Break in Lisbon Portugal
Although Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, it is still relatively compact and therefore extremely easy to find your way around. Founded over 20 centuries ago, it is steeped in history and culture, is famous for its legendary cafes and nightlife, and very close to the seaside resort of Estoril, which is considered the Portuguese Riviera.
Lisbon is not short of choice when it comes to hotel accommodation but if you want to stay in accommodation that feels more like a private residence, the 18th century As Janelas Verdes is just the place. This small, elegant, but intimate hotel is located in the historic centre within easy walking distance to some of the most interesting parts of town.
One of the best ways to explore the city is on one of the original electric trams that pass through the narrow streets giving you an overview of all the wonderful cafes and art nouveau shops. Lisbon has a choice of atmospheric restaurants, and a popular choice in the evenings is the Doca 6 Restaurant serving both Portuguese and international cuisine. Many absolutely rave about the lamb dishes claiming they are the best they have ever eaten! For a more romantic experience, there is the Clube de Fado. Right in the heart of the picturesque medieval quarter of Alfama, you can listen to Portuguese guitar while you dine to the moving sound of Fado which is like the Portuguese equivalent to Flamenco.
Alfama is like a village in itself, made up of a network of narrow alleys, churches and squares. It is easy to get lost in its medieval charm and its white washed houses with flowers that festoon over the wrought iron balconies. The fashionable district of Bairro Alto is another popular area, particularly for its lively nightlife.
Built on the hillside where the Tagus river meets the Atlantic Ocean, there are amazing views from almost any vantage point. The Santa Justa Elevator is one such place, designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel. It was originally powered by steam, built to connect the lower end to the higher end of town. There is also a spiral staircase, that leads to the top of the tower with a cafe so you can sit and enjoy lunch while you admire the view.
From the Santa Just Elevator you can see St George’s castle, built in the 6th century. Unfortunately much of it was affected by the great earthquake in 1755 so only 18 towers and a long section of wall remains. However, if you climb the towers and walk along the ramparts you will once again be able to enjoy fabulous views.
Best remembered as the city of explorers, Lisbon is where many voyages of discovery started from and the 15th century Torre de Belem fortress, now a World Heritage site, once guarded the entrance to the harbour. The Monument of Discoveries which attracts millions of visitors each year, is shaped like a ship with historical figures carved into the stone depicting the spirit of these famous voyages. Inside the monument, there is a film about the city and an elevator to take you to the top.
Continuing with the ocean theme is Parque das Nacoes, a leisure park, which was the site for Expo 98. Its futuristic architecture, water gardens and Oceanarium (considered to be one of the world’s most impressive aquariums) will provide entertainment for the whole family.
Portugal is the home of Port wines, and so another popular experience is wine tasting at the Port Wine Institute. Both relaxed and welcoming, there are up to 200 different varieties to choose from, and so your greatest challenge will be which ones to try!
If you wish to get out of the city for the day there are several splendid places to visit and all within easy reach. You can go dolphin watching at the port of Setubal, or there is the surfing Mecca of Ericeira. A train will take you to the seaside resort of Estoril where all the rich and famous go on holiday, and the tiny fishing village of Cascais, which used to attract many royals and artists back in the 1930’s is another surfer’s paradise.
Lisbon is an intriguing mix of traditional and cosmopolitan lifestyles and, with so much to see and do, you will have no difficulty in making your stay a truly memorable one.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.
Or visit her travel website covering countries in Europe and all around the globe.