48 hours in the Portuguese capital with Iberian Escapes is the perfect post-lockdown city break, says Gina Baksa.
You’ll need at least two weeks to cover a fraction of what Lisbon has to offer. But if, like me, you only have a whistle-stop 48 hours, you can still savour much that this intoxicating city has to offer. The Portuguese capital has enjoyed a renaissance in the last 10 years, and become a celebrity magnet with a corresponding boom in real estate development and price hikes. Yet despite the newbuilds and the gentrification, Lisbon has thankfully retained its shabby-chic charm that continues to attract visitors in their millions.
My trip was back in February and organised by Iberian Escapes, Portugal and Spain bespoke travel specialists, and was just before the lockdown. Portugal’s first Covid-19 case was announced two days after we arrived, and little did we know what was to come. The idea that the entire planet would soon be at a standstill was unimaginable that sunny afternoon, as we drove through Lisbon’s wide boulevards, along the Avenida da Liberdade and past the former Bullring into the unassuming Rua das Portas de Santo Antão.
But our hotel destination here was far from unassuming. In its former incarnation, The One Palácio da Anunciada Lisboa was a 16th-century place. Now, thanks to a refined restoration, it’s one of Lisbon’s most in-demand five-star luxury hotels and ideally located close to the capital’s main attractions. Part of the Spanish H10 Hotels group, their flagship One Paláciao da Anunciada boasts a regal entrance hall replete with majestically high ceilings, mosaics, chandeliers and a sweeping staircase.
It looked and felt positively medieval (without the drafts), with stunning attention to detail that enhanced the building’s noble and historic beauty, yet it offered luxurious comfort and thoroughly modern amenities. Guests have the choice of 83 rooms, including a selection of suites, plus a wine bar, cocktail lounge and restaurant. And there are several beautiful ground floor function rooms.
I headed into the snazzy circular O Jardim bar area that doubles as a breakfast buffet room, following the sunlight into the landscaped gardens and exterior bar. The outdoor pool with Balinese beds on the upper terrace looked inviting as I relaxed under the shade of a 100-year-old dragon tree.
My attic suite was a delight: imagine acres of space with capacious wardrobes, a bath and shower room divided by a sliding door from the main sleeping area. Contemporary luxury with a nod to Lisbon’s past, with tiles made exclusively for the hotel. It had a warm, neutral colour palette that was comforting and sophisticated.
Lisbon Cultural and Food Tour
If time is short, then I recommend booking a combined cultural and foodie tour. We joined the Roots, Food and Cultural tour with Taste of Lisboa food tours. Just a short walk from the hotel, we met our guide in the main square and headed to Manteigaria Silva on Rua Dom Antao de Almada. A Lisbon institution, the delicatessen has been serving the cognoscenti their favourite cheese, cold-pressed olive oil, wines, meats and bacalhau (dried salted codfish) since 1890. We marvelled at the hanging cured ham in the windows, alongside the tempting cheeses and wines in this enticing delicatessen, before savouring cornbread dipped in olive oil with pata negra cured ham and a delicious red Montedas Servas from Alentejano. Bacalhau is hugely popular here, often served with potatoes and eggs.
We had seven stops on our tour, which included Ze dos Cornos (for soup and cheese) and Tasca Os Amigos Da Severa for a fortifying ginjinha (sour and morello cherry liqueur). The surrounding area is the birthplace of Fado music and the legendary singer Maria Severa lived in a house nearby. Passing the vintage bars and cafes, I noticed that some houses still have their original exterior tiled walls, as we climbed the steep road to Jasmim da Mouraria with its artful display of sardines and other tinned fish, before enjoying samosas and beer outside at the Cantinho do Aziz.
We then tried codfish and cake with Green wine at O Buraco Snack on Rua Santa Justa. No trip to Lisbon would be complete without tasting the famous warm custard tarts. We watched the guys making it at Confeitaria Nacional on Praca da Figueira. Keeping punters happy since 1829, these concoctions are Portugal’s finest.
Lisbon Wine Tasting Experience
The experience continued with a spectacular tasting at the Lisbon Wine Tasting Experience, at Lisbon Winery where our extraordinarily well-informed female sommelier, not only taught us about the main winegrowing regions of Portugal, but equally gave us several superb wines and Ports to try, including a Vale do Homem green wine, a Casa Anadia, and a full-bodied Blackett port.
Portugal has 11 distinct wine-growing regions from Madeira to Porto and Douro, via Alentejo and the Algarve. To accompany the wines, we were given an assortment of soft cheeses, unctuously ripe that included Pico cheese from the mountains of the Azores, alongside bread and quince jam, and three distinct olive oils: I loved the Azeite de Moura.
We made our way back to The One Palácio da Anunciada Lisboa slowly, down and up cobbled-steep streets via the Ascensor da Bica historic lift, and squeezed past the tram on its way up the Largo das Portas do Sol. The 28E yellow historic tram takes in most of the Alfama area, including the Se Cathedral, and although packed, is worth the ride. A single ticket costs only €3. I’ve also heard this is a favourite pickpocket tram, so leave your valuables at home or take the 12 or 24 trams instead.