The best things to do when you have a spare hour or two in the city...
UNESCO World Heritage architecture, world-class dining, beautiful seafront vistas – Lisbon has it all. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to the Portuguese capital for work, then grab the opportunity by the horns. While on business in Lisbon there’s plenty to do between meetings and, best of all, everything is easily accessible. Despite being the largest city in Portugal, the coastal capital is still compact and has excellent transport networks, which means you can go from the boardroom to browsing the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, dining at Mercado da Ribeira or riding the Elevador da Glória in minutes. Here’s what to do when you’ve got an hour or two to kill between meetings.
Visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
If you visit one historical building during your trip, make sure it’s the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The striking monastery is a certified UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its perfectly preserved architecture, dating back to the 15th century. When admiring its high altars, towering stone columns and Manueline cloisters, look out for the gargoyles and fantastic beasts hiding in the upper shafts.
Take a walk through Alfama
If in need of some inspiration, take a walk through at Alfama – Lisbon’s most historic neighbourhood; while conquering its steep cobblestones streets, you’ll come across the ‘real’ Lisbon. Perfect for some early morning people watching, take a seat at a tourist-free backstreet café and soak up the morning’s hustle bustle over a bica (coffee).
Browse art at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Take a break from facts and figures by immersing your mind in art at the world-renowned Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. The museum is home to over 6,000 pieces collected by Calouste Gulbenkian, spanning myriad artistic mediums, centuries and regions. If you’re on limited time, make a beeline for famous pieces such as Paul Peter Ruben’s famous portrait of Helena Fourment, René Lalique’s Dragonfly brooch and Jean-Antoine Houdon’s marble statue of Diana.
Sample Portuguese delicacies at Mercado da Ribeira
The food of Portugal may be less famous than its Mediterranean neighbours, but it’s just as delicious. Seafood is prevalent as restaurants take advantage of the country’s abundant fish supply, and meat is also a big player, with hearty stews, casseroles and grills cropping up on most menus. As for desserts, the sweeter the better. With so many regional delights on offer and limited time to try them, sample many at once at the city’s biggest food market, Mercado da Ribeira.
Travel on the Elevador da Glória
For the best views over the city and coastline, head to the hilltop district of Bairro Alto. The quickest and easiest way to reach the summit is via the Elevador da Glória, departing from Baixa. In the same way San Francisco’s trams are attractions in their own right, this famous vertical funicular draws people from far and wide who are looking for a photo opportunity and an exciting route up the steep hill.
Treat yourself to dessert
On your way back to the office, grab yourself a pick-me-up in the form of a sugar-rich sweet treat from patisserie Antiga Confeitaria de Belem. Make sure you try their famous delicacy, Pastéis de Belém – a tempting baked pastry filled with custard and dusted with cinnamon.
Sample some Port
When in Portugal, the proper way to bring a working day to a close is with a glass of Port. If you’re a beginner, don’t fear – many taverns and bars host tasting sessions. If you find yourself in Bairro Alto, book a bespoke flight at Solar do Vinho do Porto, which stocks hundreds of the country’s best bottles. Back down the hill in Baixa, Garrafeira Nacional is the place to go to pick up vintage bottles up to 100 years old. Just remember to leave room in your suitcase to transport it all home.