Explore the peninsula’s most vibrant beachside cities, the Portuguese capital Lisbon and Barcelona.
With new cultural spaces galore, a slew of white-hot nightlife and great beaches within easy reach, Lisbon is a city ripe for exploration.
Get your bearings from the top of the Aqueduto das Águas Livres – the city’s majestic 18th-century aqueduct. Or, for a whistle-stop tour of the capital, hop on the No. 28 tram, which winds right round the city’s most picturesque streets. Portugal’s capital is split into bairros (neighbourhoods). Each has its own charm, from the oldest, Alfama, to Cais do Sodré, fast emerging as the hippest. Chiado is one of the most stylish areas, and the perfect place for a café crawl. Try the legendary Café A Brasileira or visit Pastelaria Benard.
As for sightseeing, some eccentric landmarks make Lisbon stand out from the city-breaks crowd. The grass-carpeted Convento do Carmo had its roof destroyed in the infamous 1755 earthquake, and its open-air nave is a unique sight. The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian’s world-class collection of Islamic and Oriental art is not to be missed – and its Centro de Arte Moderna opposite has an impressive haul of Portuguese works from the last century. The striking concrete shell of MUDE (Museu do Design e da Moda) contains more than 2,000 pieces of haute couture and innovative design, displayed in the minimalist interior of a gutted bank building.
Lux is hands-down the city’s most stylish venue. With two dance floors and a terrace overlooking the river Tagus, it attracts a diverse clientele who dance till the early hours. Down the road, the eclectic Musicbox, a club, bar and concert venue, is the place to get down in Cais do Sodré, the old red-light district, now favoured by the capital’s hip young things. While in the area, grab a drink at the quirky Sol e Pesca – a refurbished fishing equipment shop where you can snack on sardines with your hops. And don’t leave without hearing some fado. Rub shoulders with the locals at intimate Senhor Vinho to enjoy some of the traditional Portuguese urban folk music.
Portugal is renowned for its seafood. You’ll find some of the best (and most affordable) at locals’ favourite O Arrastão, and for an authentic taste of the capital, a trip to a taberna is essential. These traditional drinking holes are dotted all over, serving up small dishes and snacks designed for sharing. Taberna Portuguesa prides itself on being 100 percent Portuguese, from the decor to the plates of pica-pau (tender strips of fried beef). Try Taberna Tosca for authentic pataniscas (cod fritters) and superb cheese. Taberna Moderna serves traditional plates with a twist, and is renowned for its excellent bar, Lisbonita – a first in the city, offering more than 70 varieties of juniper beverages, distilled with ingredients such as cucumber, cardamom and
Renovated industrial complex LX Factory is an über-trendy venue hosting an eclectic selection of places to eat, drink, dance and spend some serious euros. Walk down nearby Rua de São Bento – it’s antiques and bric-à brac heaven. For statement fashion, get your feet clad in wood by Xuz, the brand spearheading Portugal’s clog revival, or try Pelcor, which numbers Barack Obama and Madonna among its customers, for accessories made from eco-friendly cork.
At a glance – Spain’s city by the sea.
Why should I come?
Barcelona has everything: amazing architecture, weather, cultural life and food – plus the sea.
Where should I stay?
The coolest neighbourhoods are Sant Antoni and Poble-sec, which are within walking distance to the centre and its museums, offering good places to eat and drink.
What should I pack?
Barcelona has beaches, yes, but it’s not a seaside resort; avoid walking the city in swimwear and flip-lops. The sun can be fierce, so pack sunglasses, sunblock and a hat – rather than buying one of the Mexican sombreros sold in the souvenir shops.
I’m there! Where do I go first?
Explore Barceloneta, the district closest to the sea, and stop off for some tapas or paella. Avoid big bars and terraces populated by tourists, and take your cue from the locals for the best spots to eat.