Lisbon like a local: The best of old and new in Portugal's hipster capital
Short breaks in Europe
Is Portugal's capital too hip for its own good? Not if you mix old and new, says Lorraine Courtney.
Set the mood
I might overuse the word hipster, but Lisbon is a city that is totally hipstered, from top to bottom. Portugal's capital is a haven for fixie bikes, beards and some of the deepest V's on the continent.
Cafés and obscure bookstores line the cobbled streets; second-hand shops bustle with snappy dressers looking to up their vintage sock game. Throngs of people flock to the waterfront for flea markets and giant food bazaars during the summer.
With its artsy scene and abundance of quirky shops, Bairro Alto is basically the Brooklyn of central Lisbon; but the entire city is thronging with visitors bearing pleasantly baffled expressions that seem to say: "Who knew?"
Baixa's haberdasheries and fabric stores, like fur vendor Luis S Fernandes (Rua da Conceição 79), are cluttered with dusty old vintage treasures.
A Outra Face da Lua (R. Assunção 22, above) is a gem for retro finds like 1970s swimwear; ditto gentlemen's hat shop Chapelaria Azevedo Rua on Praça Dom Pedro IV (azevedorua.com).
Lisbon's fledgling fashion designers have started opening pop-up boutiques in the backstreets of boho Bairro Alto, too. Mao Mao (R. da Rosa 85), Agencia 117 (R. do Norte 117) and Fake Lisbon (R. do Norte 113) are all browse-worthy, although opening times are a loose concept. You'll get used to seeing the 'volta ja' (back soon) sign on the door.
Lisbon may be on the up, but there are enough abandoned buildings - and city-government visionaries - for artists like local hero Vhils and Brazilian twins Os Gémeos to make some of the world's finest urban art.
Otherwise, it's not often that you can get up close to original works by the likes of Picasso, Dalí, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko, but Joe Berardo's art collection at the Colecção Berardo (en.museuberardo.pt) allows you to do just that. The modern gallery is completely free, too.
The 19th-century Mercado da Ribeira has been completely overhauled. Half remains a traditional food market, with everything from regional cheeses to cuttlefish and clams. The other half is now a food hall with outlets from some of Portugal's top chefs. Yum!
Read more: The ultimate guide to Lisbon.
When in Lisbon you must eat tinned fish. Head to the 1930s Conserveira de Lisboa (conserveiradelisboa.pt) for tinned anchovies, octopus and, most awesome of all, sardines in lemon, packaged in dinky vintage tins. Alternatively, grab a midnight refuel from a ring-pull can at Sol e Pesca (solepesca.com), a fishing-tackle shop-turned-bar on the Cais do Sodré. Knock your inner hipster out with a local IPA.
You might want to give Fado, Portugal's very melancholic folk music, a miss. It has Unesco World Heritage status, but nothing kills a mood faster than being trapped in a restaurant listening to a fado singer in full remorse mode.
Get me there
Ryanair (ryanair.com) and Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) fly direct to Lisbon.
We stayed at Alma Lusa in downtown Baixa (almalusahotels.com). Prices at this very swanky hotel start at €89 per night, a fairly reasonable amount for its unique brand of utilitarian chic in the middle of town. Consider it suitable for young travellers who don't want to compromise on style and romantic trippers, too.
See visitlisboa.com and visitportugal.com for more.