After the peace and quiet of the Alentejo it’s refreshing to be able to give myself in to the hectic of a large city…..the contrast is enormous! I have 24 hours of Lisbon ahead of me and I can’t wait. I’ve been here before, back in the nineties and don’t remember much of the city, apart from the fact that it was very hot, as it was the middle of summer…. clearly a different phase in my life ;-). As I am so fond of Porto, it’s a challenge to discover what Lisbon will do to me!

I check in at Cheese & Wine Lisbon, a trendy B&B situated in a beautifully renovated monumental building in central Lisbon. It is the brainchild of Filipa and Sérgio, a young couple who accidentally ended up in the hospitality business. They didn’t want to leave their lovely apartment in de Graça district after their baby was born, but the apartment was too small. As they had always been keen travellers themselves, they decided to rent out the apartment through Airbnb, an interesting way to meet different nationalities….. and this turned out to be an instant hit, they received so many positive reactions! The fact that they welcomed their guests with a nice piece of Portuguese cheese and a bottle of red wine was the central thread in the feedback they received. And thus, in this new phase in their lives, the ‘cheese and wine’ concept was born: to create a home away from home for people who want to discover Lisbon, the beaten tracks, but especially the off beaten paths……and to live like a true ‘Lisboeta’! And that’s just the thing for Mrs. Local Hideaways, for of course there’s no escaping all the highlights this city has to offer, but it is so much more interesting to discover the ‘real’ Lisbon….. away from the tourist masses, for they are enormous!

My timing isn’t perfect, I must admit, for Felipa and Sérgio are just about to complete the brand new first floor. Several new rooms will be added here, as well as a breakfast room, which they will relocate here from above. An added bonus is the spacious patio with vertical garden against the rear wall, a lovely outside area!

These building activities notwithstanding, Sérgio, welcomes we warmly and takes the time to show me around and give me some useful tips about Lisbon and how to spend the next 24 hours…… while enjoying a glass of wine and a lovely bit of cheese from Serra d’Estrella, Sérgio’s home land. It’s great to be received so warmly nice to know that all guests are welcomed like this. As Sérgio explains, it is one of the key values of Cheese & Wine: to make people feel at home as much as possible, both in the small-scale hotel and in the city!

After this warm introduction, I settle myself in my lovely spacious room, complete with French balconies, comfortable double bed and ensuite bathroom and work area. The high ornamented ceilings enhance the spaciousness of the room. All rooms are different and totally great, as they were carefully and tastefully decorated with cool vintage furniture and objects. This is all Filipa’s doing, she has a natural flair for it. The majority of the vintage finds I would take home in a heartbeat! Families were also considered…there are several rooms that sleep an entire family.

High time to discover the city – be prepared for some steep climbs, for this is city of the seven hills (don’t wear your heels) – and so I take the Ascensor da Bica to the higher part of the city. Before wandering around the Barrio Alta I simply must taste the best ‘Pasteis de Nata’ – the delicious custard pastry that originated in Lisbon – at Manteigaria… although it’s an ongoing battle whether the best pasteis in the city are prepared here or at Pasteís de Belem.

I continue my way to the highest part and enjoy the breathtaking views, especially at this time of day when the sun sets over the city, giving it a magical glow. I reach the city’s most trendy area: Principe Real. Absolutely worth spending some time in, you’ll feel like a true ‘Lisboeta’ here! I have dinner at the trendy A Cevicheria – I’m having a delicious Peruvian ceviche prepared by chef Kiko Martins – they don’t take reservations but waiting for a table while enjoying a drink outside and watching local life go by is certainly no punishment!

Tired but satisfied, I head back to Cheese & Wine, where I sleep like a baby in my comfortable bed! The next morning, a lovely breakfast awaits me, a perfect start to the day. And then it’s time to make some new plans, for I have several hours left before I have to leave for the airport. Before I head into town, I take a minute to walk around downstairs, the rooms are going to be great (note: they have all been completed by now) and what a wonderful idea to turn the patio into an urban oasis!

I can only admire the endless energy that Filipa and Sérgio display. With ‘Cheese and Wine’ they have succeeded in creating a little gem in Lisbon and they understand the needs of the contemporary traveller perfectly.

The question I now have to ask myself is ‘Lisbon or Porto’…..well, it’s rather a Sagres vs Superbock (local ales) or Bica vs. Cambalinho (as the tiny cups of coffee are called) kind of dilemma….both the same but very different. And the Portuguese are very sensitive about this! In my opinion, Porto is a bit more raw, unpolished – Lisbon is more elegant, a bit more sophisticated, but also more touristic. In short, both are worth exploring and both have a perfect Local Hideaway to stay in! I wonder where your next city trip will be headed!

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