Sunday, February 04, 2024

John’s Towns Lisbon & Sydney

Value adding culture by       PORTuguese migrants

Here’s how to make the most of 24 hours in Lisbon Sardines and green wine; books and bakeries. Sensory intoxication is guaranteed in the Portuguese capital

To begin your perfect day in Lisbon, start with the national pastry. You may have had a Portuguese tart before, but until you have had one fresh from the streets of Lisbon, you haven’t. Like the croissants of Paris, they are altogether lighter, crispier and tastier than anything I’ve had back home.

    Garage. Sydney, February 2024 (foto by FH)
For a real treat, it’s worth the short tram trip from the city centre to the bakery where it all started. Pastéis de Belém is set in a wide-fronted, decoratively tiled building, distinguished by its smart blue draped awnings. 
Part of a former monastery, it began selling its custard tarts in 1837 as a way to make income when the monasteries were shut down in the wake of the revolution. The queues can be long, but they move quickly. And the tarts are worth it. Match one with a delicious coffee, and spring into your day.
A corner in the dazzling National Tile Museum. Jeff Allan
Wander | Leaving the bakery, you may wish to snoop around Belém, the popular neighbourhood that was once the heart of Lisbon’s maritime trade. There you’ll find the historic Belém Tower and museums. We, however, decided to hop on a bus to downtown Bairro Alto, the old part of town. The streets are cobbled and steep, winding past dozens of colourful bars, restaurants and art galleries. You can spend an entire morning poking around. And we did.
Treasure hunt | If you find yourself in town on a Tuesday or Saturday, you’re in luck. Check out the famous flea market Feira da Ladra in Alfama at Campo de Santa Clara. You’ll find streets of books, blankets, nicknacks and glassware. There are also new items from local makers. Feel free to haggle for the best price.
Lunch | It was time for some food, so we hopped onto a train for the 14-minute trip to LX Factory, a cluster of bohemian restaurants, cafes, galleries and shops set in a former industrial quarter dating back to 1846. In the sun-dappled garden at Café na Fábrica, I enjoyed a delicious trio of palm-sized rabbit tarts with a beer, while my partner opted for the nation’s famous sardines, five beautifully cooked fish on a plate with a few potatoes and a drizzle of oil, along with the local wine.
Beautifully cooked sardines at Café na Fábrica at LX Factory. Jeff Allan

Drinks | While we are having a glass, let’s talk about wine. The nation’s favourite table tipple is a young green variety called vinho verde, which is grown in the south. With its clean notes of citrus and green apple, I found it refreshing, especially in the hot weather. My partner, not so much. Never mind! In a land famous for more than 200 grape varieties there are many choices, including some very nice reds from the north.
Ginja de Óbidos, traditional sour cherry liqueur, is served in cups made of edible chocolate. Getty
Port is, of course, the tipple to try in Portugal. It originated in the rich Douro Valley near Porto in the north and there are many to sample. But so much has been written on it that I want to point you instead towards a really delicious find. Look out for ginjinha (or ginja).This sweet liqueur is widely available and made from morello (sour) cherries soaked in a distilled spirit called aguardente. Incredibly, it comes in a little nip-sized chocolate cup you can demolish at the end (you can also get it in regular cups). I got a little obsessed. The small bottle is really decorative too. Bring some home for your friends.
Books | LX Factory is packed with interesting shops to stroll through, but we came for Ler Devagar (‘Read Slowly), a bookshop over two levels stacked with more than 50,000 books. It’s an exciting destination, with plenty of tables to hang out, plus a small café. There’s also an impressive jazz vinyl store on level one. I picked up a little-known Brubeck LP and mailed it home. Come and lose yourself here for hours.
Recharge | Time to rest and recuperate in Jardim do Príncipe Real. This garden, surrounded by colourful 19th-century mansions, turned out to be one of my favourite places for a chilled-out coffee and music, while seated under some remarkable trees, including a hundred-year-old cedar that sweeps out like a wide, welcoming umbrella. You’ll find the district of Príncipe Real just north of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, essentially an extension of Bairro Alto.
Stay | A snooze before dinner. We stayed at the elegant but affordable Le Consulat Hôtel, the grand former home of the Brazilian Consulate, now a boutique hotel with 18 spacious apartments and suites. Opposite is Praça Luís de Camões, a tiny roundabout park where musicians busk and locals bustle beneath a statue of the titular 16th-century poet.
A spacious guest suite at Le Consulat Hôtel. 
Dinner | The Portuguese love seafood. Cervejaria Ramiro is an unassuming restaurant bursting with charm that has been serving impressive seafood and cold beer (or vinho verde) to enthusiastic diners since the 1950s. A recommendation from the late Anthony Bourdain means the queues may be a little longer these days, but grab a ticket. It’s worth the wait. Try the clams in garlic sauce, the huge prawns, scampi and crab. And try the molho de limão, a delicious sauce of butter, lemon and a touch of piri-piri.
Nightlife | Still have energy? If you stay like we did, around Bairro Alto, you’re in luck – you’re already a hop, skip and drink away from the fun. Residents and tourists alike slip in and out of the small bars that dot the area. A few have rooftop bars. Try Galeria Zé dos Bois or The Insólito. Want to dance? Head to the nearby Pink Street – you can’t miss it (clue: it’s pink, and covered with colourful umbrellas). Try the gorgeous retro-style Roterdão Club, or hunt out live jazz and bands, or nightclubs. It’s all here.
Me, I’m off to bed.
A yellow tram trundles along a narrow city street. Getty
Getting about | If you are in Lisbon for a short time, ditch Uber and take local transport. The city’s metro is fast, safe and inexpensive. There are also two types of trams: the historic ‘Remodelado’ trams (little yellow single cars that rattle through popular tourist areas) or the modern Siemens ‘Articulado’ trams.
Access | Grab the Lisboa Card. Travel gratis and enjoy free access to Lisbon’s most popular museums and attractions such as Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, Royal Treasure Museum, the National Palace of Ajuda, and the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum). The latter is breathtaking; be sure not to miss it. Includes free transport by metro to and from the airport.
Accommodation | Le Consulat Hôtel costs from $210 a night. Or you could opt for a night at the Four Seasons Ritz (for the price of seven at Le Consulat).
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Jeff AllanArt directorJeff Allan is art director for The Australian Financial Review. Email Jeff at