Portugal’s capital Lisbon straddles several hills overlooking the Tagus river. Steeped in history and lined with trendy bars and shops, this cosmopolitan city manages to effortlessly combine old and new attractions.
Replete with churches, squares and monuments, Lisbon rivals some of its more popular European city break rivals such as Barcelona and Budapest. Whether you choose to wander around the city’s distinctive neighbourhoods and twisting alleys, sample its energetic nightlife or explore its nearby beaches and natural parks, Lisbon will leave you wondering why it took you so long to visit.
Getting there/getting around Lisbon
There are daily flights to Lisbon Airport from all the London airports and the easiest way into town is by taxi – it shouldn’t set you back more than about £6. There are also cheap and frequent buses too.
Once in the city, take advantage of the superb metro system, tram network and funiculars that criss cross Lisbon’s steep hills. Enjoy walking tours and boat trips on the River Tagus. Try to avoid driving, which is a nightmare in the city.
Sightseeing in Lisbon
The city’s two main tourist draws are the cathedral and the castle, the latter of which offers panoramic views. Visitors can climb its towers and stroll along its reconstructed ramparts.
Rossio is one of the most beautiful squares in the city and is certainly worth a visit. The nearby 19th century railway station is also visually impressive. Commerce Square, or Palace Square as it’s also known, denotes the former maritime entrance to the city and is dominated by a splendid arch.
Belem and the Gulbenkian Art Complex are possibly the cultural hearts of the capital – both areas are crammed with art galleries, musuems and gardens. Quelez National Palace is easy to reach from Lisbon. Studded with Baroque fountains, statues and gardens, it’s often compared to the Versailles Palace in France.
Family attractions in Lisbon
Kids will love the water park, Aquaparque, in Caselas, and they can also learn a few new skills at the fantastic school of circus arts (Chapito) at Costa do Castelo. In addition, there’s a city zoo, planetarium, oceanarium and amusement rides at Indios Park to enjoy. For young sports-lovers, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing are available at the Nautical Centre.
The mostly traffic-free Parque das Nacoes is a great place to chill out for the day, or you could hire some bikes and explore.
Day trips around Lisbon
Move north and west from the city and you will hit the Estoril coast where you can explore seaside resorts like Cascais as well as the heritage-rich town of Sintra.
Lourinha offers a fantastic dinosaur museum – footprints of these prehistoric beasts can be viewed in the Serra de Aire. From Lourinha, travel to Peniche where boat trips run to the tranquil Berlengas Islands Nature Reserve.
Head south from Lisbon and you will discover the Costa Azul where beaches blend with fishing towns and natural parks. Setubal is one of the highlights – boat trips, dolphin-watching and birdlife can all be enjoyed here.
Eating out in Lisbon
Salted cod is the national dish but the quality of other fish and seafood offerings are fantastic. Grilled meat is popular, coffee is served delightfully strong and pastries and desserts are ubiquitous.
If you want to eat out, head to the chic Chiado district in the west of the city, or Baixa, Bairro Alto and well-heeled Lapa.
Nightlife in Lisbon
Lisbon has abundant nightlife choices from open-air cafes, bars and discos to live music venues. The bohemian Bairro Alto district teems with fashionable bars and is renowned for its thriving gay-friendly watering holes. Other popular night spot areas include the Docks and Avenida 24 de Julho.
Genuine culture vultures should check venture to a traditional Fado House in one of the city’s old quarters. Fado refers to traditional songs often accompanied by guitar playing.
Shopping in Lisbon
The narrow streets of Bairro Alto are fabulous for designer wear. Or shop along the waterfront markets at Cais do Sodre or the pedestrianised Rua Augusta, which is dotted with stalls selling a myriad goods, and often buzzes with street performers.