We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. Accept | Find out more


Three Perfect Days: Lisbon

Once the center of a mighty empire, the Portuguese capital was nearly wiped out in the 18th century, only to rise again and establish itself as one of Europe's most beguiling cities, rich in beauty, grace and melancholy

Author Chris Wright Photography Pedro Guimaraes

“Monument to the Discoveries” on the Belém waterfront

Picture 1 of 18

Modern audiences are discovering the mournful sounds of a centuries-old musical tradition

It isn’t the perkiest music in the world. Its performers sing in tortured tones about love and loss, set to the strum of acoustic guitars. But Lisboans are fiercely proud of their fado—more so since last year, when it was listed as a global cultural treasure by UNESCO. This urban peasant music is, in fact, enjoying a revival, thanks to artists like the dashing Duarte, who wouldn’t look out of place in a hip indie rock band. Courted by fashion designers and lauded on YouTube, Lisbon’s young fadistas are the hot new thing— even if their material is a couple of hundred years old.

An obsession with tiles makes Lisbon a mosaic unto itself

If there’s a redundant institution in Lisbon, it’s the Tile Museum. The entire city serves as a permanent exhibition of tilework, or azulejo. Tiling was brought to the region by the Moors in the 15th century, but Lisboans have run with the idea. You’ll find tilework on houses, bars, benches, churches, barbershops. Entire streets are swathed in multicolor geometric patterns; the interiors of bakeries spin elaborate visual narratives. The best way to see this stuff is just by walking around. To buy some, visit Loja dos Descobrimentos on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, and ask for Josefa Ribeiro.

The inside scoop from those in the know

Diogo Noronha Andrade

“Miradouro de Santa Catarina, near Bairro Alto, has one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon, plus a nice mix of tourists and locals. Sometimes there are people playing instruments. I usually walk my dog over there and hang out with my friends.”

Cláudia Candeias
“I go to a typical tasca—a traditional spit-and-sawdust wine shop—in Santa Catarina. The senhora who keeps it is Rosa, so she calls it Taberna da Rosa. It has marble tables, wooden stools, no frills—just good, very cheap wines, made by small producers.”

Rui Viana
“I like to go hiking in the hills of Sintra, a 20-minute drive from Lisbon. It’s very peaceful, with lots of trees and palaces. From the top you have a nice view of the sea. I walk along the beach or, if it’s cold, go to one of the fish restaurants. It’s lovely.”

View Three Perfect Days: Lisbon in a larger map

3 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Lisbon”

  1. Pedro Freitas Says:
    May 3rd, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Great three days. Only the fine dining restaurants are wrong. The three best in town are Belcato, Assinatura and Bocca


  2. Cristina Cavoto Says:
    May 30th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you so much Chris,

    I really enjoyed reading your article about Lisbon. You made me to revisit places that I have been in this lovely city and you made me to want to discover the ones that I missed. I am from Brazil. Have you wrote anything about our cities?

    Kind Regards,

    Cristina Cavoto

  3. Suneet Walia Says:
    August 18th, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I had read your article on one of my flights and taken the magazine home. Many moons later, I was able to finally come to Lisbon – I had a head-start through your lovely writings…. good work – I wish I could pack in as much as you did – but I had a great time.

Leave your comments