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Insider's Guide To Lisbon

with Tara Thivolet from Zojora

Each month we profile a travel destination with special insider knowledge because as we all know, the best travel experience is when we arrive with insider tips for an authentic and memorable stay.

This month, it's beautiful Lisbon according to its stylish resident Tara Thivolet, the well-travelled founder and creative director of block-print inspired fashion and homewares brand, Zojora

"We moved to Lisbon two years ago after living more than a decade in Singapore", says Tara. "We wanted to move back to Europe to be closer to our university children but also wanted to experience a place where we had never lived before and where the sun shines most of the year."

Here Tara gives us her tips on where to stay, eat & play in Lisbon (and introduces her recently refurbished fisherman's cabana that you can rent, a 20-minute drive away on the coast)...

Tara on the tiles in Lisbon

We wanted to experience a place where we had never lived before and where the sun shines most of the year...

Your connection with Lisbon? 
We moved to Lisbon two years ago after living more than a decade in Singapore. We wanted to move back to Europe to be closer to our university children but also wanted to experience a place where we had never lived before and where the sun shines most of the year.

When did you first visit?
On a road trip more than 25 years ago with my university besties. 

Best time to visit as a Tourist? 
During Jacaranda season, when the city is literally covered in lilac-coloured flowers, which usually happens in early May and lasts for about a month.
Where to Stay?
Torrel Palace; a luxury boutique hotel with the most incredible views of Lisbon and added bonus they have a pool.  
Another great hotel in the heart of the city and located on one of Lisbon’s prettiest squares is Hotel das Amoreiras.   
If you want to wake up with sand in your toes check out our recently refurbished fisherman’s cabana in Costa da Caparica just a 20-minute drive from Lisbon.
Where to Shop?
A Vida Portuguesa, has a great selection of Portuguese products, a few favorites include Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage bowls, Burel wool blankets and the gorgeous Claus Porto soaps.
If you want to bring back gifts for yourself and friends this is the place to go. Recently A Vida Portuguesa opened Depozito in a gorgeous old factory which has an even bigger selection of Portuguese traditional crafts and a great selection of vintage posters. If you like me can never have enough Bordello Pinheiro plates and bowls, check out this outlet in Campo de Ourique area.
Where to Dine? 
Fave recents have included Antiga Camponesa with new menus daily using the best local and in-season produce and NERIOmakase Ri for an amazing sushi experience, almost beats going to Tokyo.
For a girls night, I love Magnolia located in the charming Praca das Flores, and the one place that I always go back to is Restaurante do Clube Naval de Lisboa for the best grilled fish and octopus salad. My advice: go when the sun sets over the Tagus River. Another great place for fresh fish are the many restaurants in Costa da Caparica. Really try to go there if you have a couple of days in Lisbon, beautiful white sand beaches, great surfing and amazing restaurants. Two of my faves are Praia Princesa & Praia Piscina Lisboa.

Tara's recently refurbished fisherman’s cabana in Costa da Caparica (just a 20-minute drive from Lisbon) decorated in signature Zojora prints and beautiful beachy details (including the surf tiles in the kitchen!)

Colourful scenes with Zojora block-print dresses against a modern Lisbon backdrop

Any local market / vintage / special days?
The Lisbon flea market known as Feria da Ladra is held every Tuesday and Saturday in Campo de Santa Clara and with a little luck, you’ll find gorgeous antique embroidered tablecloths.
There are lots of fresh produce markets around Lisbon: on Saturday mornings I like  Principe Real Organic Market and the rest of the week I shop at Mercado da Ribeira, housed in the same place as the famous Time Out Market. Find the freshest and best selection of fish at Rosamar
Best place for a morning coffee?
For morning coffee I don’t wander too far from my apartment. These are my places of choice: Mila, La BoulangerieHeim and Neighbourhood and at night they have the best smashed burgers.

Best spot for a pre-dinner drink?
Head to one of the Miradouros, basically viewpoints, for a drink. Santa Catarina Miradouro is great for sunsets and they serve a good porto tonic.  Another good spot for sunsets is along the Tagus River at Ribeira das naus quiosque.  There are also quite a few rooftop bars; I would recommend Park which is located on the 6th floor of a parking garage in the Barrio Altio area Javá Rooftop in Cais do Sodré is also a good spot and if you’re not too exhausted from all the walking around take a ferry from Cais do Sodré, cross the Tagus, and head to Ponto Final for a different viewpoint. 

Local delicacy?
Most people would probably say the pastel de nata, an egg custard pastry, and I’m told the best are from Pasteis Belem since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth I would much prefer a plate of Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, clams cooked with garlic, olive oil and coriander, so simple but so tasty. Another dish that I love here is Sapateira Recheada, stuffed crab that you eat like a dip with toasted bread.

    Jacaranda season in May in Lisbon

    A must-do in Lisbon?
    Have a coffee, a tosta mista, a pastel de nata, or a cocktail in one of the many kiosks around Lisbon. The kiosks in Lisbon have been a staple of local culture since the 19th century and are a great place to meet up with friends, admire the city, or just to rest your feet after hiking up and down the seven hills of Lisbon. Some of my faves: Quiosque Lisboa - Principe Real, Quiosque do Carmo, São Pedro de Alcântara Kiosk

    Good to know...
    Lisbon is a busy city with lots of tourists all year round, so my advice is to make your lunch and dinner reservations well in advance.

    Be a polite tourist and…
    Don’t say GRACIAS. Thank you in Portuguese is obrigado if you’re a male and obrigada if you’re a female.

    Jacaranda season, when the city is literally covered in lilac-coloured flowers, which usually happens in early May and lasts for about a month...

    Don’t leave home without…
    Your sneakers, leave your heels at home: trust me Lisbon’s cobblestones and seven hills are not for those.

    Don’t leave Lisbon without...
    May sound a little cliché but I love to bring back tinned sardines and tinned tuna belly.

    Best outfit to wear sightseeing (enter Zojora!)
    Heading to the beaches of Caparica and forgot to bring your beach towel, stop by my office in Santos where I can sort you out, and may even have one or two beach tunics for you to take home.

    For more of Tara's beautifully colourful fashion & homewares, visit Zojora. Follow Tara on @zojora. Stay at Tara's recently refurbished fisherman’s cabana @cabanazojora at Costa da Caparica (just a 20-minute drive from Lisbon).