It’s true: It does seem like everyone on your social media feed has now captured and posted about the rich cultural offerings and peerless beauty of the Portuguese capital. But whether you’ve been or not, this summer is a great time to visit Lisbon thanks to a spate of experiences that will elevate your stay. Plus, new nonstop flights from TAP Air Portugal make getting to Lisboa (that’s leezh-boa, if you want to sound like a local) easier than ever from most corners of the United States. The national carrier’s U.S. footprint is skyrocketing this summer; it inaugurated connections from Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., on its new Airbus A330neo, bringing its total number of U.S. hubs to seven (it started 2016 with only two). So at this point, no excuses—go discover your inner Lusophile.
Following a 15-month top-to-bottom refurbishment that was finalized this May with the completion of the rooftop bar, the midcentury modern–inspired Vintage Hotel & Spa brings a glamorous hotel option in a residential pocket between Avenida da Liberdade and Principe Real. Throwback style is layered with eye-catching accents, like bar carts in all 56 rooms, stocked with a complimentary DIY gin and tonic kit; area rugs in a patchwork of colors; murals and neon installations designed by Quiet Studios; and ceramics by artisans from all over the country. João Silva, who used to cook at Michelin-starred São Gabriel in the Algarve region of southern Portugal, oversees the farm-to-table kitchen at the street-level Blue Restaurant.
The One Palácio da Anunciada, a 16th-century palace converted into an 83-room hotel surrounded by a 27,000 square-foot garden, has just opened near Avenida da Liberdade. In addition to the sprawling greenery, there are three restaurants, a spa that uses Natura Bissé skincare products, and a rooftop pool with Balinese daybeds. Inside, the property offers a tale of two spaces: While communal areas feature palatial opulence (stained-glass windows, marble floors, and the building’s original baroque ceilings), guest rooms follow a more pared-down aesthetic. Blond wood panels and a muted color palette of white and gray are punched up with bright, artsy plates decorating the headboards and modern furnishings throughout.
In late July, one of the mainstays of Lisbon’s hotel scene, the Bairro Alto Hotel, one of the few luxury boutique hotels in the city when it first opened in 2007, reopens following a 20-month renovation that included the addition of 32 new rooms and suites. Renowned homegrown chef Nuno Mendes, who built his name in London with projects like Chiltern Firehouse, has returned to Lisbon to oversee the property’s five different restaurants.
The dining scene in Lisbon has never been stronger. It seems like every week sees discerning locals clamoring after another buzzy opening. Here are five to try this summer.
- In the Alcantara neighborhood, Ducasse-trained chef André Fernandes’s Attla is a foodie two-fer: It features chic decor as well as an exciting menu influenced by Fernandes’s travels. “Portuguese-when-possible” is not enough—Fernandes insists on only using Portuguese ingredients. The menu includes delicious selections like a plate of grilled young onions and cod, tripe with a hazelnut chimichurri sauce, or a whole squid soaked in a curry made of squid ink.
- Argentina-born, Asian food–enthusiast chef Estanis Carenzo has opened two Portuguese-Asian restaurants in the heart of the Chiado district: Rei de China, for street-food-inspired fare, and Casa dos Prazeres, a discreet fine-dining space tucked behind Rei da China. Here, Carenzo marries Portugal and Asia with dishes like pork curry spiked with madeira and an appetizer of charcoal-roasted eggplant layered with smoked cod.
- On the rooftop of Altis Avenida Hotel, chef João Rodrigues of Michelin-starred Feitoria in Belém just unveiled Rossio Gastrobar, a stylish hangout with views of downtown Lisbon’s terra-cotta roofs. Mix-and-match from a medley of haute cuisine and comfort food: a bowl of rice crowned with a delicate sliver of Carabinero prawn, Arouquesa beef tartare topped with caviar, and katsu sando stuffed with breaded Iberico pork cutlet.
- José Júlio Mendes Vintém, chef at Restaurant Tomba Lobos in Portalegre, has landed in the capital with Picamiolos, where he champions a nose-to-tail cuisine like that of the rustic Alentejo region. The menu at this two-story restaurant is best approached with a sense of adventure. Get ready for such dishes as lard chunks drizzled with thyme and lemon juice, lamb sweetbreads loaded with garlic, and grilled pig ears served with fava beans.
- Right next to São Jorge Castle is a teeny-tiny dining room from French chef Philippe Gelfi called Grenache. Gelfi plates exquisite pork terrine with pickled cauliflower and a tumeric sauce. The beef tartare is accompanied by oysters and a passion fruit dressing and served alongside a salad of bok choy and turnip.
See an unauthorized Banksy show
A survey of Banksy’s art—Banksy: Genius or Vandal?—is running at the Cordoaria Nacional through October 27. The exhibit, which has already traveled to Moscow and Madrid, features 70 pieces (from videos and installations to sculptures) from private collections, including an original print from the iconic Girl with Balloon series that Banksy started posting around London in 2002.
Find a music festival to suit your taste
As in so many places around the world, summer in Lisbon is lively with music festivals.
- In Cascais, 40 minutes by train from downtown, the EDP Cool Jazz series will be running from July 9 to 31. The lineups typically include local acts plus international stars. On July 10, Jessie J will headline; Jamie Cullum takes the stage 10 days later.
- The weekend of July 11, this year’s edition of Nos Alive, a Portuguese rock, indie, and alternative music festival hosted in Oireas (a 20-minute train ride from Lisbon), features Robyn, Vampire Weekend, and Thom Yorke.
- On September 14th, the second edition of Chefs on Fire descends on the coastal town of Estoril. (The fastest train connection from Lisbon usually gets you there in 30 minutes.) The €75 (US$84) ticket includes 10 dishes from top chefs (Alexandre Silva of Michelin-starred Loco and Kiko Martins of A Cevicheria, for example), who will be manning live cooking stations on the event grounds. There will also be performances from seven international musicians.
As tourism in Lisbon continues to grow, travel agencies and tour operators have updated their offerings with experiences that go beyond the beaten path, as well as ones that take a deeper look at well-visited sites that tourists may gloss over. First-time visitors can build out their Lisbon trip by taking a new Butterfield & Robinson itinerary that dives into the city’s medieval history and is guided by experts like a medieval manuscripts librarian from the National Library and the director of the national archives. Context Travel’s walking tour of the narrow, steep streets of the city’s Alfama neighborhood makes some sense of the quarter’s complicated and fascinating history. These private tours, led by architectural engineers and historians, provide a unique perspective on an area that has been gathering stories since Phoenicians sailed up the Tagus River.
>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Lisbon Travel Guide