LISBON Lisbon Insider Guide of Principe Real

There’s something special about Principe Real. Set just beyond the bustle of Barrio Alto’s bars and the crowds that congregate in chic Chiado, it still feels like something of a secret, as if it hasn’t yet become too famous for its own good.


Lisbon Insider Guide of Principe Real

There’s something special about Principe Real. Set just beyond the bustle of Barrio Alto’s bars and the crowds that congregate in chic Chiado, it still feels like something of a secret, as if it hasn’t yet become too famous for its own good.

Most make it to Principe Real’s central square, arguably the loveliest in Lisbon, to sip fresh lemonade over creamy custard tarts in the shade of the century-old Pepper trees, roots running like veins through the concrete, or to loll away afternoons on the grass. But delve into the labyrinthine streets that encircle the more intimate square of Praça das Flores and you’ll find a cozy hotchpotch of hip new cafes alongside antique shops run by veteran senhoras. Ask resident expats where they would like to live and most will agree that Principe Real is a winner, combining a central location within strolling distance of Estrela Park and Lisbon’s best restaurants with a boho-chic vibe. Named after Queen Maria II’s first born, the Royal Prince, the neighborhood’s overtones of elegance have attracted a vibrant mix of locals and foreign entrepreneurs to launch small, independently run businesses that maintain Principe Real’s intimate air.

Where to Eat in Lisbon’s Principe Real

Of all Lisbon’s neighborhoods, Principe Real is where the city’s cafe culture thrives. We aren’t talking the little local places that serve bitter beakers to tables on the street, but innovative cafes and brunch spots that also make for great impromptu co-working spaces. Head down Rua Nova da Piedade from Praça das Flores and you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. While Dutch-owned Copenhagen Coffee Lab has queues forming out the door come weekends for its speciality coffees and homemade cinnamon buns, across the street, the more laid-back cafe Tease offers fresh juices, creamy cupcakes and great value sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch.

Then a few doors down comes Carinho do Vino, a wine shop where you can browse the bookshelves of wine guided by enthusiastic expert Marcelo before selecting a bottle to enjoy over traditional portuguese home-cooking. Just don’t miss making it all the way to the end of the street.  It’s here you’ll find Nanarella, a hole-in-the-wall ice-cream joint that specialises in decadent ice-cream crafted from a secret Roman recipe. Couple it with a serious Italian espresso from Baretto, tucked away in the grocery market across the street.   A pioneer in the Italian invasion of Principe Real is Paula, a half italian-half portuguese flautist and composer who opened In Bocca al Luppo, the city’s only organic pizzeria, in 2012 to fund her musical theatre O Culto.

If organic food in Lisbon is what you hunt for, then stop by Aloha Cafe for their stand-out acai bowls and healthy brunches, a perfect pitstop after picking up supplies (think succulent berries and fresh figs) at Saturday’s organic farmers market, held in Principe Real’s main square.

For a more local connection, stop for coffee at family-run Bettina Corallo’s chocolate store, where every cup of coffee comes with a piece of organic chocolate crafted from the families fazenda in São Tomé.

Locals also love spending an evening watching the world go by from one of the alfresco tables at taberna Dona Quiteria, where the freshest grilled fish and a homely atmosphere make for a truly atmospheric evening.

Finally (saving the best for last) don’t miss a visit to chef Kiko’s exceptional ceviche spot Cevicheria. You’ll notice it from the giant octopus sculpture dangling elegantly over the rounded counter, or the cluster of eager diners sipping pisco sours on the pavement. With only a handful of tables, it is eternally very popular, so go when it opens at midday or for a late lunch to skip the queues. If your hunger can’t hold out, head for a margaritas and fish tacos at hip mexican joint Clandestino, or opt for Chef Kiko’s more sophisticated dining spot, O Asiatico, where you can sample his asian fusion innovations at tables set in the garden..

Where to Go in Lisbon’s Principe Real

While you could spend the best part of a day strolling between the neighborhood’s squares and stopping off in cafes, Principe Real also has some of the city’s best multi-brand stores. For affordable gifts, home-ware and shoes (don’t miss the hand-crafted portuguese brand Mosquito) stop by Loja Real set across from the square.

A few doors down you’ll find concept store Embaixada, which pulls together some portugal’s leading home-grown brands such as organic cosmetic and clothing company Organii.

For hand-crafted sunglasses head to Fora, info while kids and homeware boutique Quer pips them all to the post with expert curation of truly beautiful items. To go Old-School, head along Rua São Bento, where you’ll find a smattering of antique shops selling all kinds of items from glassware to art.

If you tire of shopping, stop by the Natural History Museum, take a stroll through the Botanical gardens or drop by the collective artists’ atelier Base Acaso. Alongside paintings for a collective of artists,they host live music in their courtyard a handful of times per month (check out their facebook page for regular updates). For early-evening aperitifs or late night cocktails, check out speakeasy cocktail den Foxtrot or the more laid-back bohemian style Pub Lisboeta.

Where to Sleep in Lisbon’s Principe Real

Principe Real is a hotspot for Lisbon’s most charming independently-run boutique hotels.   For elegant digs overlooking Principe Real’s main square, try Casa Oliver, which combines spacious high-ceiling rooms with views over an elegant courtyard (make sure you ask for a room at the back), while for a more intimate experience, book into one of Casa C’Alma’s 5 rooms, where sleek Nordic design is coupled with charismatic hospitality from the young friendly owners.  If you are too late (rooms get booked well ahead), then hop across the square to the equally lovely Flores Guest-House, where breakfast comes hand delivered in baskets to your door and there is a leafy patio at the back. For solo travellers on more of a budget who don’t mind sharing a bathroom, then rent one of the breezy rooms at Living Simply Lisbon, where Dutch owner Ernestine has taken over an entire two floors of a colonial mansion to turn it into a chic pensione.