistic yet artsy pieces, such as notepads, water bottles and other stationery items.

 

Bom Dia Bairro

If you’re feeling a little peckish during your trip to Alcântara, but aren’t quite ready for a full sit-down meal, then Bom Dia Bairro is ideal. A small but bright bar located just off the town centre, the snack menu is inventive, healthy and delicious, making the perfect accompaniment to all your caffeine needs.

 

Copenhagen Coffee Lab

One of the swankiest coffee spots in the area, as you head out towards the Santos neighbourhood, is the Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Doubling also as an unofficial co-working space, you can often find freelancers sipping at a coffee here as they hide behind their laptops. Probably the most instagrammable place in the area, you’ll fall in love with the pastry selection and then with the incredible coffee art.

 

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Best spots for shopping

 

O Concept Lisboa

With its rustic wooden furnishings and love for potted plants, this store is the perfect backdrop to its equally stunning range of clothing and accessories. O Concept Lisboa is a small boutique space on the way to Santos, specialising in handcrafted items from Bali, Italy and Portugal. If you like linen and wicker, then search no further. Beach style has never looked so good.

 

Coqueta

Another gem found within the walls of the LX Factory, this tiny vintage store has everything from bright print dresses to funky sunglasses from back in the day. Lose yourself in their clothing rails for an afternoon and I guarantee you won’t come away empty-handed.

 

Bairro Arte

Portugal’s answer to the Urban Outfitters homeware department, Bairro Arte has all the quirky gifts you could ever imagine. Looking for a 5-foot-tall plastic bulldog? Or maybe a big, bold poster for your wall? Whatever you’re after, you’ll find a brighter, more eccentric version of it right here. Oh, and you guessed it – it’s in the LX Factory.

 

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Alcântara’s food hotspots

 

The Garage Smokehouse & Barbecue

Who would ever have expected to find an authentic, American-run burger joint right in the heart of this traditional Portuguese neighbourhood? The Garage has a small but incredible menu to leave any meat-lovers drooling just at the smell. With its friendly staff, high-quality ingredients and amazing desserts, this restaurant takes you right into the heart of the USA. I highly recommend the giant chocolate chip cookie if you still have room for dessert; if you don’t, then make room. You won’t regret it.

 

Palácio

Two words: seafood and beer. If that’s got you hooked already, then Palácio is a must-visit for anyone wanting to sample good-quality Portuguese cuisine in the area. Choose your crab straight from the fish tank, and bask in the warm glow of the restaurant’s hospitality. Seeing as it closes at 2am every day except Sunday, it would almost be rude not to stay for another beer.

 

Rustica Pizza a Fatia

The perfect alternative to a sit-down meal, Rustica’s pizzas will have you coming back for lunch, and dinner, and maybe even breakfast. Available by the slice, or as a whole box, the pizza itself is delicious – and they don’t hold back on the toppings. Go for a classic Margherita, or try one of their more adventurous options, such as the fully-loaded Bomba pizza. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. PS: they’re on Uber Eats, too.

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Finding the right place for drinks

 

Rio Maravilha

The image from this bar’s rooftop terrace is possibly one of the most iconic images of the city. Probably the best view onto the 25 Abril bridge and across to the Southern side of Lisbon, Rio Maravilha is usually busy – for good reason. While it’s one of the more expensive places in the area, the price is worth the lively, buzzing atmosphere and the warm breeze on a summer evening.

 

Santo Amaro Docks

The Docas, found on the water’s edge of Alcântara, is adorned with terraced bars and restaurants dangling over the harbour. Spending an evening here, watching night fall over the water, is pretty spectacular – especially as the docks are located right underneath the bridge! Pretty much any bar along here has a fantastic selection of wine, beer, and cocktails. So take your pick, and settle in for a relaxing evening by the sea.

 

Quimera Brewpub

A totally different atmosphere to anything you’d expect from a seaside city, Quimera Brewpub is a tiny brewery, located in a narrow, stony cellar. If you’re a bit of a beer rookie like me, then never fear; the staff are always on hand to give you recommendations from their ever-changing menu of independent craft beers. Enjoy its rustic outdoor seating area, or cosy up inside.

 

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Alcântara’s hidden gem

 

One of the best parts of exploring a new place is setting aside your guidebook and going for an aimless wander; if you’re willing to walk a little further from the centre of Alcântara, you may well stumble across the Santo Amaro Chapel in the same way that I did. While the chapel itself is uniquely beautiful, with its rounded, white-washed architecture and intricate tiles, the most amazing thing is its view. It’s an eclectic collection of terracotta rooftops and pastel buildings disappearing underneath the 25 April Bridge. The esplanade is dotted with trees: so find some shade, grab a book, and take in the unusually quiet beauty of this spot.

 

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