One of Europe’s oldest capitals (second only to Athens), Lisbon’s colourful history is reflected in every tiled facade and cobbled street. Read more.
One of Europe’s oldest capitals (second only to Athens), Lisbon’s colourful history is reflected in every tiled facade and cobbled street. Over centuries its strategic and beautiful location on the coast was recognised by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and the Moors. The city rose to great riches with the Age of Discovery, and then fell with the catastrophic earthquake of 1755. But today, Lisbon is very much alive - full of history and culture, stunning sunsets and a buzzing nightlife.
Take a walk
Central Lisbon is compact and hilly, best to explore on foot, or with its iconic yellow trams. Start by taking the no. 28 tram up to St George’s Castle, for a fantastic view over the city and to get your bearings. From the top wander down through Alfama, once a working-class suburb that provides a glimpse of traditional Lisbon. Walking through the steep, narrow streets, you’ll stumble across tiny stores, cafes, the twice-weekly flea market, and authentic ‘Fado Houses’ where mournful Fado (Portuguese folk music) is played. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk, art is everywhere in this city. Look out for antique decorative tiles that adorn otherwise ordinary buildings, and the cutting-edge graffiti for which Lisbon is fast gaining a reputation. For a concentrated hit, the Berardo Museum has an impressive collection of contemporary art including pieces by Picasso and Warhol, while the MUDE (fashion and design museum) is in the wonderful space of a former bank.
Portugal was a forerunner of maritime exploration and nowhere is this more keenly felt than in the district of Belem, to the southwest of the city. Here the Belem Tower stands guard over Lisbon’s harbour, an elaborate monument built in the early 1500s to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. On your way back nab one of the famous custard tarts from Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, then head to a taberna for a beer and small plates of fresh sea food. If you’re up for a night on the tiles, be prepared for a long one - Lisbon’s nightlife is second to none. Head to Hot Club, Europe’s oldest jazz bar, or to Lux, touted as one of the best clubs in Europe and with a location next to the river that can’t be beaten.
Lisbon is well-linked through its public transport. You can purchase tickets and concession cards from the booths located at stations, giving you passage on the subway, buses and trams. You can ride free if you purchase a Lisboa City Pass, which gives free or discounted entrance to major museums and attractions. Taxis in Lisbon are plentiful and inexpensive.
Where to stay
Baixa, central and close to most of the major attractions, was completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake with wide streets and neoclassical buildings. Nearby Chiado is an attractive shopping district, while a number of hotels can be found in Bairro Alto; perched atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, this is the city’s bohemian heart that comes alive at night with bars, restaurants and alternative shops. Riverside Cais do Sodré, once the seedy red light district, is transforming into the city’s hippest new hotspot.