Intendente is the neighbourhood on the lips of hipsters, artists and pioneering investors. Find out why.
As the property regeneration of Lisbon’s historic center evolves, there are strong parallels to be drawn between the regeneration of barrios like Mouraria and Intendente and the evolution of East London and New York’s meat-packing district. From down-and-out dives, they are now the hippest places in town, not to mention amongst most desirable places to own and rent property in the world. We take a look at what’s to love about Intendente, the new neighborhood on everyone’s lisboetas lips, through the lens of local resident Frederico Lima, the owner of vintage store Retrox Vintage. If you are one who likes to stay ahead of the pack, be it in property or trends, read on.
What do you love most about your neighbourhood?
Its sense of vulnerability, or in another words, the myriad of emotions and feelings it attracts and inspires. Intendente is the most prosaic quarter I have ever been to. At times, it may look vulgar and dilapidated, but that’s just a first glance. Look closer, and you will find that this is where the city really pulses; these are the genuine streets and alleys, the melting pot where Lisbon was initially created, the place where anything can happen and, in fact, it does. We have ballerinas and whores, artists and dealers, Nepalese restaurants and Ramiro (Lisbon’s best seafood restaurant) tourists and travelers, musicians and the hum of the traffic, beauties and beasts, students and lowlives, beggars and merchants, happiness and conflict…everyday is filled with extraordinary people. And then we have the square, sunlit and beloved by people from all over the world.
If you are lucky enough to arrive to Intendente’s square on a hot Summer night, you’ll be greeted by soft and amicable sounds; the laughter, the murmur of lovers, the quicksteps of children playing, and all the mingled voices of one hundred different idioms that echo through the century-old walls of the ancient palaces and buildings, resounding as if the entire place is one gigantic amphitheater. Yes, summer is the time to be here, it starts early in these Southern lands and lingers late.
How has it changed in recent years and why?
Seven to eight years ago, Intendente was a bit of a zombie land, frequented by junkies who would haunt anyone who was foolish enough to stumble through its street. It was tough for local residents. Then one day, the city mayor, António Costa (now the prime minister), decided to change both his office and his staff to one of the old buildings in the piazza and this propelled the change. Don’t get me wrong, there was no overnight shift, but things started to happen in a tempered and progressive way and they still are. Lisbon is like this. Unlike London, Berlin, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, Lisbon is in no hurry. It’s an old and relaxed city that once was at the center of global exploration, and now is on the verge of acquiring once again the status of a place to look to. At this moment in time, it still summons two different worlds and sometimes it even seems to suffer from a kind of urban personality disorder, but I reckon that’s what makes it genuine and full of beauty. So this is the time, the right time, the magic time. My advice would be not to waste this opportunity to observe this unique urban panorama, to become a part of it.
Fred’s Insider Guide to Intendente.
1. Rua do Benformoso (aka Bangladesh town):
This beautiful and ancient street is a survivor of from the 1755 earth-quake that destroyed 90% of the city. Although only a few resilient buildings survived the destruction, the street design stayed the same. In recent years, most of the Portuguese businesses were replaced by vendors, shopkeepers and restaurants from Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Pakistan, India and 10 other different nationalities. This is what Lisbon stands for, at its unique core: multiculturalism and integration.
2. Restaurante Parreirinha dos Quartos
This small restaurant is probably the last Portuguese canteen operating in Rua do Benformoso and the surrounding alleys. Inside, you’ll find the local Portuguese working class heroes and some tourists attracted by the terrace tables and the amicable prices. The terrace it’s the place to be. From there, its a great place to watch the local scene and all its characters go by, which can be quite inspiring. Their specialty is the grill, and the hostess is an indecipherably aged lady with a permanent toothless grin. Even though she does not speak a word in English, she seems to take orders in other languages effortlessly. I have a feeling that she might be some kind of a medium, but that’s just my hunch. In food terms, my recommendation would be the Bitoque (veal steak with a fried egg on top and a generous portion of hand made French fries aside) – its one of the best you can find in the city.
Tv do Benformoso 10
Marie and Gary are some of the true pioneers of the piazza. She’s French, he’s Australian and they are cool as cool can be. The place is decorated with a french touch but it looks genuinely Portuguese, and the terrace is always crowded with people from all over the world. It’s the perfect spot to drink a glass of red wine and chill out with friends. Even if you come alone, by the end of the night, you are sure to have made a bunch more.
Largo do Intendente Pina Manique 59
4. Hotel 1908
This Art Nouveau gem was recently refurbished, encapsulating the air and the glamour of the old days. It corners the piazza’s Southern entrance and is impossible to miss. Alongside the magnificent mid-century retro décor, the hotel boasts a beautiful restaurant (Infame) with a budget weekly lunch menu of 12,5 Euros that is a gourmet experience not to be missed.
Lg do Intendente Pina Manique 6
5. Megastore Books & Records by Largo
It may not look that mega from the outside but the inside is a sanctuary for a big chunk of the 20th century culture. A portfolio of vintage books and records capable of breaking the heart of the harshest music or literature lover. And for those who can’t understand the Portuguese writing a wide selection of English books is available.
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Joanas coffee shop terrace occupies the Northern entrance to the piazza and is a harbor for hipsters, mostly actors, actresses and artists juggling their tight monthly budget. Sometimes the place is so crowed with beautiful people that it becomes almost unbearable.
Lg do Intendente 28
Someone once said that this is the coolest vintage shop in the universe and that someone was probably right. Portuguese mid-century design, industrial pieces and a wide selection of eccentric memorabilia creates a thoroughly unique atmosphere. Incredibly enough, the shop smells like vanilla skies, and when asked about it, the owner, a middle-aged guy with transparent green eyes, responded that’s just because he always takes a bath.
Rua dos Anjos 4 C
8. The Local Barber
The little barber shop at the corner of Rua dos Anjos is a remnant of days gone by and still keeps the same old, now fashionable, decor with the same barber artifacts and two incredible vintage barber chairs. The owner is an old guy who sports a permanently wise and melancholic expression on his face. I was told that he has been there for the last 50 years, but it feels like he has been there forever.
Rua dos Anjos 2
A couple of blocks north from Intendente square lies a charming and well preserved Art-Deco quarter (Bº das Colónias). Its 9 streets were built around the 30’s with a topography reminiscent of Portugal’s former colonies. Brick Cafe is located in one of them and is a friendly, cozy place with vintage decor and exquisite food. The brunch is already an institution and always packed with friends sharing food and good vibes in the sunshine.
Rua de Moçambique 2:
This former butchers shop is now a small but vibrant vintage shop with a strong portfolio of lamps and elegant vintage design pieces. David and Joana, the owners, are very cool, vintage freaks who value interesting conversation, especially if its about design, so make sure you stop by for a chat.
Rua Maria 66
11. Miradouro de Monte Agudo: A few blocks north from Bº das Colónias, bordering the neighborhood of Penha de França rests this secret spot, largely unknown by tourists. Here you can escape the crowds and soak up the city in peace from this secluded view-point. At the end of the afternoon, with a glass of chilled white wine in your hand, this is the perfect place to start thinking about why life is such a splendid thing.
Rua Maria 66
This old manor house spread over two floors combines two bars, a lounge area, a inner terrace and an old ballroom where Djs and local bands (sometimes not so local) perform their gigs. With its vintage decor and array of beautiful people, its always party time here.
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