Lúcia’s Lisbon: Insider’s guide to Europe’s coolest city (part 2)
Lúcia joined 9flats a few months ago and has told us lots about her adopted hometown of Lisbon. We’ve fallen in love with it too, and asked her to share her top tips for this vibrant, yet often overlooked, city.
Day 2: The Fado neighbourhoods, Bairro Alto, Mouraria and Alfama
Oh me! Oh my! How much I miss Bairro Alto and the times I spent living there. Bairro Alto, Mouraria, Alfama… were fado vadio drinks bagaço with Severa in the dark alleys of the neighbourhoods. But now… Shhhhh! Silencio, que se vai cantar o fado!
We will have a big walk today, because we are visiting three traditional neighbourhoods of fado. Let’s begin were we stopped last time: Cais do Sodré.
Where the country’s fate is decided
Let’s walk through the streets… until we reach Bairro Alto, we will pass through St Bento and Príncepe Real. Look at the details. Lisbon is made of details and surprises in every step.
St Bento is a beautiful neighbourhood full of small surprises. Look into some doors – shameful! Here, everyone does this! That’s why we have curtains in the windows! And you will be able to discover that behind this, there are many other doors. Actually what seems a usual building, is actually a typical 19th century courtyard – ‘pátio’ we call them – or workers’ villages. We can visit some in Alfama later.
Let’s take a good breakfast at Pão de Canela in the beautiful Praça das Flores. Have a galão and a torrada com manteiga. Then we can eat a slice of cake. Any cake: I assure you, this cafe has wonderful ones! Can you hear the birds?!
Up we go! Through São Bento street. Here, we can find lots of antique shops, cafés and restaurants – let’s go up this street and I’ll show you the house of Amália Rodrigues, the queen of Fado and one of its major symbols. I remember in 1993, I went to Lisbon to a student demonstration and there she was, in the balcony. The students serenaded her. How she smiled and waved. Today this house is a museum.
Keep walking. We will soon arrive at the Garden of Princepe Real. Here you can find an old, old cedar. We will visit a very nice secret place. It’s called Mãe d’Água (Mother of the Water) and is part of the complex water supply system of the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of the Free Waters), built in the 18th century to serve the city with water. Go down. Relax. Feel the energy of the running water. Nearby there’s another Mãe d’Água that was recently transformed into a nice restaurant: Chafariz do Vinho.
Design and tradition: the new heart of Bairro Alto
Let’s walk a little longer and take the third street on the right. Welcome to Bairro Alto. Yes, this neighbourhood has two faces, traditional and down to earth during the day, trendy and crazy during the night.
We’re in the right place to go shopping and find original gifts. Here you’ll find lots of different shops, clothes, interior design, tattoos, hairdressers, shoe shops. I’m a fan of vintage and nice, simple people. At Ás de Espadas you will find both! Tiago and Bruno will show you around. Besides having great vintage items, they have vintage prices too. Secretly, they said to me that they can ship to Europe by request. They have lots of nice promotions.
Let’s have lunch at a wonderful restaurant: Cantinho das Gaveas. I recommend the Octopus ‘à Lagareiro’. It melts in your mouth. And the garlic with olive oil. Delicious! While waiting for your octopus, taste the white small cheese in the starter plate. A pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper. Light and delicious. Don’t forget your ‘bica’ to finish!
(A line from one of my favourite Fado songs.)
We need to let things digest a bit, right? Let’s go down the hill to Mouraria. One of the oldest neighbourhoods of Lisbon. Back in 1147 D. Afonso Henriques, our first king, confined the Moors to this part of town and here they stayed after the siege of Lisbon.
Rua do Capelão, where our first iconic Fado singer was born, Maria Severa Onofriana. This street and Severa are a common theme in Fado songs. As if one Fado star wasn’t enough this neighbourhood saw another amazing ‘fadista’ born: Mariza. Let’s take a look around?
Nowadays, this is the ‘multiculti’ spot in Lisbon. Mouraria is still a traditional area, where the Fado houses, taverns and local culture sit hand-in-hand with Chinese and Indian stores.
Isabel, the origami girl
Time to go guys. Move your feet to Alfama. Let’s get lost again. Now I really mean it! Don’t think! Go up these stairs, down in those ones, left, right, don’t think, just feel. As I mentioned before, in Alfama you can look for three ‘pátios’. Do you think you can find them on your own? Let me know. And send me some pictures. A little hint… I will give you the names and the address. Somewhere.
Going a bit up, we arrive in Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Some of our kings sleep here. Make a visit to them and feel free to climb the stairs and enjoy a stunning view of the city.
In the street next to the monastery you’ll discover a nice and traditional flea market with roots that go back to the 13th century. Yes, I know! It’s in every tourist guide. But do they talk about Isabel? I don’t think so! In Feira da Ladra you will find this sweet design store: Amores de Tóquio, and the amazing things that Isabel makes in origami!
To finish our second day, let’s go to the amazing Fado museum. After your visit, explore your saudade and if you’re lucky enough you will hear some live fado during dinner time at the museum restaurant. If not, you can go to A Baiúca. Strangely they will sit you apart from your group. Nice way to get to know some locals, right?!
Time to sleep, dear fellows! Let’s dream in Alfama. I bet we will dream like angels at House of Crows.
There are still 100 places I want to tell you about. If you check out My Secret Lisbon Route you’ll find some more nice places that are not in this post.
Or back to day 1: Saucy, secret, delicious downtown