The Portuguese have anything but a strict sense of time; you’ll understand why as the minutes roll into hours during your exploration of Chiado and Bairro Alto—two energetic districts where shops new and old, al fresco cafés, bookstores and nightspots expose Lisbon at its quintessential, fashionable best. Forget time and embrace the adventure: discover ancient shops, seemingly unknown monuments and the secrets of Lisbon past and present.

Forget time and embrace the adventure in Chiado and Bairro Alto

The stylish district of Chiado—Lisbon’s commercial and cultural heart— is the place to go for both contemporary and old-style shopping, casual sightseeing or to rub shoulders with elegant locals. Begin with an aromatic bica at A Brasileira, preferred haunt of intellectuals and artists (including Fernando Pessoa and Almada Negreiros) since the early nineteenth century. Then take a detour via the hidden treasures of São Roques church (including a thorn from the crown of thorns), stopping to marvel at the view of the Castle from the beautiful viewpoint, Miradouro S. Pedro de Alcântara. As you walk back down the hill, turn left into Largo do Carmo, a leafy and picturesque little square that houses the ruins of a fourteenth century convent. From here, a walkway links to the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa, the eccentric 45-meter lift (complete with wood-paneled cabins and brass fittings) that links Chiado with Baixa below.

In Chiado you’ll find traditional shops such as Pereira (freshly ground coffee and butter cookies), Vista Alegre (Portuguese porcelain) and the historic Luvaria Ulisses (exquisite leather gloves) alongside top international brands such as Hermès and Hugo Boss. For vintage lovers, A Vida Portuguesa boasts nostalgic gems from the 1930s, 40s and 50s: essential viewing! Chiado is also home to the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (Opera House of Lisbon), Teatro São Luís and Museu do Chiado (National Museum of Contemporary Art). Keep exploring to discover a wealth of book and jewelry shops, cafés and old Portuguese tile manufacturers dotted around intriguing squares.

Lisbon’s trendiest district, Bairro Alto (the ‘high district), is home to artists, designers, antique shops, chic bars, esplanades and a harmonious coexistence of picturesque curiosity shops and designer boutiques. The 245-meter Ascensor da Bica (Bica Funicular), built in 1892, is the most spectacular way to ascend to the bohemian bairro. And it’s well worth the trip…. Peaceful by day, the 16th century alleyways transform by night into the epicenter of Lisbon’s nightlife—an al fresco frenzy of buzzing bars and traditional fado houses spilling onto narrow cobbled streets.

Bairro Alto epitomizes the city’s colorful vibe: terracotta rooftops against an azure sky; flower-filled balconies and brightly painted walls; endless white and blueazulejos that turn ordinary streets into works of art. Overhead, the crisscrossing shadows of tram lines dance with lines of laundry that blush pink in the early evening light.

We recommend:

A Brasileira as the perfect coffee stop

Santini for the best ice cream

A Vida Portuguesa for traditional gifts

Luvaria Ulisses for handmade gloves

Elevador de Santa Justa for the experience!

Casa Pereira for home made cookies, ground coffee and jellies…

– Ascensor da Bica for a great photo opp!

Teresa Alecrim for embroidered household linens

– The delightfully restored Quiosques do Refresco (Refreshment Kiosks) located in Largo de Camões, Príncipe Real Gardens and Praça das Flores

PARK for the fantastic view and great cocktails

By the Wine for some of the best Portuguese wines and tapas in town

Topo Chiado for the view, pestiscos and cocktails

See Monocle magazine’s video on shopping in Lisbon here.