Antonio and I had to leave Lisbon early due to the passing of our 11 year companion Petey. We came back immediately after since we had fallen in love with this amazing city. Last time, we stayed in the Castelo neighborhood, so we decided to try a different spot this time. Our Airbnb search led us to a really cute apartment in the Principe Real neighborhood in Lisbon.
The Principe Real Neighborhood is named after Queen Maria II’s first born son, the Royal Prince, and situated north of Bairro Alto and São Bento. It reminds me a lot of Nolita in NYC. There are tons of antique shops, bars, and there’s some great shopping to be done here. I like it much better than the neighbouring Bairro Alto neighborhood since Principe Real is a bit quieter and luxurious, yet lively. The neighborhood has some gorgeous gardens, one of the best lookouts in the city (Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara), and some seriously pretty homes.
To get there, you can take the Gloria Elevator, this funicular has been in service since 1885 and makes for a pretty fun ride to Restauradores Square in the city center. You can also walk up from the Chiado, grab the Autocarro 758 (bus), eléctrico, or take the metro to the Baixa-Chiado stop.
Things to See in Principe Real Neighborhood of Lisbon
Jardim do Príncipe Real: Its official name is Jardim França Borges. It was designed in the Romantic style in the 19th Century. One of the most impressive sights at this park is a HUGE white cedar umbrella. It measures over 20 feet in diameter. Grab a seat underneath and enjoy a Sagres, or climb up and share secrets with your loved one. On Saturdays, there are vendors and an organic farmer’s market. This is not at all like the Feira da Ladra (which I really did not enjoy). There are some really great things to be found here like antique pins, jewelry homemade hand bags and tons more. There are also two kiosks where you can grab a quick bite, and a full restaurant – all of which are very fairly priced. There is an aqueduct, museum and tons of other surprises. Make sure you go, I’ll outline each of the highlights of the park below:
Statue of França Borges at Jardim do Príncipe Real: This statue honors Franca Borges, a Republican journalist and ardent fighter for the Republic who founded of The Mundo newspaper. The composition shows a female in bronze (the Republic), looking up in appreciation to a medallion with the likeness of Franca Borges.
The Cedar from Buçaco at Jardim do Príncipe Real: The centerpiece of the Principe Real Garden is this gorgeous tree umbrella. It is known as a cedar from Buçaco, but it’s actually a one hundred year old Mexican cypress tree. Lovely spot to grab a book, people watch, or fall in love.
Antiques Shopping: Not only can you find some great antiques at Jardim do Principe Real, there are tons of antique shops in the area offering everything from the iconic Portuguese tiles, jewelry, furniture…if you can’t find it here, it probably can’t be found.
Embaixada: If you’re not the antique type, there’s no need to worry. This is the coolest little shopping center. The Ribeiro da Cunha Praca do Principe Real is now home to the coolest independent shops in Lisbon. The building itself is a sight to see. It was erected in 1857 by the aforementioned businessman and is a blend of Arabic and Art Nouveau. The building has two floors of shopping and a great backyard where you can sip on wine and enjoy some snacks. It’s worth it to visit just because of the building.
Located at: Praça do Príncipe Real, nº 26
Hours of Operation: 12pm – 2am (Thu-Sat), 12pm – 12am (Sun-Wed)
Museu da Água Príncipe Real: You can easily miss this amazing museum. It’s located underneath the garden at Principe Real. Belowthe central pond and fountains lies this19th-century reservoir. It used to bring in water from outside of Lisbon to the city in the 19th Century. If you enter at the park and take the tour, it will have you exit at another spot you should no miss, the Miradouro de São Pedro.
Located at: Underneath the fountain at Jardim do Principe Real Park
Hours of Operation: Open Wednesday-Saturday from 10am to 5:30pm. Entry costs 2€
Jardim Botânico:: Right in the center of Principe Real, you will find the Natural History Museum and its botanical gardens. The garden spans 10 acres and it is simply stunning. Yes, it has fallen into a bit of disrepair (ponds and streams without water), but the variety of flora and fauna is spectacular ( 18,000 species from all over the world). I was also pleasantly surprised when I ran into its butterfly house. Although it was tiny, I spent quite a lot of time in there. This is a perfect spot for families, couples, and the lone traveler looking for a bit of quiet and relaxation. I say go, spend money there, so they can bring back this garden to splendor (it really would not take that much).
Located at: Rua da Escola Politécnica, 58 Entry costs 2€
Hours of Operation: 9am-8pm in the Summer, 9am-6pm in the Winter.
Miradouro de São Pedro: This gorgeous outlook on the border of Príncipe Real and Bairro Alto has a garden and one of the best views in the city featuring the Castelo de S. Jorge. There is a map made of tiles (of course) that serves as a guide to the view. It is also decorated with sculptures of Greco-Roman heros and gods, so if you have kids, this can make for a nice educational experience. In the upper level, there is a sculpture by Costa Motta of Eduardo Coelho. He was the founder of the newspaper Diário de Notícias. It is quite charming; a paperboy stands in front of Coelho as he sells the newspaper.
Solar do Vinho do Porto: If you’re a wino (like me) you gotta make it here. This is the port wine institute and they have over 300 Ports including some gems. I was told the oldest was from 1937. It’s a pretty chill spot too, so make this a must visit.
Located at: Rua de S. Pedro de Alcântara, 45 at Ludovic Palace.
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday: 11am to 12am. Saturday 3pm to 12am. Closed Sundays and holidays
Museu Sao Roque: I have a thing for churches. If you’ve visited this blog, you probably know that by now. I was especially drawn to the Church of Saint Rocco for various reasons. My grandma (who is no longer with us) was extremely religious. One of her all time favorite saints was San Roco (I’m Colombian born, so going with the Colombian spelling here). Legend goes that Roco was a French nobleman with a cross-shaped birthmark on his chest. Early on his parents died and he went to live with his Uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Roco took a vow of poverty and went off on a pilgrimage. He encountered a town where people had the plague, and ended up curing a bunch of people. When he returned to France, he was sick with the plague (had his iconic open sore on his leg)and unrecognizable. He was banished and sought refuge in a cave. A dog (the second reason why I think I was drawn to this church) would bring him bread and one day his owner followed him to the cave where he found Roco and nursed him back to health. Story may not be 100% to cannon, but you get the idea. It’s interesting that a church dedicated to a saint who lived his life in poverty is one of the most ostentatious I have seen (and I’ve been in the Vatican). This church, from an art historian’s point of view – is AMAZING!!! Seriously, don’t be fooled by the plain facade. When you go in, you will be overtaken with awe at the gold, and the artwork that permeate the site.
The church was created in Rome, blessed by the pope and then sent to lisbon in the 1700’s. The interior is decked in gold, silver, porphyry, ivory, lapis lazuli, and some of the most intricate mosaics I’ve seen since Ravenna. The ceiling is wood with depictions of the Apocalypse. This is when you truly grasp just how powerful and wealthy Portugal was at the time. The adjoining museum is small, but has a lovely collection. Especially if you’re into reliquaries. This itty bitty museum is super cool, do not miss it.
The museum also has a cafe, but I did not check it out. If you have, let me know how it was in the comments.
Located at: Largo Trindade Coelho (technically it’s Bairro Alto, but I’m including it here anyway). 2.50 € to enter (and you get 20% off a bunch of other museums with your receipt)
Hours of Operation:
Apr- Sept : T10am to 8pm
Closed Mon morning and holidays
Closed Mon morning and holidays
Where to Eat & Drink in Principe Real
Kiosks at Principe Real Garden: There are two, one at each end. Grab a table, grab a beer and relax. In the morning, you can pick up your coffee, grab a table and peacefully read the paper. If you come by in the afternoon, you will see all the Lisboetas enjoying their imperials (small beers), tremoços (the things that look like corn but are actually brined lupin beans – to eat them squeeze the bean out of its skin and enjoy), empadas (much like empanadas). There are tons of these kiosks throughout Lisbon, and even if you don’t get to go to the ones in PR, make sure to hit up one. Great experience.
Esplanada do Principe Real:. The food was good here, albeit more expensive than in other parts of town. I had the Arroz com Polvo (11€). Compare this to Leitaria Aviz in the Mouraria where I paid 10€ for arroz com polvo, wine AND dessert, and you may think there is no value, but you’re paying for the area and the experience. I’d definitely recommend you get a meal at this spot.
Located at: Rua Escola Politecnica, Jardim do Principe Real
Hours of Operation: Mon – Wed: 9:00 am – 11:00 pmMon – Wed: 9am – 11pm, Thu – Sat: 9am – 2am, Sun: 9am – 11pm
Pavilhão Chinês: This bar is out of this world. This feels like what really luxurious bars must have felt like back in the day. There are over 4,000 pieces of arts and antiques at the bar. These were collected by the bar’s owner, Luis Pinto Coelho. In fact, I’d say that if you did not know this was a bar, you’d think it was an antiques shop. There are lots of little rooms, so the bar has a relaxed, intimate, and comfortable feel. The servers are all dressed to the nines in black pants, white shirts, and red vests. You will pay more here than at other bars in Lisbon, but it’s totally worth it. BTW – if I sound a little “off” it’s because I had indeed done 3 shots of vodka at Stanislav (an awesome Russian restaurant)…so don’t judge 😉
Located at: Rua D. Pedro V, 89
Hours of Operation: Monday-Saturday 6pm to 2am, Sunday 9pm to 2am
O Prego da Peixaria: Expect to wait on line here. This place is super trendy and I can see why. This restaurant specializes in the Portuguese Prego (garlic steak) sandwich, and fish burgers. It’s a pretty easy restaurant to navigate. Once you sit down, you select the item you want and how you want it:
rare = mal (passado)
medium = med
well done = bem (passado)
I chose the classic prego (8.50€), mal passado with the tea of the day: ginger, orange, and basil. Let me tell you, that prego was delicious. The meat was juicy, the Bolo do Caco (that’s the bread it comes on) comforting, and the tea super refreshing (which came in handy since it was 80 degrees outside). One note, DO NOT WEAR BLACK. The bread has this floury white stuff on top and you will look like you have a serious case of dandruff after eating your Prego. This is one time I’d recommend you wear white. On a side note, just like most places in Principe Real…you can get a cheaper/better Prego elsewhere…but if you’re in the area, this is where you want to
Located at: Rua da escola politécnica, 40
Hours of Operation: Could find none on their website, but they are open on Sundays.
El Tomate: I was a bit confused by the Spanish name of this itty bitty joint, but the food here is more Mediterranean than Spanish. The dishes are super affordable, the food is delicious, and the owners are from Porto, so we had our first Francesinha here (I loved it…Antonio is still on the fence….but he’s way more of a healthy eater than I am). Everything I had was delish: beef carpaccio and tuna tartare. Go and enjoy.
Located at: Rua Da Escola Politecnica, 23
Lost In: This esplanada type bar is sort of hidden, you have to walk into an alleyway, but it affords you an incredibly romantic spot with a great view of the city. It’s decorated with Indian fabrics, old wrought iron beds have been turned into couches for two, and the view simply makes this place spectacular. I did not eat here, so I can’t comment on the food, but this makes for a lovely spot to visit on a night out.
Located at: Rua Dom Pedro V 56
Hours of Operation: Mon 4pm – midnight & Tue – Sat 12:30pm – midnight