Why Estrela Is The Best Neighbourhood for Your Lisbon Holiday?
Updated: May 12
Looking for something central and historic but not too noisy and busy?
Then Estrela (formerly known as Lapa) without doubt is the best Lisbon neighbourhood to stay! It is true we might be a bit biased to claim this as we love Estrela, but still looking at all objective indicators, Estrela is the hidden secret!
Estrela, once home for the nobility and wealthy is an important and (still relatively) quiet Lisbon neighbourhood. Its well-preserved family dwellings and mansions offer home today for many embassies and its central focus - Basílica da Estrela - does not leave anybody indifferent. Actually the name Estrela (star in english) originates from the former "Convent of Our Lady of the Star". The beautiful neoclassic church, going back to the XVIII century, charms the by-passers day and night. The beautiful towers outside and colourful marble decor inside are a must see!
Besides the beautiful church - Basílica da Estrela - that was built by the orders of Queen D. Maria I to fulfil her promise in return for having a son, you can also find here the powerful building of the Parliament and he official residence of the Prime Minister. The Parliament resides since 1834 in a historical building, referred to as Palácio de São Bento, once the site of an old Benedictine monastery.
If this general quietness and architectural beauty is not enough to convince you, then Jardim da Estela (Estrela Garden) will win your heart over fast! The romantic abundant greenery in the middle of the city is loved by locals and visitors. The park was created back in 1842 with donations from national royalty. Kids, adults, dogs, ducks, sport lovers, soul seekers fill the park daily. Besides little lake with ducks, couple of cafés, kids play area, you will find a large number of benches around the garden. Walking a dog, having a meet-up picnic with friends, doing yoga or jogging, reading a book or meditating on a hidden bench - are all equally explored activities in this luscious garden.
Lack of metro could be weakness of this neighbourhood, but maybe not!? Maybe the fact you cannot arrive there that easily is also a bit of a strength! However, no need to worry! The iconic Tram 28 (Elétrico 28) going up and down the famous Calçada da Estrela will take you everywhere. Calçada da Estrela runs through Estrela, connecting Bairro Alto with Campo de Ourique, passing by the Parliament, Basílica da Estrela & Jardim da Estrela. Anyway, you can do a bit of walking up and down the typical Portuguese stone pavement and you will reach the downtown area Baixa-Chiado within 15 minutes. And walking down the river Tejo is not taking more than that also.
Estrela and its neighbouring areas have also a variety of restaurants and coffee shops to make sure you can grab your breakfast, lunch or dinner near your "Lisbon home". You can go for breakfast in one of the cafés of Jardim da Estrela (Estrela Garden), Pastelaria Cristal (pastry-shop once the winner of the title of "best pastel de nata") or take few stops of Tram 28 until Campo de Ourique neighbourhood to check out the whimsical Café Amélia. For lunch you can grab something from Bowls Bar or Chef. And for dinner there are heaps of great alternatives: Clube de Jornalistas with its adorable internal patio, Café de São Bento known since ever for its signature stake, the traditional XL Restaurante, Sr.Vinho with its Fado shows or the ultimate gastronomic heaven Loco for the most refined and demanding tastes. And to freshen up, on your way to Prince Real, you should pass the ultra-popular ice-cream place Nannarelle, often with a long queue on the street!
There is no doubt that if it is important for you to stay on the busiest street of the city surrounded by big hotels, hostels and shops, then Estrela is not for you. Instead you should stay in Baixa, Chiado, Alfama or Principe Real. But if you do seek for something less crowded and authentic.. then Estrela is your neighbourhood! Just keep in mind that hearing the sounds of Tram 28 rushing up and down Calçada da Estrela is part of the charm of this Lisbon neighbourhood!