Lisbon has been busy lately doing what it does best: embellishing its inimitable, gilded history with world-class venues for contemporary culture, art, and dining. Even as Baixa, the city’s cheerfully decrepit 18th-century downtown, applies for UNESCO World Heritage site status, a roster of starchitects among them Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, and local talent Alvaro Siza-are vying to leave their marks on Lisbon’s parks and residential developments. While independent fashion designers and antiquarians still reign in Principe Real and Bairro Alto, interior designers have established themselves in adjacent Santos, followed by adventurous restaurateurs who are looking beyond Portugal’s borders for inspiration. And as the Continent’s capital cities seem to move ever closer to a state of homogeneity, Lisbon remains delightfully free of the signs of global bleed. (There’s exactly one Starbucks downtown, and it opened just months ago). The resulting balance of oldworld charm and edgy avant-gardecreates a dynamic that’s full of surprises and definitely worth exploring.