Portugal’s historic capital city enjoys a wonderfully scenic location on the banks of the vast River Tagus. With a balmy climate, fabulous food and stunning architecture, it’s time you paid a visit.
Wander the ancient streets of Alfama
Put on comfy shoes and wander Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood. This maze of narrow, steep alleyways and squares dates back to the 5th century. Crowning the neighbourhood are the ruins of Castelo de Sao Jorge, the city’s 11th century Moorish citadel. Lisbon is said to have been built on seven hills, and is renowned for numerous miradouros (viewing terraces) located around the historical centre. Climb up to Miradoura da Santa Luzia and enjoy the fantastic panorama across the city’s red tile rooftops to the river.
Dine at the city’s foodie market
The Time Out Market is a gourmet food hall located in Cais do Sodre’s 19th century Mercado da Ribeira. This lively, informal collection of vendors under one roof has lured scores of visitors since its launch in 2014. Tempt your taste buds with a choice of 26 restaurants and eight bars. Artisan produce spans steak to pastries to sushi. If you’re a wine lover, check out Garrafeira Nacional. A family run operation since 1927, the store boasts over 2,000 wine labels plus an excellent range of Madeira and port.
Explore historic Belem
Discover the vibrant riverside neighbourhood of Belem, home to celebrated monuments and UNESCO world heritage sites. Built in 1514, the distinctive, ornate Belem Tower perches on a basalt outcrop over the River Tagus, where it protected the city from invaders by sea. Visit the beautiful cloisters of the Jeronimos monastery, which houses the tomb of famed Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Don’t miss a visit to the historic Café Pasteis de Belem, inventor of the delicious Portuguese custard tart, pasteis de nata. Afterwards, take a stroll around the nearby Tropical Botanical Gardens.
Enjoy the nightlife in Bairro Alto
Tranquil and low key by day, this hilly neighbourhood springs to life when the sun goes down, and revellers flock to its mishmash of trendy bars, clubs and excellent restaurants. If you haven’t encountered fado music before, check out a performance. Portugal’s national music features a soulful, often heart rending vocal, accompanied by classical guitar. Many of the area’s traditional restaurants showcase performances to accompany your dinner.
Ride a traditional tram
A great way to see Lisbon’s old neighbourhoods, hop on the E28 tram from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique. The one hour journey passes through the scenic Alfama and Baixa districts, then ascends through Chiado and affluent Estrela. You’ll swing past narrow streets of colourful houses, a stunning viewpoint at Miradouro das Portas do Sol, regal parliament buildings and Lisbon’s majestic Se Cathedral. Final stop is the serene Cemitério dos Prazeres. Here you get a fabulous view of the 25 April Bridge, the distinctive suspension bridge which straddles the Tagus. Remember, the trams are public transport for local residents, and you may need to stand for some of the journey! Ride before 10am or after 6pm to avoid the busiest times.
Browse fine artworks
Visit Lisbon’s Gulbenkian museum where you’ll discover a vast private collection of over 6,000 pieces of ancient and modern art. Pieces include Islamic works dating from the 12th century, Egyptian and Greek artefacts, and an extensive European collection including masterpieces by Monet, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Renoir, plus works by contemporary artists such as Paula Rego. Calouse Gulbenkian was an Armenian oil magnate who spent the last 13 years of his life residing in Portugal. Before he died he donated his entire collection to the country that had become his home.
Hit the beach
From Cais do Sodre train station, catch a train to Cascais, a lovely seaside resort along the coast from Lisbon. The Linha da Cascais train line follows the Tagus estuary as it joins the Atlantic Ocean. Get a seat on the left so you can enjoy the sea views as you travel. It’s a 30 to 40 minute journey to Cascais (the last stop on the line). The pretty town has two sandy beaches fringed by the Atlantic and lots of restaurants, shops and bars. Another good bet is Carcavelos beach (9km from Cascais, several stops earlier on the same train line) which is a vast expanse of golden sand with clean blue waters great for swimming.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com