Word of Mouth: Lisbon
Word of Mouth: Lisbon
A bevy of new art, design and cultural enclaves embodying the Portuguese capital
by Ross Belfer
From ritzy new gin-focused resto-bars to a rebirth of artisanal Portuguese craftwork in its truest form, plus endless music, fashion and design, there's plenty to satisfy visitors to Lisbon. It’s safe to say the city is rebounding from the depths of economic despair. With help from local taste-makers—António Querido of SeaMe and Daniel Kisluk of Village Underground Lisboa, among others—we were led past tourist-heavy passages and into the purists’ Lisbon. Here, we round up some of the most innovative and inspiring haunts located within the Portuguese capital.
Lisbon’s historic (and oldest) Alfama district, miraculously unscathed by the devastating Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755, is known for its winding alleyways, ornate cathedrals and traditional Fado bars. After several turns down clandestine alleyways, we discovered Taberna Moderna, a vibing resto-bar offering an innovative take on traditional Portuguese fare and gin cocktails. Standout dishes include seared octopus cooked with lemon and olive oil, half-cured salmon with arugula and yogurt sauce with lemon and dill, and—our favorite—Ovos Rotos, a smorgasbord of hot potato chips, shrimp and baby eel smoothed in poached eggs. Align your senses with the simple yet refreshing gin-based cocktails made by Lisbonita, the restaurant’s in-house gin bar, which offers more than 80 varieties of the juniper-based liquor sourced from boutique purveyors from around the world.
A Vida Portuguesa
A boutique that pays homage to the products of traditional Portuguese designers and artisans, A Vida Portuguesa is a stunning, wooden-clad shop dedicated to the early 20th century zeitgeist of Portuguese purveyors. The meticulously designed and ornate wooden armoires and shelving displays are unlike any other locale we found in Lisbon. After nearly an hour spent reveling in the brightly lit, vintage insignia display cases, we settled on a reissued “A Caixa de Lápis Meninos com Gato,” a vintage pencil box case enshrined with 1950s images of boys and a cat playing in a field, as well as a ceramic sparrow made by Bordallo Pinheiro, an Emilio Braga notebook, and lastly, Alantoine’s citronella hand cream by Benamôr, first issued in 1928 and a rumored favorite of Queen Amelia Salazar.
Barbearia Campos Barbershop
A hot razor shave or haircut might not top the to-do list of every traveler, but walking past the century-old Barbearia Campos, it's hard to resist the charm of Lisbon’s oldest and most authentic barbershop, which sits in the exact location in Biaxa-Chiado Plaza since its original incarnation in 1868. The leather chairs, tiled floors, vintage insignia portraying haircut prototypes all add to the charm.
Outside of Lisbon’s compact center lies a sprawling collection of newly opened creative labs, design outposts and boutique shopping plazas, particularly in the gritty Alcântara neighborhood. One hotspot bringing the western Lisboan district out of economic despair is the industrial-chic LX Factory, an art, fashion and design complex housed in the city’s former textile production facility founded in 1846. Boasting stylish fashion, culture and culinary boutiques, it's a true entrepreneurial endeavor meant to garner new attention to this formerly overlooked neighborhood. Trusty local cultural ambassador Daniel Kisluk guided us through the design spot into Ler Devagar, a multi-level bookstore vending a diverse collection of multi-lingual design, art and culture works, as well as an open workspace, gallery and performance space. From there, we sifted through boutique Lisbonian design pieces and stationery at Wish Concept Store, capped off with an espresso and slice of homemade lemon and chocolate meringue pie at Café na Fábrica.
Having first opened its doors in Lisbon’s buzzing Cais do Sodre district in 2006, MusicBox has developed into an underground cultural landmarks, lauded for its unwavering commitment to hosting hard-pushing evenings headlined by local and international DJs and musical talent ranging from electronica, house and techno music to Kuduro, Afro-Caribbean and Cumbia genres. Pedro Azevedo, a fixture in the local DJ circuit known for his onstage antics, is one of the producers of all the international talent taking the stage every night of the week. And while Lisbon is emerging as a must-play for major acts from across the globe, the city’s local music scene and homegrown artists are impressive, from indie stalwarts Memoria de Peixe, Beautify Junkyards and Keep Razors Sharp to the Cape Verdean-inspired Cachupa Psicadélica. Musicbox further propels the city’s reputation as an epicenter for innovative sounds and where the party keeps going until well past sunrise.
Images by Ross Belfer