Only in Lisbon

Lisbon has a soul, and its name is ‘fado’. Fado, or ‘fate’ is the theme of Lisbon’s plaintive songs, born on the street and elevated to the status of art by fadistas like Amália Rodrigues. An evening of fado features a singer and two guitarists; in the most traditional setting, these artists will also have served the dinner (and possibly cooked it too). When dinner is over, the announcement is made” “Silencio que se vai cantar o fado”..Silence, because Fado is about to be sung’. After that you may sip your wine but not eat, and especially not talk, while the singer pours her heart out.

For an authentic fado evening, a popular recommendation is Sr Fado in the Alfama. The hosts are Duarte Santos and Ana Marina who offer homemade ‘rustic Portuguese’ food cooked by Ana – after which Ana sings, Duarte, who will probably have been your waiter, is joined by another guitarist and the guests experience an evening to remember. The cosy room seats about 25 persons. Reservations are essential. Fado evenings are Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Fado was recognised by UNESCO in 2011 as an ‘intangible cultural heritage’. Learn more about fado and its most celebrated exponents at a museum dedicated to the art. The Museum of Fado is a good place to start or finish a walk in the hilly, picturesque streets of the Alfama.

It’s safe to say that only in Lisbon can you go to sea in a tiled boat, the Trafaria Praia. A decommissioned ferry, repurposed into a floating work of art by Joana Vasconcelos, it was Portugal’s entry in the Venice Biennnale in 2013. Hand-painted tiles – a 21st century panorama of Lisbon – cover the hull while below deck there’s a surrealistic installation of fairy lights and blue fabric to explore. If you’d simply like to visit the ferry at its dock at Cais de Sodre, it’s open on Mondays; to combine a visit with a one hour river cruise, hours are Tuesday to Sunday with departures at 10.30, 14.30 and 16.30. Reserve on the website:

A ride on the vintage No 28 trolley is one of the most popular ways of seeing Lisbon, the Alfama in particular, without the challenge of climbing its steep streets. In fact, you may find it a touch too popular as it’s often full to bursting. Consider Tram 12 instead; this route to is also served by pre-war Remodelado trolleys, covers a shorter distance – four km from Baixa to Alfama in 20 minutes – and is significantly less crowded. On either route, be careful of pickpockets. Trams, called eléctricos in Portuguese, operate from 08.00 until 20.45h.


The project for developing the archaeological site at Lisbon’s São Jorge Castle as a museum won the Piranesi Prix de Rome 2010 International Prize for architect João Luís Carrilho da Graça. His ultra-elegant structure encloses and exhibits a portion of the dig on the site of Lisbon’s first known human settlement. The extensive archaeological excavations on the top of Lisbon’s highest hill began in 1996. Remnants of successive periods of inhabitation – Iron Age settlement, Mediaeval Muslim occupation and a Fifteenth Century Palace – were uncovered; the most significant artefacts are exhibited in the castle’s museum. Free tours of the archeological site include entry to the Muslim houses. No need to book, just wait at the site for the museology assistant.. Museum website:


If you think the artwork on the tile wall of the Botto Machado Garden looks like graffiti, you’d be right. The 52,738 hand painted tiles which make up the mural are the work of the Portuguese-French artist Andre Saraiva who won his street creds in the 1990s, painting graffiti in Paris. His work, tagged with a top-hatted stick figure known as ‘Mr. A’ , showed up on postboxes, windows and abandoned buildings; now the artist’s work is featured in museums and galleries around the world. Lisbon’s 188 metre long mural, the initiative of Lisbon City Council and MUDE (Design and Fashion museum), was inaugurated in October 2016,. The design represents Saraiva’s imaginary Lisbon rendered in optimistically bright colours. The mural is near Flea Market Square, Campo de Santa Clara.

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