Dowdy old Lisbon is finally coming alive, said Seth Sherwood in The New York Times. Known for its faded colonial-era charms, cable cars, and inexpensive seafood, Portugal’s capital city has emerged from the geographic, cultural, and economic margins of Western Europe to become its newest showpiece. “Avidly making up for lost time,” a rising generation of artists in all fields—theater, art, music, dance—is creating an edgy new metropolis “amid the time-worn monuments and quaint cobbled lanes.”

In the city’s Belém district sits the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a 16th-century Gothic monastery that flourished at the height of the Portuguese empire. But right across the street is Lisbon’s “boldest 21st-century bid to recapture some cultural prominence,” the year-old Berardo Collection Museum. Here you can see paintings by Francis Bacon; Salvador Dalí’s whimsical White Aphrodisiac Telephone, topped with a lobster; and Paula Rego’s hallucinatory The Barn, which depicts “two young girls gleefully whipping the exposed backside of a milkmaid.” The museum is also packed with works by such contemporary masters as Richard Serra and Nan Goldin. Closer to the center of town is the “emerging design district” of Santos, filled with galleries and shops. At Storytailors, a renovated 18th-century warehouse, trendily dressed customers resembling “coy Lolitas and escapees from the pages of Wuthering Heights” browse through a wide selection of hoop skirts, corsets, and richly patterned lace undergarments.

As night falls, get a taste of contemporary Lisbon cuisine. Eleven, Lisbon’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, sits amid the manicured lawns of Parque Eduardo VII and “serves up flashy Portuguese-modern dishes” such as octopus terrine and black pork loin in red pepper crust. Terreiro Do Paço, located downtown, is known for its salt-cod carpaccio and pineapple–goat cheese ravioli. Most of Lisbon’s nightlife takes place at myriad bars and DJ lounges hidden among the winding lanes of the Bairro Alto and the Chiado districts. “Some of Lisbon’s most adventurous and alternative acts” can be seen at Cabaret Maxime, a former strip club. Among locals, the cabaret’s recent reopening served as a sort of benchmark for the city’s resurgence, and “the future appears even brighter.”