São Vicente, Lisbon – churches, shopping and hidden restaurants

Lisbon is a city best explored on foot and the narrow, cobbled streets of the old quarters surrounding the Castelo de São Jorge are fascinating.  After we visited the castle, we spent the day exploring these old neighbourhoods and adored the laid back vibe of São Vicente.  We were bedazzled by its churches and the pretty square of Campo de Santa Clara.  We had fun searching for hidden treasures at the old antique markets, Feira da Ladra; and loved trying new dishes in the neighbourhood restaurants.  We ended our visit by wandering up into Graça to watch the sun set over the city from the O Miradouro da Senhora do Monte viewpoint.

In the bairro of São Vicente the ancient streets are lined with neighbourhood shops, traditional workshops and colourful houses with the old style tiled roofs.  Many still have the traditionally iron clad balconies full of flowers and washing, which gives São Vicente a residential feel and strong sense of community.  

Rising above these narrow streets is one of Lisbon’s most magnificent churches, the Igreja e Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora (The church and monastery of Saint Vincent). The Igreja e Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora has an impressive Italian Renaissance facade with two ornate towers that house status of the saints.  It is well worth going inside; the interior has a barrel vaulted ceiling and a Baroque altar by the Portuguese sculptor Joaquim Machado de Castro.  Over in the monastery is a superb collection of the blue and

Tiled Panels in the Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora
Tiled Panels in the Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora

white Portuguese tiles depicting scenes from Portuguese history.  In the cloisters are more tiled panels, which tell the tales by the French poet Jean de la Fontaine.  There is also a museum here, which documents the history of Lisbon and has a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, jewellery and vestments.  Finally before you leave, climb the stairs to the rooftop to see the fantastic views of the city and River Tejo.

Nearby is the Feira da Ladra (the thieves market), this market is a treasure trove for antiques and bric-a-brac. The market is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays; but it is worth passing by any day of the week just to visit the square and garden of Campo de Santa Clara.  This is a pleasant spot with a handful of charming neighbourhood cafes and bars, all with fantastic views towards the sea.  All this makes it a lovely place to have a drink and enjoy a lazy afternoon in the sun.

From the Campo de Santa Clara it is an easy walk up to the Castelo de São Jorge and the bairro of Graça.  On the way is the tiny little cafe restaurant GatoPardo (see below for details).  This is a fantastic “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant, typical of the area which serves up a wonderful selection of Portuguese and Mediterranean inspired dishes using garden fresh produce.  It is a neighbourhood restaurant in the truest sense and a real gem.

Alternatively walk down into Baixa or the sea front via Alfama; and if you are walking through Alfama don’t miss the National Pantheon (Panteão Nacional), which is just a few moments from Campo de Santa Clara.

Practical information:

The Igreja e Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora sits on Arco Grande de Cima.  The monastery is to the right of the church in Largo de São Vicente.  Admission to the church is free; The monastery and museum has a small entrance fee and is open every day.  The traditional wooden Tram 28 stops close by at the Feira da Ladra (the thieves market).  

Feira da Ladra (the thieves market) is on Campo de Santa Clara and is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  

GatoPardo is on Rua São Vicente for more information visit their Facebook page:    https://pt-br.facebook.com/BistroBrechoGatoPardo/

Photography and Credits:  All photography in this post is the property of LisbonLux.com. LisbonLux have generously given their permission for the use of their photography on this site.  LisbonLux is an independent blog and one of the best city guides to Lisbon on the web.  For more information about Lisbon visit:  www.lisbonlux.com