Who’d have thought that a year of bailouts, rising unemployment and budget cuts would turn out to be so good for Lisbon? Taking a look back at the 10 main news and trends of 2012, we can only hope and expect a 2013 that will be just as good or better, at least for Lisbon in general.
MAJOR NEW HOTELS
There were several hotels opening in the city, and not ordinary hotels. A couple of them are even true landmarks such as the Myriad in Vasco da Gama Tower, or the Cascais pousada outside the city in an old fortress by the sea. Another is the stylishly luxurious Fontecruz in the city’s main boulevard, while the always-buzzing Chiado district had not one, not two, but three new hotels — Mercy, Teatro and Lisboa Carmo — all featuring elegant interiors.
A NEW MAIN SQUARE
Rossio Square used to be the heart of the city, but that’s now moved closed to the river, to Comercio Square. The city’s grandest praça saw several new cafés and restaurants open under the arcades of its east wing, and this new leisure area with views of the river also has a club open on weekends (“Lust”) and a new cultural space, the Lisboa Story Centre.
NEW CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
In addition to the Lisboa Story Centre which tells the history of the city through multimedia displays and recreates Lisbon’s different historical periods and atmospheres, there was the new Casa dos Bicos, the landmark house from the 1500s that is now home to the José Saramago Foundation remembering the Portuguese author who won the Nobel Prize.
Not very far is Martim Moniz, Lisbon’s most multiethnic neighborhood which was revitalized with a new weekend market and new kiosk cafés open every day, offering foods from all over the world.
NEW RESTAURANT TRENDS
Speaking of food, Lisbon’s restaurant scene is changing. In order to survive the economic crisis it had to be more creative so it went back to what never fails — the old traditions everyone loves. That meant “petiscos”, or what is often called “tapas” for international visitors, with restaurants now specializing exclusively in those small plates of food grandma used to make. Of course many of those are recreated and readapted to modern times, like the other new trend in the city — the new “tabernas.” What used to be simple family-owned places are now stylishly-decorated spaces but with the expected laid-back atmosphere.
BACK TO TRADITION
Restaurants weren’t the only ones looking at tradition as a means to escape the crisis. The best new shops also offered the best of “Made in Portugal,” including the first of the future chain of “Nata Lisboa”. Believing that “the world needs Nata,” this new café (there are currently two of them) specializes almost exclusively in Portugal’s famous custard tarts that almost no one can resist. Then there was the new P Chiado café offering the pastry specialties of Sintra in the center of Lisbon, the new Mercado 1143 which is a grocery store/market presenting only Portuguese products, and Loja da Burel with creative and top-quality handmade products from central Portugal. Finally, Portugal’s canned foods have become gourmet delicacies at yet another spot, the Can the Can restaurant in Comercio Square.
LISBON AIRPORT METRO STATION
The best Lisbon news for travelers was the extension of the metro which finally reached the airport. And the station is quite an attraction in itself, decorated with curious cartoon images of some of Portugal’s biggest personalities and cultural icons, making it an interesting new welcome to the city.
LUXURY AVENIDA DA LIBERDADE SHOPPING
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was the continuous opening of international luxury shops down Avenida da Liberdade. The luxury market is the only one booming during the current crisis, so there’s a new Gucci, a new Miu Miu, Officine Panerai, Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss… and a new Cartier and others will be joining them in 2013.
Another brand to open in central Lisbon was Tous jewelers which took over the city’s most beautiful shop, the former Ourivesaria Aliança in Chiado. Other classic spaces that had a makeover but kept much of the old look were Mimosa da Lapa, the 50s-style Sapataria do Carmo shoe store, Silva & Feijó, and the Old Pharmacy which is now a wine bar.
THE BAKERY INVASION
Petiscos and tabernas were not the only trends in Lisbon in 2012. Perhaps the biggest of all was the several high-profile bakeries opening in the center of the city. First was A Padaria Portuguesa downtown and in Chiado, then came Ratton next to Rossio Station, La Boulangerie with its French-style bread, and Tartine which makes a pastry that’s already a classic, the eggy “Chiado” cake.
Speaking of pastries, 2012 was the 175th anniversary of Pastéis de Belém, and the 90th of the city’s most beautiful café, Pastelaria Versailles. Also celebrating was one of Lisbon’s most photographed icons, the Bica funicular which turned 120!