Year in Review: 2011 in Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal

News of bailouts and austerity measures would make you think that 2011 was quite a bad year for Lisbon, but despite all the negative reports, this was actually a good year for the Portuguese capital. Here’s why:

Lisbon was singled out as the best-value city in the Sunday Times’ Value for Money Awards and was awarded “European city of the year” by the Academy of Urbanism. It also ranked among the best shopping cities in Europe, and later in the year its Fado music was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Another curious distinction came from Guinness which recognized the Bertrand bookshop in Chiado as the oldest in the world.

The big Oceanarium got bigger, the Patio da Galé courtyard became a stage for cultural events, the beautiful greenhouse was cleaned up and reopened, there’s a new alternative theater in Bairro Alto, and a new casino by the Troia resort south of the city.

The city’s main avenue gained new outdoor kiosk cafés, Comercio Square opened new restaurants, and the city’s top chefs created new hotspots: there’s Michelin star José Avillez’s Cantinho do Avillez, Vitor Sobral’s Cervejaria da Esquina, Olivier’s Guilty, and Paulo Morais’ Momo.
For drinks and lighter meals there are the trendy new cafés Le Chat (which won an architectural award for its glassed building), Poison D’Amour with its mouth-watering French pastries, Liquid for healthy smoothies, Naturalliving with its veggie meals, and the renovated Cultura do Chá tea house. These are just a few of the many new restaurants and cafés that opened in 2011, most of them reported here on GoLisbon.

Lisbon continues to attract media attention as an alternative to the beaten-track cities of Paris, Rome or Barcelona, especially from the United States. The New York Times alone dedicated about a handful of articles to the city, including a 36-hour itinerary, a report on its “culinary golden age” (with GoLisbon as a reference), the “reinvigoration of Fado“, and a suggested trip from Lisbon to Evora.

There’s a new rooftop bar and a series of new riverfront clubs, including Jimmy’z, Vintage Club, Happy and the Absolut Club. Also, the not-so-former red light district of Cais do Sodré continued its process of renovation as a new mecca of alternative music clubs and retro bars such as the recent Bar da Velha Senhora.