Is this the brightest gem in Portugal?

New Yorkers,  if you’ve had it with snow and snarled traffic, Lisbon, the closest major European city to New York, is a short plane ride away. Lisbon is chock-full of the museums and cultural treasures befitting a large European city. I am proud to say that during my brief time there, I partook of none of them, choosing instead to wander the twisting streets lined with pastel-pink and lime-green houses, plaintive fado music emanating from many of them, ducking into bakeries to sample fried chicken dumplings and bacalao (fried balls of codfish, potatoes, and garlic), and drinking in views of the Tagus River as it flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.  The most atmospheric neighborhoods in Lisbon are those that cling to the hills, like Alfama, crowned by the Castelo de Sao Jorge fortress. The best way to get a sense of the city’s sweep is from the top of the Santa Just Lift, an ornate, freestanding cast-iron outdoor elevator that rises 150 feet. Evenings in Bairro Alto have the atmosphere of New York during a midsummer blackout. Crowds from the city’s many small bars overflow onto the narrow cobblestone streets.  At bedtime, try to land a pied-a-terre at the smart Bairro Alto Hotel (, 351-213-408-288, rooms from $345 include a full buffet breakfast).


454Its 55 guestrooms follow four typically Portuguese color themes: yellow, ivory, blue-gray, and raspberry, with Brazilian wood flooring. Chic, this, but thoughtful, too: Somewhere in each room there’s a lovely bird scene painted by a local artist.  If you don’t know which of the dozens of small restaurants in the neighborhood to choose, just head for the best, Flores, right off the hotel’s Zen lobby with its green, white, and cinnamon Moorish tiles. The menu features items like grouper fillet with potato and chorizo crust, lemongrass-raspberry creme brulee, and local libations like the perky 2004 Quinta da Aveleda “green” wine knowingly recommended to me. Vá agora!