Much like a budding romance or newfound relationship, the thrill of moving to a new city lies in getting to know it: finding the hidden spots that aren’t in the guidebooks, and stumbling across a new favourite café or bar each week. Whilst Lisbon has an undeniably large amount to offer even to a first-time visitor, its charm lies in its local hangouts and secret viewpoints – those places that are only known to those who live there. A taste of ‘real’ Lisbon can be experienced here, where the only voices which surround you are Portuguese.
That’s why I’ve compiled this guide to the city’s best-kept secrets, from cafés and restaurants to shops and gardens: so that you can fall in love with Lisbon in the way that I did. Read on to discover Lisbon as you’ve never seen it before.
Santo Amaro Chapel
Calçada Santo Amaro 21, 1300-515 Lisboa
Experience the city’s infamous Ponte 25 de Abril from an entirely new perspective. Sitting atop the lesser-known neighbourhood of Santo Amaro, this viewpoint provides one of the most tranquil yet most jaw-dropping views across the Tejo River. The tiled esplanade which houses this crumbling, oval-shaped chapel, is dotted with olive trees, the white stone of the building’s exterior masking the intricately artistic tiles inside.
The chapel itself is said to have been founded in the 1500s, designed in the Renaissance style so typical of that era, and is now open to the public only on Mondays. Take a book and a beer and enjoy the sunset from this unknown spot.
Miradouro do Largo das Necessidades
Largo Necessidades, 1350-188 Lisboa
With its grand, ornate fountain and collection of trees and plants, this tiny miradouro is arguably one of the best viewpoints in the city. Known mainly by those who live around the Alcântara and Estrela areas, the view from this platform stretches across the entire length of the bridge and across the water to the Cristo Rei statue. In the summer, the fountain doubles as a paddling pool for children, and you can often find families and couples relaxing here on a sunny day. Behind this miradouro is the Palácio das Necessidades: an elegant pink palace which is home to a set of lush, well-manicured gardens. This beautiful garden is also worth a visit, and is yet another spot which often goes overlooked by both tourists and locals.
COFFEE & PASTRIES
The Danish Pastry Shop
Rua Do, Campo Grande 115, 1700-089 Lisboa
Probably due to its somewhat remote location in Campo Grande – an area which finds itself roughly 4km from the city centre – this Scandi-inspired coffee house is often left out of the guidebooks. But this pint-sized café, with its hygge vibes and rustic wooden furniture, is home to some of the best pastries in town. While this is not a typical Portuguese haunt, you’ll often find it teeming with students from the next-door university. If you’re a freelancer or digital nomad, spend a day curled up in The Danish Pastry Shop and get some work done; you won’t regret it.
Largo das Fontaínhas 15, 1300-023 Lisboa
From the sleek and edgy to the downright traditional, this pastelaria is a favourite among the locals of Alcântara. Although this restaurant-come-café serves food at all hours of the day, breakfast is its strong point. Choose from a huge selection of pastries, or settle for one of their buttery pasteis de nata – which, if you ask me, are better here than anywhere else in the city. Their outdoor seating area leaks out onto the square, giving you the perfect vantage point to watch the old trams rattle past.
Jardim da Estrela
Praça da Estrela n°12, 1200-694 Lisboa
Overlooked by the imposingly beautiful basilica, the Jardim da Estrela is a tropical paradise in the heart of one of the city’s more residential neighbourhoods. With looming palm trees and a small lake swimming with turtles, this garden seems to have sprung straight from a fairy-tale.
As you wander along the shaded pathways, you’ll come across ivy-clad statues and seas of brightly coloured flowers; there is also a children’s play area, making it popular with families. Take a seat at the garden’s Banana Café and enjoy the view across the pond.
Jardim do Torel
Rua Júlio de Andrade, 1150-122 Lisboa
Home to yet another breath-taking view across the city, this tiny garden is located in the Anjos area, which is home to a number of offices and co-working spaces. As you step into the garden, you are greeted by an open space, woven with pathways, which leads down to the viewpoint across the city’s main Avenida. With benches and built-in sun loungers, you’ll find locals relaxing here at all times of day. As you climb down the stone staircase towards the café, there is a small concrete paddling pool, which is the perfect way to cool off in the summer. From May to October, live DJs play here once a month, transforming the space into a sundown party scene.
Zé da Mouraria 2
Rua Gomes Freire 60, 1150-175 Lisboa
A cosy, traditional restaurant in the city’s Anjos neighbourhood, Zé da Mouraria 2 (there is a Zé da Mouraria 1 in a different area of Lisbon!) is loved for its hearty portions and typical Portuguese dishes. Centred around large groups of families and friends, there is nothing on the menu for less than 3 people – or 2 people with a pretty hefty appetite. Make sure to try some of their bacalhau: a famously traditional dish in Portugal.
Rua Guia 9 1, 1100-132 Lisboa
Don’t worry – this hidden Chinese restaurant in Lisbon’s Martim Moniz area isn’t actually illegal. Think speakeasy meets Chinatown; the restaurant is located in an old Portuguese house, tucked away down a quiet, residential alleyway. There are no signs outside, and absolutely no indication whatsoever that there is a bustling restaurant inside. But once you step into the room, you’re immediately greeted by the delicious odour of their oriental cuisine. With long, communal tables and a simple yet flavourful menu, this restaurant is the perfect place to experience some of Lisbon’s more international foods.
Os Amigos da Severa
Rua Capelão 32, 1100-341 Lisboa
Nestled into a dark alley near Martim Moniz square is Os Amigos da Severa: a bar so tiny that there’s no room even for tables or chairs. One of the city’s hotspots for live fado music (which is somewhat similar to Spanish flamenco), the bar is named after one of Lisbon’s most historically renowned performers, who allegedly used to sing here. The owner, Antonio, will make you feel welcome right away, offering you shots of port wine or of the local cherry liqueur ginja for only €1. Get to know the locals as you take in the chaotic charm of the bar’s décor; on warm nights, you can enjoy your drink outside, in the Largo Severa.
Largo das Fontaínhas 7, 1300-113 Lisboa
Another popular hangout in the largely untouched Alcântara neighbourhood, this trendy bar/restaurant is an ideal place to sample local wines. One of the fancier options in the area, Quotidiano offers a range of delicious wines, beers and cocktails, with a generous outdoor seating area in the summer. Its high ceilings and rustic-meets-modern décor will leave you feeling cosy and relaxed. Rosé lovers should make sure to ask for a glass of the house rosé, which is silky and sweet.
O Concept Lisboa
Rua Prior do Crato 48, 1350-188 Lisboa
If you’re a fan of light wood, beachy tones, and Bali vibes, then O Concept is the store for you. Filled with beautiful pieces sourced from small, handcrafted businesses, the clothes in this boutique will have you reaching for your surfboard, even in the gloomiest winter months. With everything from jewellery and sunglasses to dresses and jumpers, you’ll never tire of rifling through the railings of this store. Oh, and there’s a resident chihuahua, too.
Cerâmicas na Linha
Rua Capelo 16, 1200-224 Lisboa
This haphazard, loveably chaotic store seems to contradict the crisp tidiness of the area it finds itself in. Although found in the centrally-located Chiado neighbourhood, this ceramic shop often goes unnoticed by visitors, as they rush to and from the high street stores which surround it. Stacks of handmade pottery pieces burst from the wooden shelves, each brighter and more beautiful than the last. With everything from vases to mugs, a trip to this store will ensure you a unique piece for your home.