When we decided to return to Portugal for a month-long stay, Anita and I wanted to be based in Lisbon, but away from much-touristed Alfama. After some looking around the internet, we settled on an apartment in Alcântara, and looked forward to our view of the Tagus, easy access to transport, and a creative vibe. We found all these things and more.
Trendy, bustling Alcântara
Alcântara ‘s LX Factory compound was just a stroll away from our temporary digs. One of Lisbon’s most interesting bookstores, several restaurants and the creative space in an old fabrics factory made this a repeat destination. We joined the locals in catching buses and trams in both directions, and found our under-the-bridge location to be every bit as convenient as we had hoped.
There are a number of tourist spots around the marina and in LX Factory, and we tried a few. We also quickly found a favorite local cafe for excellent coffee, pastel de nata and pastéis de bacalhão. Just a few blocks out the tram line, another neighborhood restaurant serves up a very good seafood rice–plus, its family owners are from Ponte de Lima, one of our favorite places in Portugal. Tile paintings of that city decorate the walls. We also frequented the neighborhood’s vegetable market and butcher shop, for meals to make “at home” in our apartment kitchen.
Many buildings in Lisbon have not been maintained over the years, and neglect has generated an atmosphere of gritty realism that loves to have its picture taken. Take a look.
Lisbon’s famous Tram 28 (and the 18 and 25) pass through Praça Calvário, the latter two on a regular route and the 28, on its way to and from the Carris maintenance yard. In the evening, when many of the city’s vintage single-car trams come into the yard, it is easy to imagine a time gone by, when those were the only ones in operation. It’s still impressive to think how many of the trams make their way up and down Lisbon’s hilly routes.
Street art and symbolism
Our part of Alcântara sprawls beneath the Ponte 25 de Avril, and as elsewhere in Lisbon, there is plenty of street art on view. Here are just three examples:
At home in Alcântara
If there was a negative to our choice, it would have to be the noise factor. In our third-floor walk-up, with its lovely sunrises and view of the bridge and river, we shared our meals on the balcony with every plane approaching the Lisbon airport. And we experienced firsthand, the whirring of vehicles of all sorts over the stunning bridge. Despite these distractions, the hourly chiming of church bells–just as those from Basel’s Munster and Rathaus–made us feel right at home.
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We love Portugal! To see all our travel stories from this wonderful country, click here.