The locals' guide to...Lisbon

Portugal plus holiday equals Algarve, right? For most people yes. If you'd rather avoid most people though, head for Lisbon, where you'll find a peaceful Portuguese gem...


How do I get away from large tour groups wearing matching caps?

You may feel as though something is missing when you hit the streets of Lisbon. "Why don't I keep bumping into people wearing bum bags?" you may ask, or, "Call yourself a tourist hotspot? Where are all the Brits on cheap holidays to Lisbon eating Sunday roast and watching the Premier League?" That's because Lisbon is mercifully short on visitors. Set foot outside the main squares and streets of the shopping district Baixa and you'll have a mass of winding alleyways and cobbled streets all to yourself. Once you've explored those join the city's cool kids in the bars of Santo Amaro dock to unwind.

Where do the locals party?

If you're not in Bairro Alto once the moon is up you'll just have to hand back your membership of the We Know Where It's At Club, get your jacket and go home in shame. It's the place to be, where the locals go to drink, eat and hang. For those in need of a dance, Lux, right on the waterfront by the old dock, is as stunning a venue as you could ever hope to party in. It's a converted dock building with high ceilings, a glass front overlooking the bay and arty moving projections on the huge, white interior walls, where you can break out your best moves until 6am before staggering back to your hotel.

Restaurants without an 'all-you-can-eat tourist buffet'?

Foodies may not have Lisbon at the top of their "cities to stuff your face in" list but there are some fine bites to be had and the prices will have you salivating like a dog at a barbecue. A jaw-droppingly delicious meal in one of Lisbon's finest restaurants will set you back about two thirds of the price of an equivalent meal in London. Terreiro do Paço is a favourite among the food-loving Portuguese for its modern authentic fare set in one of the capital's most spectacular squares of the same name.

tip The locals' absolutely secret number one tip : Though not at the top of the list of someone on a cheap holiday to Lisbon, Pap'Açorda is the place to see and be seen either for dinner (the signature dish “Açorda” - stew - is incomparable) in the chandelier-clad restaurant or for drinks at the bar.

A quick guide to where the locals hang out


The beach : Just south of the city is Costa da Caparica, which consists of 19 lovely, sandy beaches, with a tiny railway that runs the length of them dropping off sun-worshippers as it goes. Unspoilt, rugged bliss.

The gallery: If you're not put off by large swathes of what some would call “brown paintings” then the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga with its rich ensemble of sculptures, textiles, metalwork and paintings by the likes of Alfonso and Fernandes will hit the culture spot.

The cocktail : With the historical links that Lisbon enjoys with Rio de Janeiro, the Caipirinha made with rum, sugar and lime is always a safe (though at times dangerous if you're planning on finding your lisbon hotel) bet. Try quaffing a couple at Cinco Lounge on Rua Ruben A. Leitão.

The museum: The Museu do Azulejo, which houses the country's finest collection of tile mosaics, may not sound like the sexiest of museums, but the beauty and craftsmanship of what's on offer will wow even the most jaded of tourists.

The view: Have lunch at the Castelo de São Jorge and bask in the panoramic city-wide vistas.

The trip: No holiday in Lisbon is complete without a day spent at the historic 16th century parish of Belém with its stunning tower and monastery.

The shops : Trot round Baixa and any item of clothing, from designer to vintage to high street can be snapped up, often at reasonable prices.

The spa: The Four Seasons Ritz Hotel is pure pampering heaven - if you can have a few Euros to spare.

Why not try? Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon


Lux, Avenida Infante D. Henrique, Armazém A, Cais da Pedra a Santa Apolónia, +351 21 8820890,; Terreiro do Paço, Praça do Comércio, Lisboa Welcome Center, +351 210 312850,; Pap'Açorda, Rua da Atalaia 57-59, +351 21 3464811; Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Rua das Janelas Verdes 95, +351 21 3912800,; Cinco Lounge, Rua Ruben A. Leitão 17 A, Príncipe Real, +351 21 3424033,; Museu do Azulejo, Rua Madre de Deus 4, +351 21 8100340,; Belém, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Praça do Império, +351 21 3620034,; Ritz Bar, Four Seasons Ritz Hotel, Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca 88, +351 21 3811400,; Britania Hotel, Rua Rodrigues Sampaio 17;

hotels - already got ideas where you would like to go?

Can I drink the water?

The eight essential questions you'll need answering

Which local animal is likely to hospitalise me?

The Montpellier snake can inflict serious pain with its venomous bites. It resembles a cobra but with a trademark white belly. Not too many around, though, so don't let it spoil your Lisbon city break.

Which native liquor will make me think I am attractive?

Portugal is most famous for Port, but given how beautiful the Portuguese are, only a skinful of the stuff would delude you to that extent.

How can I avoid a beating by the local hard nuts?

Every summer Portugal suffers from terrible forest fires. If you take a trip into the countryside don't drop a cigarette or leave glass lying around, if they find out you started an inferno you'll definitely feel the heat.

Will I get lost?

Probably, as there are so many windy streets, but with it being very hilly you can soon get your bearings. Try using the Castle of São Jorge as a beacon.

Will I find myself?

No. There's none of that new-age nonsense in Lisbon, just beautiful architecture, great food, deserted beaches and non tourist-weary locals.

Should I take an umbrella?

Nah, not unless you want to use it as a parasol and actively want look like a Victorian lady.

What should I order in a restaurant to impress the locals?

With so few tourists speaking any Portuguese, simply order anything in the language and you'll gain brownie points. Try getting your tongue around Caldeirada, a seafood stew with potatoes and onion.

Can I drink the water?

Yes, but if you are someone who regularly gets sick on holidays, it might be wise to stick to bottled water, and avoid the ice cubes.

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