Travel to Lisbon?
Not as big or extravagant as neighbouring capitals, Lisbon/Lisboa has,
nevertheless, plenty to keep a tourist busy for a while, with a
bonus of some superb beaches an hour away at Guincho.
Food variety and value is excellent, local wine and beer is acceptable,
coffee is fantastic and there are plenty of interesting walks to
aid the digestion or clubs to wail away the night.
Portugal's unique art forms, azulejos and Manueline (Gothic) decoration are
at their best in this city and there's no shortage of striking buildings
The streets are safer than in most European cities, the taxis are
good value and the museums magnificent.
Within very easy hire-car distance on spanking new motorways are surfing
beaches, climbing castles, medieval walled towns, national parks,
a zillion churches/monasteries and even the Algarve in three hours.
Smoking in public places is now prohibited.
- Driving and parking in Lisbon is a pain.
- Beware pickpockets, especially on Tram 28.
- Tired of looking at churches? Yup!
- The city is not exactly packed with grand old sights, having lost
a spectacular amount in the massive quake of 1755.
Best: May-September, the dry season, but it
may get oppressively hot and humid during July-August with average highs of 28C (82F) and lows of 18C (64F), but can easily rise to 32C (90C).
Not so good: November-March, mild
but with plenty of rain throughout. Winter average lows of around 8C (46F), highs of 15C (59F)
Current Lisbon temperature and time.
Things to Do
Sights are conveniently clustered. (also see museums below)
Baixa, the city's central valley and its heart, sweeps more or
less from the pleasant Avenida Liberdade, past the gorgeous Rossio
train station to two plazas, Dom
Pedro and da Figueira, before hitting tourist overload in the pedestrian
area around the odd elevator
of Santa Justa. Baixa terminates at Praca do Comercio by the river,
a good place to catch trams or open-top tourist buses.
Chiado and Barrio Alto are on a low hill west of Baixa and showcase
the posh side of the city
- smart shops and good restaurants, with a couple of museums and
two special churches - roofless Convento do Carmo and gold, marble,
azuleja packed Sao Roque.
Alfama, Castelo and Graca, on hills east of Baixa, offer the dark
side of life - tangled little medieval streets, decaying tenements,
and clubs of every description including saddo Fado.
Topping the hill is the city's best viewpoint, Sao Jorge Castle
and the splendid story-telling azulejos of the Monastery of Sao
Vicente de Fora.
Belem, a little further west and Vasco da Gama's departure point
for his Discovery tour, Belem contains the fabulous Jeronimos
Monastery, the quaintly elaborate Belem
tower - both Manueline classics, the ship-like Monument
to the Discoveries, some excellent museums and a clutch of funky
Museums: Some outstanding museums are: Calouste Gulbenkian
(superb artefacts from all over the world), Nacional do
Azulejos (obvious, non?), MUDE (modern art), the Berardo Museum (modern art), the Paula Rego Museum (a famously 'disturbing' Portuguese artist) in Cascais and the Nacional de Arte Antiga (mainly
Oceanarium: Europe's largest collection of marine life are
grandly displayed in the Oceanario in the huge Parque das Nacoes.
There is also an excellent interactive Science Museum that
Traditional music: Sad Fado music failed to distract the Bugcrew
but if you want to try for a tear head for Alfama or Bairro Alto
districts in the evenings.
Feb/March, Carnival. Various colourful festivities during the last
days before Lent.
12-13 June, Festa de Santo Antonio, a night long street fair, esp.
in Alfama and Mouraria districts.
23-24 June, Festa de Sao Joao, nationwide, but longer in Porto.
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
Walking is the clear choice and generally pleasant in spite of the
hills and joggers appear to enjoy enjoy the Belem riverbank.
Swimming: a couple of pools are available in the city centre.
Golf: head west towards Estoril and you'll stumble across a pile
of great courses, including Golf do Estoril, an Open Championship
As usual driving and parking in a foreign city is no fun, so avoid
it if possible.
The Lisbon airport bus is efficient, frequent and good value, and
taxis are also reasonably priced though a tourist should keep an
eye on the meter - insist it's used for a start!
The city is fully supplied with an excellent metro, buses and trams.
Trams, particularly No. 28, are popular with tourists and consequently
also with pickpockets.
Restaurants, Bars and Clubs. Lisbon has an active, late nightlife
much of it focussed on Bairro Alto, Alcantara and recently at Santa
Trips out of Lisbon
Beaches around Estoril or better Cascais, (west) or Caparica
(south), for sunning or surfing. Up to an hour by train,
bus or ferry.
Sintra's wonderful collection of wacky buildings and woody walks,
an hour away.
Mafra - just the one building, the Palacio Nacional, but it's a
monster palace/ monastery no expense spared including employing
45,000 artisans. Guided tours only. 2 hours.
Obidos, superb walled hilltop town. 2 hours.
Evora World Heritage site and the most interesting place in Portugal
after Lisbon. 2 hours.
Souvenirs: Naturally azulejos tiles and other ceramics
are a big seller, along with hand embroidered goods from all over
the country and cork products.
Shops in the centre of town and in the ubiquitous new shopping centres
tend to sell high price multinational goods of little interest as
Bairro Alto/Chiado is the most convenient place to find a good restaurant
as Alcantara and Doca de Santo Amaro are a bit of a hike. Don't forget the cover charge business ...
Hotel prices are reasonable but be sure to book ahead to procure
a room somewhere central.
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