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The Urbanist’s Lisbon

Street art, fado after-parties, and nouveau cod.


Cyclists riding through a bustling square in Bairro Alto.  

Once the capital of a far-reaching empire stretching from South America to Asia, Lisbon now oversees a country burdened by fiscal woes and widespread unemployment (in fact, some Portuguese have gone, yet again, to seek their fortunes in Angola). But helped along by a spate of foreign as well as local investments, the city that was synonymous with faded grandeur is undergoing a bit of a face-lift: Its iconic riverside square, the Terreiro do Paço, was restored last summer, and renovations continue along the newly gussied-up Ribeira das Naus, the historic promenade on the Tagus River where ­Lisboans sunbathe and stroll away their weekend afternoons. The formerly seedy Cais do Sodré neighborhood has been transformed into a stylish hub where the young and hip dance until the wee hours at flophouses turned nightclubs. New boutique hotels are popping up left and right, and a slew of inventive, Michelin-starred restaurants have made Lisbon a culinary destination. Still, the hill-strewn city with endless water views remains a relative bargain compared with its Western European counterparts. Though none of this is a secret to tourists, it’s possible to encounter very few of them as you wander through the mosaic-tiled squares and twisty-turny cobblestone streets.


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