Welcome to the City of Seven Hills
11:00 a.m. – Just like Rome, Lisbon counts seven hills, São Jorge, São Vicente, Sant'Ana, Santo André, Chagas, Santa Catarina et São Roque. Some are so steep they cannot be accessed by car. You'll need to use one elevator (for Santa Justa) and three cable cars.
Exiting the Terminal 1 at Lisbon-Portela airport, I don't hesitate much between subway and taxi to reach my hotel. When travelling with the family, I always go for public transportation, but here, by myself, I opt for a cab. In Lisbon, cab drivers are always good company. At that time of day, the hotel is 25 minutes and only 4 miles away, near the Marquês de Pombal square.
Cosmic energy fills the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel
11:30 a.m. – My boutique hotel is hidden behind an elegant and almost nameless façade in a street that parallels the Avenida da Liberdade, modelled after the Parisian Champs- Élysées. The hotel is inspired by feng shui principles of design. I am no chi master, the cosmic energy that runs through our body, but I read Fernando Pessoa and know that we sleep cosmically on a stone. The hotel staff attributes rooms according to your year of birth. The materials used will be better suited to your inner self for optimum regeneration. I go through the very roomy communal areas (lobby, restaurant, sophisticated Urban Bar and well-stocked library) and climb up an enormous staircase that leads to the room. The latter is rather large, displays minimalist design and is tastefully furnished (with Eames chairs). It also offers a walk-in shower. Besides the 82 regular rooms, the hotel has also 7 available suites, all with private Jacuzzi. And the establishment keeps on reducing its carbon footprint every passing year.
Inspira Santa Marta Hotel
Rua de Santa Marta 48
Sardinha, bica and ginja at a kiosk
1:00 p.m. – Walking down Lisbon's most famous avenue, I randomly stop at one of the many kiosks that surround it. At this time of day, don't expect trendy music, but rather a small plate of sardines and grilled peppers, with a bica (expresso) curta (strong) following soon after. I also indulge in a shot glass of ginja, a typical sour cherry liqueur with an added touch of cinnamon. Pessoa said that this spiced-up eau-de-vie gives access to the world of mirages. This is ideal for a shopping session. As I didn't come to Lisbon for luxury shops, I don't stop along the Avenida da Liberdade. But the multiple mosaic shapes that adorn the pavement catch my full attention.
2:30 p.m. – I stroll around the impressive Restauradores square and glaze at the surrounding façades. The Palácio Foz's for instance, or the beautiful Art Deco Teatro Eden, conceived by Cassiano Branco and Carlos Florêncio Dias in 1931. In no time, I burst into the Rua do Carmo, in the tiny Luvaria Ulisses shop, opened in 1925. With powder talc on my fingers and the elbow comfortably leaning on a cushion, I try fine leather gloves crafted with pliers to adopt the shape of my hand. I give in to an affordable canary yellow pair which I'll hang on to for years. That's quality for you!
Rua do Carmo 87-A
3:00 p.m. – A mere seven minutes afterwards and I walk in the MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda (the acronym also means ‘change' in Portuguese). I heard about the Francisco Capelo collection and its 690 outfits by the greatest designers of all-time: Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Courrèges, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne, Vivienne Westwood and so on... I'll have to come back another time to devote my attention to the creations of Alessandro Mendini, Charlotte Perriand, the Campana brothers, Gio Ponti, Joe Colombo, Le Corbusier, Marc Newson and Ron Arad. With a display of various conceptual items typical of pre and post-war periods, MUDE is a necessary stop for all design lovers in Lisbon.
Rua Augusta 24
The palace of all concept stores
6:00 p.m. – The museum closes its doors and I hop on a taxi, enthused by the visit. Ten minutes later, I arrive at the threshold of the botanical gardens and enter a concept store or Eastern inspiration: the Embaixada Concept Store. Upon two floors, you have access to the best of what Portugal has to offer, with furniture, clothes, accessories, jewellery and organic cosmetics. It's for my darling that I go mad on the credit card... at Armando Cabral.
Embaixada Concept Store
Praça do Príncipe Real 26
Evening tastings at Time Out Market
9:00 p.m. – I drop my purchases and freshen up at my hotel, in preparation for a trendy fooding event at Lisbon's Time Out Market, in the Mercado da Ribeira covered market, facing the Cais do Sodré station. Here, visiting food lovers sit at large wooden tables where it's possible to try local cuisine with a twist. Many chefs in vogue lend their talents to the kitchen, from Henrique Sá Pessoa (one Michelin star for his Alma Lisbon restaurant) to Alexandre Silva (winner of a famous Portuguese TV food show, and also Michelin-starred) and the unmissable chef Miguel Castro e Silva. I just want to try and pick at everything. Another ginger flavoured cocktail and I head back to the hotel, when I hear a church bell ringing and reminisce over a few words from Pessoa: Ring, bells, ring out your song! You remind me of some happiness (Perhaps one that I never felt), Of what has been, of what lasts not long, Of what was not but seems now a bliss.
Time Out Market
Av. 24 de Julho 49
LX Fact street art delight
The following morning, 8:00 a.m. – Under the 25 de Abril Bridge, the Tagus River flows, flea markets are open on Sundays and street art, tourists and Lisboeta hipsters meet at the LX Factory, a former industrial wasteland upmarketed in the Alcântara district. It offers a mashup of artist studios, agencies, designer and vintage shops, coworking spaces for start-ups, tattoo parlours as well as a large number of bars and food stalls. It works like a small Camden Town, and remains open from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. I walk alongside the Tagus up to the Belém district for a late morning Pastel de Belém (puff pastry and custard), still lukewarm. Of course, I buy it from the city's historical bakery, simply called Pastéis de Belém.
Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103
Pastéis de Belém
Rua Belém 84-92
Dragon Fly at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
11:00 a.m. – I jump in another cab to reach the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, my goal during this trip to Lisbon. Here, you can find the largest René Lalique collection in the world, most of the art having been displayed during the 1900 World Fair and acquired by businessman Calouste Gulbenkian in 1903. In the very corner of my soul, there is an altar to a different god, said Pessoa. The highlight of the museum is undeniably the spectacular Dragonfly broach, a hybrid figure that can be seen as a symbolist crucifix. It breaks down barriers and forms an entrance door to a heightened reality, through shapes, enamel and previously unseen combinations (articulated gold and opaline, moonstones and diamonds). The world exists to end up in a book, wrote French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. In this wonderful museum collection, it ends up in a broach, a bracelet, a comb or head jewellery.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Av. Berna 45A
1:00 p.m. – I intend to spend my entire afternoon walking in the footsteps of Fernando Pessoa. First, I have lunch in the Rua des Douradores where the poet used to roam. I cast a glance over the people next to me, as All faces are singular and nothing gives out a sense of the sacred than to look at people, as written by one of Pessoa's multiple doubles. I finish my lunch and try out a coffee at A Brasileira, before going out of my way to the Martinho da Arcada café-restaurant, a mecca dedicated to the poet's heritage. On display everywhere, you'll find black and white enlargements or photos found in newspapers that show the master talking to fellow writers, or in the midst of creation himself at one of these tables. Back on the street, and as Fernando wrote, I feel the voice of the earth aspiring to the sea. And from all of Lisbon's miradouros (viewpoints), I give in to a local panoramic obsession.
Rua Garrett 120
Martinho da Arcada
Praça do Comércio 3
Fresh fish at Rua das Flores
7:00 p.m. – I don't go back to the hotel yet as I'd rather walk around the Chiado district. For the time being, I'm waiting for a table in good company at the Taberna da Rua das Flores. Being served is a red tuna ceviche (don't forget that fish is king here), basis of a menu in which olive oil and spices pep up all dishes. Back to the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, I sip on a glass of vinho verde at the Urban Bar before going to bed. Tomorrow, I'll leave the city reluctantly, but I also know that I'll come back to Lisbon. A little rebirth, like Pessoa's, two steps away from the Chiado, narrowed by the Basilica of Our Lady of the Martyrs and the San Carlo theatre.
Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores 103