Nos Alive is coming up and alongside festival jam packed full of incredible acts, Lisbon has a lot to offer. So here’s our guide to the city.
On Wednesday we fly to Lisbon, and to NOS Alive. We’re very excited about the festival: we’re going to see SOPHIE, Perfume Genius, Wolf Alice, Japandroids and tons more. But we’ve been to festivals before, we know what to expect from a festival. What we don’t know much about is Lisbon and given that NOS Alive starts in the evening, we’re going to have lots of time to soak up the city. Thankfully our man in Portugal, Tim Brown, is on hand to guide us through all the big questions we ask when we go to a new city, starting with the most important question of them all…
We love a funicular. Is there a funicular in Lisbon?
Tim: I don’t know the actual Oxford Dictionary definition of funicular, but Lisbon is known for its trams. There are a few of those that just go up and down a steep hill. That’s a funicular, right? The most well-known one is at Bica, and takes you up from Rua da Boavista (where you’ll also find the city’s best tacos at Pistola y Corazon) towards Bairro Alto.
What the best tall building to go up to get a great view of the city.
Tim: There’s the big Elevador de Santa Justa, which is a proper tourist trap. It’s good, but you’ll have to queue. If you want my advice, skip that and head to one of the cities numerous miradouros instead. The best view is probably in the Graça area at Nossa Senhora do Monte belvedere, but there’s a nice hidden one called do Monte Agudo that is worth checking out, as is Santa Catarina, which always has plenty of live music, a relaxed atmosphere and is very popular with locals.
We land on Wednesday. There’s a World Cup semi-final. Where’s going to be the most fun place to watch it? We’re thinking big outdoor places with lots of people.
Tim: There’s a fan zone in Praça Comércio, which is the huge square right on the river, in the middle of town. It does get busy, and the queues for beer are long. However, it is a great sun trap, and you can take your own drinks in. A little tip though. There aren’t enough toilets. Head over to the ‘Sexiest Toilet in the World’ in the corner of the square. It’s not actually that sexy, but well worth the €1 to not wait for 30 minutes.
We hear a lot about pasta del nata, and everyone says go to Pastéis de Belém or Manteigaria – so we guess we’re okay for them. So, what other local food should we be trying, and where should we be trying it? Probably savoury, more than sweet. We like sandwiches.
Tim: Fish. Everybody talks about Ramiro, but there’s an even better one just down the road called A Marisqueira do Lis. The shellfish is amazing, as is the toasted bread. For sandwiches, you’ve got your pregos and you bifana. The former is a steak sandwich, often eaten as a dessert after fish (man, I love this country). I am very much camp bifana though. A bifana consists of pork, soaked in wine and various other stuff for 24 hours, and then served in a bun. The traditional way to eat them is with cheap mustard. They’re great. The best places are Tasca Pomb’alina on Rossio Square and O Trevo. Eat one standing at the bar, with a Super Bock.
We are English people abroad and we are creatures of habit. Can you please recommend places for these 3 most important meals: a) breakfast and good coffee b) the best pizza around c) the pick of the burgers.
Tim: It goes without saying that you should avoid anywhere advertising a Full English breakfast, but there are plenty of places for some excellent avocado on toast and a good coffee. Hello, Kristof (that’s one place, with an annoying comma), Heim, Copenhagen Coffee Lab… Also check out Fabrica Coffee Roasters, which is where I buy my coffee from. Actually, they do a good chicken sandwich too. And it is next to another funicular.
If you want a good Neapolitan pizza, Mercantina can’t be beaten. It looks like a Frankie and Benny’s when you walk in, but their Margherita DOP is the best in the city. Casanova is also fantastic, albeit not quite so traditionally Italian.
Ground Burger, which as well as its place near São Sebastião now has a pop up at the Time Out Market, is the best by a mile. To put it in context somewhat, if Ground Burger were in London, it would be top five. Go for their signature Ground Burger (which if you’re following the golden rule of always choosing the signature or a simple cheeseburger on first visit you would anyway), and choose from a truly huge selection of craft beers.
There are few better feelings than looking over a city, as the sun sets, with a drink in your hand – what are the best rooftop bars we should be heading to?
Tim: Park, which is basically Peckham’s Franks but in Lisbon, is the one that everybody talks about. It has got busier and busier over the last couple of years, and is unfortunately turning into somewhere to be seen now. Check out Topo Terraco at Martim Moniz, or head over to LX Factory and Rio Maravilha instead.
We don’t always want to look like tourists though, so where should we be drinking with Lisbon locals? We’re thinking cool little bars where all the drinks are, like, €1.
Tim: Casa Independente remains the best bar in Lisbon. It doesn’t look like a bar from the outside, but head to Intendente Square and the green door at number 45. Up one flight of stairs and you’re there. Beers are €2 though I’m afraid, which is actually on the high end for Lisbon. It attracts a local and youthful crowd though. If you want a beer for €1, and you like your locals 60+ and grumpy, which is exactly how I like my locals, any of the little pastelarias you pass are perfect. The real tip is to always order a small beer – Imperial. If you order a large beer, firstly you’ll be instantly tagged as a tourist, and secondly, when drinking a small beer, you’ll always have a cold beer.
Is there one tourist attraction or Lisbon tradition (other than a funicular) that we shouldn’t miss out on?
Tim: I love Belem in general. If you’ve got time, walking along the river from the centre to Belem is a very nice way to spend two hours. You can pop into the MAAT on the way, or just walk up onto the roof for an instant 100+ Instagram likes photo, and then head to the city’s best museum – Museu Coleção Berardo. It has a very impressive modern art collection, and is nicely put together.
Are there any record shops in Lisbon you can recommend?
Tim: There are quite a few for second hand records. Crew Hassan, which is also a bar that’s open until late, and Louie Louie are two that spring to mind. To find some hidden gems though, get the Metro to Oriente station and you’ll find this big book and record stall in the middle.
Does Lisbon dance late into the night? If so, where should we be heading when the headliners at the festival are done? What kinds of clubs are out there?
Tim: Pink Street and generally the area around Cais de Sodre is the place to head. The clubs there aren’t going to win any awards, but they’re always lively and don’t overcharge. Lisbon is also the home of John Malkovich’s Lux Fragil. With three rooms, including a rooftop, there’s something for everybody. A couple of warnings though. Don’t bother getting there before 2am, and be prepared to pay whatever the doormen decide you should pay to get in – although you do get it back in drinks.
Okay, about the actual festival? Have you ever been to NOS Alive? If so. what can you tell us about the festival?
Tim: I haven’t actually been. Partly due to the fact that it sells out very quickly… It’s got a great reputation though, and locals as well as people from all over Europe love it. It always attracts a very good lineup of bands, too.
Are there any local (or Portuguese) acts playing the festival that we might not know and should be checking out?
Tim: Orelha Negra are a must-see. Primarily instrumental, there’s bits of hip-hop to them but they aren’t particularly easy to put into any genre. Rastronaut + Akacorleone will be well worth checking out. The former is a DJ and the latter an artist. They’ll put on a really good show. Cachupa Psicadélica is theoretically from Cape Verde, but that’s very Portuguese so I’m going to count him. He’ll be very nice to watch while sitting in the sun. Obviously see Lao Ra as well. I know she’s Colombian, but that’s a Latin country and so is Portugal, so I’m claiming her.
Thanks so much Tim, any other tips while we’re here?
Tim: If you’re still in Lisbon on Sunday, and need somewhere to relax, head for OutJazz. It’s a weekly, free outdoor event every Sunday throughout Summer. In July they’re set up in Parque Eduardo VII, near Marques Pombal metro station. Despite the name, it isn’t all jazz. In fact, they tend to start with one or two semi-jazz type acts and then it’s DJs. There’s beer and food stands, or you can take your own. It’s all very chilled and a nice way to end the weekend.