Lisbon may be booming with visitors this summer, but the compact Príncipe Real neighborhood is probably not on their radar.
While most tourists stick to the crowded Alfama district, a maze of narrow streets that make up the oldest part of the city, Príncipe Real sits high atop one of the Portuguese capital’s seven hills.
With no tram or metro stop, it requires a bit of perseverance to reach. Among locals, though, Príncipe Real is one of the capital city’s trendiest and most desirable nabes.
Crumbling aristocratic mansions and 19th-century palaces are slowly being redeveloped and now house chic boutiques, fashionable eateries and lively bars.
And with the arrival of its first five-star hotel last fall, the area is poised to become even more of a hot spot.
Here’s a road map to exploring the best the bairro has to offer.
Príncipe Real’s main drag, Rua Dom Pedro V, brims with hip, low-key restaurants; among the newest is Tapisco, which offers a modest but well-curated menu of classic Iberian specialties. The best seats in the long, narrow room are at the bar, with a view of the open kitchen which turns out a variety of petiscos (Portugal’s version of tapas), açordas (egg dishes) and famed Portuguese cod, marinated and served cold or heavily salted and roasted whole over coals. Hearty, flavor-packed stews come in individual pots: try the braised green pea option, brimming with chorizo and topped with a slow-cooked egg. Get there early for dinner — the popular spot doesn’t take reservations.
Ever since A Cevicheria opened in late 2014 on Rua Dom Pedro V, folks have been lining up for Chef Kiko Martins’ delicious, inventive interpretation of the iconic South American raw fish dish. Among the four ceviches, don’t miss the traditional puro — a seasonal white fish marinated in a spicy, citrusy “tiger milk” and accented with creamy mashed sweet potatoes. More adventurous is the tuna, with chunks of uber-fresh fish and dollops of foie gras in a crimson-colored beet sauce, topped with lychees and hazelnuts. Order a la carte or spring for the six-course tasting menu (around $45), which includes Portuguese-inflected dishes like cod with toasted corn and pork terrine. The small, no-reservation dining room fills up fast; enjoy a superior pisco sour at the tall tables outside while you wait.
What the steak sandwich is to America, the prego is to Portugal: sirloin steak slathered in butter and tucked inside a bolo do caco, a soft, flat, slightly sweet roll that hails from Madeira. O Prego Da Peixaria takes this humble sandwich to the next level, letting you customize yours by choosing the cut of beef — wagyu, rump or classic sirloin — and adding gourmet toppings. A favorite is the Yuppie, with basil mayo, cheddar cheese and pancetta. The airy two-room space, outfitted with rustic hardwood tables and plants galore, is a great spot to grab a filling lunch.
The terrace of Café Colonial, set in the new Memmo Príncipe Real hotel, opened in June. It’s quickly becoming a hot spot for evening cocktails, thanks to its jaw-dropping views of the city. Perfect on a warm summer night is the Gin Garden, a mojito-like concoction of gin, lemon juice, egg white and mint. At sunset, try the aptly named Golden Hour: vodka and pineapple with a spicy dash of cardamom. The small-bites menu includes salmon tacos with avocado and croquettes of shrimp or oxtail. Thursday through Saturday, a DJ sets up next to the pool and spins world music and chill-out tunes. (Sadly, that party is only open to hotel guests.)
Set in the intricately tiled courtyard of the uniquely beautiful mall Embaixada, Gin Lovers stocks around 60 brands of the distilled spirit, including lesser-known, locally crafted varieties like PukkaGin, flavored with hibiscus, ginger and orange. The cocktail menu is dedicated solely to G&Ts, but here bartenders use only upscale gins and tonic waters; Portuguese-made Mui gin mixed with Schweppes hibiscus is particularly refreshing. Bonus: Pick up some bottles to take back home.
Also on Rua Dom Pedro V, Chinese Pavilion Bar has been around since the mid-’80s, but still draws crowds thanks to its quirky décor: five rooms filled with old toys, military artifacts, antique dolls and vintage posters. The multi-page cocktail menu features mainly classics like the Rob Roy, Rusty Nail and whiskey sour; enjoy while soaking in the museum-like atmosphere. Don’t miss the billiard room, which has hundreds of soldier figurines lining the walls.
It’s perhaps the most beautiful place you’ll ever shop: Embaixada is a former 19th-century Arabian-style palace turned shopping center, whose interior boasts richly paneled ceilings, marble columns, a grand staircase and towering Moorish arches. Its two stories of pop-up concept stores sell mainly Portuguese-made products, from clothing to furniture to beauty products. Select beautifully wrapped luxury soaps at Castelbel, stock up on all-natural cosmetics at Organii and browse the eco-friendly furniture designs at Boa Safra. UOY specializes in men’s shirts, ties, jackets and suits — all tailored in Portugal using high-end Italian fabrics — while Urze sells locally knit wool sweaters and scarves, linen totes and impossibly soft patterned blankets.
Outside the mall, high-end boutique Espaço B is a go-to spot for sophisticated, minimalist clothing and accessories for men and women. Both established and cutting-edge international brands are represented, including Comme des Garçons, Sofie D’Hoore, Claudio Cutuli, Annette Görtz and Adidas Y-3. Also look for chic sunglasses from Belgian brand Komono, space-age sandals from Berlin-based Trippen and bold pieces from Milan jewelry designer Maria Calderara.
The heart of the neighborhood is Jardín del Príncipe Real, a tranquil patch of green where locals gather to relax on benches beneath its famous centuries-old cedar tree, whose branches span some 65 feet. A bright pink kiosk serves coffee and snacks — the perfect place to fuel up before checking out the Saturday organic farmers market. Also on Saturdays, two 30-minute guided tours (at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) are offered of the 18th-century aqueduct that runs beneath the city; head to the center of the park and look for the sign that reads “Reservatorio da Patriarcal.” Advance reservations are required (e-mail email@example.com).
Reached via a passageway off Rua Dom Pedro V, the five-star Memmo Príncipe Real hotel opened last fall in a sleek white concrete building that seems to rise out of the hillside. The newest in a Portuguese mini-chain, the property’s 41 rooms and suites are stylishly outfitted, with bespoke wood furnishings, cozy armchairs and hunter green carpeting. The highlight, however, is the stunning views of Lisbon through the rooms’ floor-to-ceiling windows. Be sure to sign up for the free daily tour of the surrounding neighborhood (from $350).
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