Lisbon Travel Guide

The capital of Portugal has experienced a renaissance in recent years and has reclaimed its rightful place as the 'golden city' of southern Europe. After slumbering for decades, the city's modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan identity is today much similar to that which it enjoyed in the 15th and 16th centuries during the age of the great discoverers, when Lisbon was the centre of trade with the East and the starting point for maritime exploration of the globe.

While much is new, there is plenty of the old left to charm visitors, giving the metropolis a slightly provincial air. The medieval section of Alfama skirts the city's Sao Jorge castle, and historic wooden trams ply noisily up and down steep hills past art deco cafes and mosaic-decorated pavements. Many of the relics of the city's golden age were destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, but some survived and are popular tourist attractions, complemented now by modern sights like the futuristic Oceanarium.

Within easy reach of the city are the sandy beaches of several coastal resorts, such as Estoril and Cascais, as well as the forested areas of Sintra and attractions like the extraordinary Mafra monastery. The mood of Lisbon is light and bright, fresh and avante garde, ready to welcome the world to the doorstep as one of the great capitals of Europe.

Best time to visit Lisbon

High season for a holiday in Lisbon is a long one, the weather being inviting and clement from spring right through summer to the autumn months, with warm days often continuing right through to November. Even if you travel to Lisbon in winter you will find it mild, rather than cold, but there is often rain in winter.

What to see in Lisbon

-Roam the oldest part of Lisbon, the Alfama quarter.

-Spoil the kids at the amazing Oceanario de Lisboa.

-Have a peek at one of Lisbon's most photographed sites, the famous Tower of Belem.

-Stroll through the winding, romantic streets of the Bairro Alto district.

What to do in Lisbon

-Ride in style on the famous Tram 28.

-Take a tour of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

-Listen to some live music at Lisbon's famous Fado Bars.

-Picnic in the peaceful castle grounds of Castelo de Sao Jorge.

Beyond Lisbon

Lisbon's city centre can keep you very busy, but be sure to save a few days for exploring its surroundings. In just an hour or two, you can discover completely different worlds, from palaces to fishing huts, beaches to vineyards, these day trips show off the many faces of Portugal. One favourite excursion, only 15 miles (25km) from Lisbon, is the one of Portugal's oldest cities, Setubal, as well as the gorgeous old town of Evora, which is full of fascinating historical sights. As the transport hub of the country, it is easy to reach other Portuguese cities such as Porto and Madeira from Lisbon.

Getting there

Flights to Lisbon land in Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), situated in the municipality of Loures.

Did you know?

-Beneath the streets of Lisbon's downtown shopping area lies a hidden Roman Underworld with chambers, rooms, bridges and corridors. However, it is only open to the public two days a year due to the dangerous conditions lurking below.

-At one of Lisbon's classic cafes, Martinho da Arcada, there are two tables that are kept empty and are permanently 'reserved'. One is for Fernando Pessoa (possibly Portugal's most popular writer) and another for the Nobel laureate Jose Saramago (possibly Portugal's least popular writer).

-Lisbon was practically destroyed on 1st November 1755 by a massive earthquake which hit 8.9 on the Richer scale. It took the lives of 40,000 people and could be felt as far away as Scotland and Norway.