Nuno Lopes de Paula was born and raised in Lisbon. After studying tourism and working in the local tourism office, he went off to see the world, but his heart belongs to Portugal. He shows off his hometown pride as a spotter for the Lisbon edition of Spotted By Locals and keeps busy by playing with his (bluegrass!) band, Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti. As he says, “There’s a light in Lisbon [that] you must see for yourself.” Here are some insider recommendations to guide you on your way.

Lisbon is My City

Bairro Alto is known for its narrow-but-colorful streets. (Photograph by Carlos Mejía Greene, Flickr)

Bairro Alto is known for its narrow-but-colorful streets. (Photograph by Carlos Mejía Greene, Flickr)

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the Santa Justa Lift so they can get a glimpse of downtown Lisbon, the old quarters, and the Saint George Castle.

My city’s best museum is Calouste Gulbenkian because of its amazing exhibitions on ancient civilizations and Modern art. The contemporary building is located inside a fantastic garden in the city center and there’s even space for jazz concerts.

A Vida Portuguesa is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

You can see my city best from Miradouro da Graça, located near the Graça church.

Locals know to skip some overrated Fado restaurants and check out genuine old “tabernas” and small “tascas” instead.

In the past, notable people like Wim Wenders and William Beckford have called my city home.

Spring is the best time to visit my city because the sun is shining and the days are longer. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a stroll along the seaside.

Inside A Vida Portuguesa. (Photograph by Ricardo Amado, Flickr)

Inside A Vida Portuguesa. (Photograph by Ricardo Amado, Flickr)

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Belém gardens near the Tagus river. After a day at the gardens, you should try the famous custard pie, “pastél de Belém.”

My city really knows how to celebrate Saint Anthony’s Festival. The crowds in the streets, the smell of grilled sardines, the music, and the sangria combine to make this night in June the best night to enjoy Lisbon.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they eat grilled sardines using only their hands.

For a fancy night out, I go to Bairro Alto, grab a beer to go, and chat with some friends in the narrow streets.

Just outside my city, you can visit Sintra (it’s just a 20-minute drive away), a small historical village with the Moorish Castle, the Pena Palace, the National Palace, several museums, and a natural park. If you visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, take the route to the Roca Cape, the westernmost point of Continental Europe.

My city is known for having seven hills (as is Rome), but there are far more than that. You’ll notice this fact quickly as you walk Lisbon’s lovely streets.

The best outdoor market in my city is the one you’ll find on weekends at Principe Real.

Pastelaria Restelo (also known as “O Careca”) is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and a trailer emblazoned with “Bifanas” or “Pregos” near the river is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Agenda Cultural or check the Town Hall website.

My city’s biggest sports event is held near Belém at a place called Jamor – and I’m talking about football, of course. Watch it at the National Stadium.

Enjoy a warm Pastel de Belém. (Photograph by Jennifer Wu, Flickr)

Enjoy a warm Pastel de Belém. (Photograph by Jennifer Wu, Flickr)

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to the Martim Moniz area, buy some spices from the local shops, and invite my friends for a homemade hot curry dinner. Afterwards, we can all go to Monsanto Park for a nice walk.

To escape the crowds, don’t drive during rush hour on weekdays and always keep a safe distance from the shopping centers on weekends (especially from Colombo Shopping Center).

If my city were a celebrity it’d be David Bowie (partly because he’s the only celebrity I can imagine singing Fado). He has changed a lot, and been influenced by many people and trends, but always manages to be genuine.

The dish that represents my city best is Bacalhau à Brás (codfish served with scrambled eggs, onions, fried potatoes, parsley, and black olives), and grilled sardines.

Rossio Railway Station is my favorite building in town because it represents the Neo-Manueline style.

The most random thing about my city is that you can always find things that aren’t in the tour books. Sometimes you’ll find great restaurants behind the most touristy street and fantastic views in an old balcony from a private house.

Lisbon Coliseum is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Lux.

Wet undergarment hanging out to dry just over your head could only happen in my city.

Farther afield, you can visit the ancient town of Sintra. (Photograph by Pedro Szekely, Flickr)

Farther afield, you can visit the ancient town of Sintra. (Photograph by Pedro Szekely, Flickr)

In the spring you should explore the old quarters of Lisbon.

In the summer you should drink an ice-cold Capilé, a traditional Portuguese drink made with an old syrup.

In the fall you should explore the old shops and trendy cafes and buy a good book to read.

In the winter you should head to Gulbenkian Museum if it’s raining. But take a book with you; the cafe near the lake is amazing.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Oceanário, one of the biggest and beautiful aquariums in the world.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that the Metro will take you everywhere — except for the old quarters. If you like walking, it’s really the best way to explore the city.

The best book about my city is Biografia de Lisboa by Magda Pinheiro.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because the weather is always great, the food is excellent, and the people are helpful.

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Comments

  1. Lisbon Traveller
    Lisbon, Portugal
    October 22, 2013, 7:20 pm

    Great post Nuno.

    I really enjoy spottedbylocals and the guide that was developed for Lisbon. I make sure to buy it everytime I get a request for a new trip plan to my wonderful city. Lisbon is a great city for a quick get away from a busy schedule, a though month or a boring season. There’s plenty to do in Lisbon and the best is that you don’t even realise you’re a foreigner as Portuguese people are one of the most welcoming locals! Want help planning your trip? Give me a shout through http://www.lisbontraveller.com.

  2. Nuno
    Lisbon
    July 30, 2013, 5:29 am

    Check more Lisbon tips at http://www.spottedbylocals.com/lisbon/ and at http://getlostgolocal.wordpress.com/ :)
    Hope you enjoy!
    Don’t forget that Lisbon is still a cheap town and we have some of the best hostels in the world! Just do yourself a favour… instead of just the weekend, take one week so you still have time to explore Sintra and the outskirts…

  3. Srijana
    India
    July 15, 2013, 7:38 pm

    Your city sounds really interesting. Thanks for writing the post, i felt i was at those places while reading through it. Hope someday i will be able to make enough money to see the world.

  4. Elissa
    USA
    July 14, 2013, 10:35 pm

    One of my favorite experiences in Lisbon was taking the ferry across the Tagus. The ride gave wonderful views of Lisbon, and when we reached the other side we stopped in a restaurant right at the pier for a snack of green wine with shrimp and cod cakes.

    http://elissaexplores.com/?s=portugal