Lisbon is located on the central west coast of Portugal facing the river Tagus, and is known for its stunning bridge, Manueline architecture and seven hills.
It merges old and modern seamlessly, making it an appealing destination for tourists as it is largely unaffected by tourism and retains a traditional charm that has been shaped over the centuries by cultural influences and a rich history.
Unlike other major European cities, many of Lisbon’s neighbourhoods are intact and unspoiled. Wander through the narrow streets of Alfama or Mouraria, enjoying the displays of the rainbow-hued flower boxes tumbling from the houses.
Marvel at the stunning tile work on building exteriors and the calçada pavements that are unique to Portugal and a remnant from a distant past.
The Torre de Belém is one of Lisbon’s main landmarks and was built to defend Lisbon’s harbor. You can explore inside – the top floors have the best carvings and you’ll be rewarded after climbing up the winding staircases with amazing views over the river. If you happen to visit on the first Sunday of every month, entrance is free.
Easily accessed via tram from central Lisbon, make sure you arrive early to the stunning intricately-carved Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (if you have a Lisbocard you can skip the queues). Here you can see one of Lisbon’s prime examples of Manueline architecture, ensure you make time to see the tomb of explorer Vasco de Gama, the cloisters with columns decorated in maritime motifs and the confessional doors where the monks provided a sympathetic ear to sailors and pilgrims.
Jump on board one of Lisbon’s famous yellow trams – they will take you to some of the city’s most scenic sites including St George’s Castle and the seven hills. We recommend Tram 28 to Alfama that gives great city views over the red rooftops. Take this tram to the stop Campo da Santa Clara and browse the stalls at Feira da Ladra flea market held every Tuesday and Saturday.
Sit at a pavement cafeteria at Terreiro de Paco, a beautiful square on the edge of Lisbon that’s perfect for people-watching – the gelato is good too!
Don’t miss visiting a local tavern to sample some of Lisbon’s rich food like carne de porco Alentejana (pork simmered with clams in their juices and served with roast potatoes) or stop by a padaria, one of Lisbon’s bakeries for delicious cakes and pastries.
When the sun goes down, join the crowds for a Ginjinha (cherry liqueur) at Bairro alto where the party-goers spill out onto the streets to mingle.
If you’re itching to see some regal palaces and Moorish architecture, head for the beautiful town of Sintra that abounds with sights like Quinta da Regaleira, Parque de Monserrate and the Castelo dos Mouros.
Cascais, just 40 minutes’ drive from Lisbon, is a charming fishing town popular as a base for the Quincho coast. Visit the interesting Musee Condes de Castro, or if the weather is adverse watch the fury of ocean waves crashing onto rocks at Boca do Inferno. Once there, use the free bicycles courtesy of the city council’s BiCas scheme, or avoid parking issues in neighbouring Escoril by walking there along the seafront promenade.
The windswept cliffs of Cabo da Roca, 45 minutes from Lisbon, mark the most westerly point of Europe. Follow the coastal paths along rugged scenery, and stop by the lighthouse.
Head south from Lisbon, via the scenic Lagoa de Albufeira lagoons to the coastal resort of Sesimbra. Bus timetables are limited, so hiring a car is the best option to see this pretty region. At Sesimbra, drive up to the ruins of Castelo de Sesimbra for panoramic views over the town or venture to the Arrábida National Park and hike under the pine trees.