Meet Your Concierge: Gonçalo Soeiro, Santiago de Alfama
On a leafy cobblestoned side street in Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood sits its newest five star boutique hotel, the elegant and stylish Santiago de Alfama. With 19 minimalist rooms and suites centered around a sunny stone courtyard in the historic Alfama district, the hotel — opened just this past July — has already won over legions of fans including Forbes Magazine who recently dubbed the property “one of Lisbon’s most luxurious retreats.”
The man with all the answers is Gonçalo Soeiro, Chiado16 veteran (the owner’s previous hotel) and now Head Concierge on Santiago de Alfama‘s opening team. Born and raised in Lisbon, Gonçalo has travelled extensively around Europe including stints in the UK, France, Spain, the Azores Islands and Italy, but always returns to the place that has his heart. He describes the allure as “the bright light of Lisbon and its melancholic, old fashioned and romantic soul.” Here, he lets us in on all his hometown secrets.
My favorite neighborhood is Graça. I always advise my guests to start their day by taking the famous E28 tram up to the top of the hill where they can stroll around and visit Feira da Ladra, Lisbon’s legendary Flea Market, Museu dos Azulejos, the National Tile Museum, Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora and Panteão Nacional. From there, you can take a break to enjoy a traditional meal at a local bistro. One of the best is Piteu da Graça, with excellent Portuguese food, great lamb chops, wonderful smoked iberian ham and a great wine selection.
Stick around in the early evening and take in Lisbon’s best sunset at the charming miradouros (lookouts) of Graça and Senhora do Monte. I usually visit during the weekend while enjoying a drink and watching the airplanes arriving and departing from my city.
Everyone should visit Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, to experience genuine and traditional Fado. The often melancholic and always dramatic Portuguese folk music was recently declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2011. While visitors have plenty of options for Fado performances in Alfama, we recommend Parreirinha de Alfama. The intimacy of the venue and local crowd make for a far more authentic experience than some of the bigger houses. Take in this unique experience while enjoying a glass of Amendoa Amarga, a Portugese almond liquor served on ice with a squeeze of lemon — one of the staples of Portuguese café life.
In Alcântara, you’ll find a wealth of cafes, galleries, shops and ateliers at Lx Factory. The group of former factories was converted into a fashion district and center for the arts in 2008 and has grown to become a cultural epicenter for Lisboans in the know. We also recommend a visit to the Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré. These quirky and bohemian neighborhoods are the best places to experience Lisbon’s eclectic and vibrant music scene.
When to Go
My favorite season is between Summer and Autumn. In September the weather cools down a bit and you can take in a sunny day at the beach, walk around the beautiful cobblestone streets or parks while enjoying the city with a fresh breeze.
Best with Kids
I always recommend the beautiful, non-touristy, and quiet parks around the city such as Jardim da Estrela and Monsanto. Kids can play safely in the ample green space and playgrounds while parents take in a good book or relax at one of the open air cafes.
The site of the 1998 world exposition, Parque das Nações (Nations Park) is one of the youngest and most modern areas of the city. The location on the Tagus estuary with waterside parks and numerous attractions from the ’98 expo make this a great option for families. Visit Pavilhão do Conhecimento, a modern science museum with dedicated children’s areas, rent a bicycle or take a ride on Lisbon’s popular Telecabine (cable car) with stunning 360° views over the Tagus River and the modern area of Lisbon.
For a relaxing night out with exemplary cocktails try Foxtrot in the quiet São Bento neighborhood. Though it could hardly be described as trendy, the art noveau surroundings and list of classic cocktails have made this one of Lisbon’s best bars. For visitors looking to get acquainted with Lisbon’s thriving party scene, Pensão Amor would be a great place to start. The former brothel has been transformed into a fashionable bar with a vintage ambiance.
Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, the city’s only official Portuguese Opera House, is a good pick for a more refined and cultural experience. The building is too beautiful for words and its performances are outstanding.
Get Out of Town
A perfect day-trip from Lisbon would begin in the village of Sintra. Perched above the Atlantic ocean on the pine clad rolling hills of the Serra de Sintra, Sintra and it many palaces can only be described as magical. Visit the colorful and vast Pena National Palace or simply wander around one of the many historic castles or estates high above the town.
Not far from Sintra, stop in the fantastic little seaside town of Colares. Situated between the beaches of the Praia Grande and Praia das Maças, Colares has an old world atmosphere. It sits at the westernmost point of Europe. Visit the winery in the town’s center to experience the wines of one of the oldest winegrowing regions in Portugal.
Round out the day with a sunset dinner in Cascais, a lovely village on the Atlantic with rich cultural and gastronomic offerings. My favorite restaurant is Mar do Inferno, known for its excellent seafood.
Muito obrigado, Goncalo!