Visiting the luminous city of Lisbon soon? Here’s a good way to spend an easy-going yet utterly memorable day in this historic location.
Museo Nacional do Azulejo
Slightly off the beaten track but very much worth the shortish bus or Uber ride to get to its bougainvillea-framed door is Portugal’s National Museum of Tiles. Unless you come here directly from the airport and have entirely ignored Pinterest in the run-up to your trip to Lisbon, you’ll have already noticed that the city is a total treat for anyone who admires pattered wall tiles. The exteriors of many, many of the buildings here are covered with colourful tiles that sport a multiplicity of designs – so it will come as no surprise to learn at the museum that the tradition of decorating with tiles in Portugal dates right back to the 1400s.
The museum is set in an old convent (lovers of lavish gilding will want to spend quite a bit of time ogling the deconsecrated old convent church) and is a cool and generally fairly calm place to while away a few hours on a hot Lisbon day. Special highlights include the Lisbon panorama, which is made from blue and white tiles and depicts Lisbon pre-1755 (when a terrible earthquake destroyed much of the city) as well as some lovely twentieth-century designs.
The permanent exhibition takes the form of an accessibly curated walk-through of the past five centuries of Portuguese tile making, so it’s also rather good to discover the in-house café and its delightful leafy courtyard at the end of your self-guided tour. There’s a gift shop too, but bear in mind that in classic local fashion, it closes over lunchtime – so buck tradition and make your purchases before visiting the museum itself if you arrive mid-morning and anticipate that you’ll be re-emerging from the exhibition spaces after midday.
Serving up delicious Peruvian food and drinks in a casual yet super-stylish space is Cantina Peruana – one of several great eating spots housed within Portuguese celebrity chef José Avillez’s new Bairro do Avillez in the hip neighbourhood of Chiado.
The restaurant was created in partnership with noted Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz (Muñoz and Avillez once worked together in the kitchen at El Bulli…) and is run by chef Yuri Herrera – who used to be sous chef at Astrid & Gastón in Lima – on a day-to-day basis. Try as many of the Peruvian small-plate dishes as you can, especially the delectable ceviches: both the Ceviche Clásico, with cubed white fish ‘cooked’ in a classic ‘tiger’s milk’ sauce made of fresh lime juice, salt and chilli, and the Ceviche Nikkei (tuna with sesame and shredded nori) are amazing.
A dish called Aeropuerto Capon – a rich fried rice with chicken, covered with an impressively delicate egg tortilla – reflects the Chinese influence on Peruvian cooking and is excellent too. The Pisco cocktails are also exceptional; if you’d prefer something a trifle lighter in alcohol, they make a perfect Porto Tónico (made with dry white local Port and tonic) here as well.
A Vida Portuguesa
An absolute must-visit when in Lisbon (or Porto for that matter) is A Vida Portuguesa, a unique and inspiring store that stocks a beautifully curated selection of classic Portuguese products and brands. From perfectly retro tins of preserved fish to locally made wool blankets, hand-embroidered linens, iconic beauty products by the likes of Claus Porto and charming handmade ceramics in the traditional style by Fábrica Sant’Anna , it’s all here – and it’s all simply gorgeous. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the world’s most authentic – and heartwarming – places to shop for genuinely local, mostly handmade souvenirs and gifts, and the big shopping conundrum to contend with here is always going to be restraining yourself from maxing out your credit card completely.
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