Lisbon aerial panorama over Praco do Comercio waterfront square Portugal

Lisbon has both narrow winding laneways and wide bustling streets; modern establishments set within ancient buildings; little-known gems nestled around the corner from well-known tourist destinations. So when it comes to experiencing the best of it you just have to have a sense of adventure and a little bit of knowledge on where to look.

To help you along, here are some of the city’s best hidden gems.

To drink: Park Bar.

As you climb a typically dank and graffitied stairwell to the top of a typically nondescript multi-story carpark, you’ll question whether someone’s playing a joke on you. Surely there’s nothing up here but parked cars and concrete? And yet, as you reach the very top, a faint throb of laid-back beats grazes your ear. Ascend a small ramp to find Park Bar, a stealthy venue with two bars, a DJ, and a stunning rooftop view over the city. Once you know about it, you’ll keep going back.

Park Bar, Calçada do Combro, 58, Lisbon

To relax: Jardim da Estrela.

As a tourist you’d be unlikely to stumble upon Jardim da Estrela by chance, but from downtown Lisbon you can get there on foot in around 30 minutes. This is the kind of public garden that’s perfect for passing time in while doing nothing in particular. Wander through the selection of exotic trees and plants, sit in the sunshine by the duck-filled lake, or stop for coffee at the garden’s own cafe.

Jardim da Estrela, Praça da Estrela, Lisbon

To eat: Frangasqueira Nacional.

The Portuguese aren’t big on takeaway food, preferring instead to take their time at a sit-down restaurant. That said, there is a particularly notable exception. Frangasqueira Nacional is tucked away down a side street in the neighbourhood of Principe Real, but for those in the know it’s the place to net yourself a meal of delicious freshly grilled chicken or meat. Practically a hole-in-the-wall establishment, this spot is popular with locals and travellers alike and regularly garners long queues down the street for those wanting a cheap, hearty meal they can eat in the park or at home.

Frangasqueira Nacional, Rua da Imprensa Nacional, 116, Lisbon

To be entertained: Fado on Rua dos Remedios.

To listen to Fado music is to glimpse into the soul of the Portuguese people. The songs speak of life by the sea, of loss, of brave lovers sailing off to discover the world – never to return. You don’t need to know Portuguese to understand what the music is about: the notes fall like tears, soulful and emotive. Many tourists will experience Fado at pricey establishments that package shows with multi-course dinners, but if you want a more intimate, spontaneous experience you can stop into some of the small informal bars in the street of Rua dos Remedios. Order a drink or a bite to eat and soak up the unique vibes.

Rua dos Remedios, Alfama, Lisbon

Check out our review of BLOOM in Lisbon.