As one of the oldest cities in Europe, Lisbon’s hills shelter layers of history and cultural contact, making it architecturally diverse and endlessly intriguing to explore. Art historian and travel writer, Hannah Kroes, shares an insider's guide for art and design lovers travelling to Lisbon.



Punctuated with delights: Lisbon, photographed by Miguel Flores-Vianna

Perched upon its famed seven hills, Lisbon is one of the most popular city break destinations in Europe. Its variety of architectural styles offers fresh surprises for art and design lovers, from ornate Manueline style buildings to colourful azulejos (tiles), and makes each neighbourhood feel unique. From impressive viewpoints to warm pasteis de nata (custard tarts) and beautiful artisan ceramics, a visit to Lisbon is continuously punctuated with delights. Here are my favourite places and spaces.


Where to Stay

Dear Lisbon - Palace Chiado Suites: The views here are unbeatable, looking out over Alfama, the cathedral, castle, and harbour. Art is integral to the historic interiors, from classic portraits to modern abstract pieces, and a luxurious breakfast is delivered to each room. Its central location makes many sites walkable.

Palacio Ramalhete: Embracing its 18th-century architecture with a traditional interior and antique aesthetic, virtually every room in this palace-turned-hotel features bands of azulejos. Its refreshing pool offers an oasis from the busy city centre.

Casa dell'Arte Club House: This small hotel is the perfect accommodation for lovers of art and architecture. Situated in a grand house in Alfama across the street from the Santa Clara Market, the facade is striking with its yellow and blue azulejos (tiles). The rooms are similarly bedecked with iconic Portuguese tiles paired with modern artworks, creating a quirky and striking contrast in the interior design.

Torel Palace Lisbon: This five-star hotel is spread between three buildings, two of which are 19th-century palaces. The terraced gardens look out over the city, and include a stylish pool. Torel Palace is particularly fitting for foodies, as it's home to the Michelin-starred 2Monkeys restaurant, which seats 12 diners around an open kitchen island.

Where to Eat

Taberna Sal Grosso: This cozy restaurant serves traditional Portuguese dishes with bags of flavor and warm service. Dishes range from octopus and cod croquettes to pork cheeks falling off the bone with bright tomatoes migas. Don’t miss dessert, their chocolate mousse is topped with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Book in advance.

Casa São Miguel: This charming pastry shop in Alfama, Old Town, has distinctive green shutters and an art nouveau aesthetic. Aside from their wonderful pasteis de nata, they also serve authentic Portuguese pastries in their small, historic dining room.

Marquise de Mobler: An all-day cafe best for brunch and delightful pastries (try the coconut bread). The well-designed interior is worth enjoying for a while too, with its green garden terrace and whitewashed walls filled with colorful ceramic vases. The modern antiques shop next door, Mobler, is open by appointment.

Magnolia Bistrot & Winebar: A beautiful small-plates restaurant and haven for wine-lovers, Magnolia delivers fresh and seasonal dishes. They are known for their desserts, and have one of the most eye-catching brunch menus in the city.


EmbaiXada: An ornate 19th-century palace turned department store © Hannah Kroes

Where to Shop 

Fiera de Ladra and Mercado de Santa Clara: The Fiera de Ladra is the flea market held in Alfama every Saturday and Tuesday. Stalls are spread in the area around the Pantheon, and the best treasures can be found at the Mercado de Santa Clara. The shops on the outside of the market hall boast antiques and fine linens, while inside more contemporary artisans sell handmade jewellery and soaps. My favorite ceramics shop in Lisbon, Campo Santa Clara Ceramicas, is just outside.

EmbaiXada: An ornate 19th-century palace turned department store, with each room hosting a different brand, from wool jumpers to designer dresses. An art gallery displays paintings lined around the atmospheric central restaurant.

LX Factory: This quirky warehouse conversion is home to dozens of independent shops, bars, and restaurants, including some of the best design stores I visited while in Lisbon. The cavernous bookstore, Ler Devagar, is one of the most iconic shops in LX Factory, complete with a charming cafe and record shop.

A Vida Portuguesa: This iconic shop delivers Portuguese design in all forms, from colourful tins of fish to embroidered textiles and copper kitchenware. The charming shop has a historic interior complete with a wraparound wooden counter and ladder to reach the highest shelves. The perfect place to find an authentic souvenir.

What to See & Do

The National Tile Museum: Housed in a monastery from the 16th-century, and including a spectacularly ornate chapel, the museum chronicles the history of Portugal’s famous azulejo tiles and how they have been designed throughout the ages. It offers a close look at the wide variety of azulejos. Don’t miss the remarkable panoramic tile map of Lisbon on the top floor, nor the tile-covered cafe.

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum: The architecture of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is mid-century modern, with textured concrete and smooth, horizontal lines. Inside, the small but incredible collection of art spans from ancient Greece to 19th-century France, by way of Persia and China. The gardens have a Japanese sensibility, and the modern art museum is being reconstructed by Kengo Kuma; it will open in September.


The National Tile Museum: Housed in a 16th century monastery and chronicling the history of Portugal’s famous azulejo tiles © Hannah Kroes

Jerónimos Monastery: Overwhelming in its beauty, the monastery's intricate carving, covering every inch of the cloister, exemplifies the Manueline style of architecture, which combined Gothic with influences from 16th-century Portuguese voyages.

Miradouros: You can’t visit Lisbon without enjoying one of the city’s 'miradouros', or viewpoints. The city offers dozens of vantage points over its seven hills, and my favourites are Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol, which are next to each other in Alfama. Santa Luzia’s views are framed with azulejos and a charming park, while Portas do Sol offers sweeping views towards the São Vicente church and monastery.




Hannah Kroes is a London-based art historian and travel writer | Follow Hannah on Instagram @art_distance

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