Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon's status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal. During World War II, Lisbon was one of the very few neutral, open European Atlantic ports, a major gateway for refugees to the U.S. and a haven for spies! The Revolution of 1910 put an end to the monarchy and two subsequent revolutions in 1926 and 1974 paved the way for the Lisbon of today. Having hosted several major events, including the 2010 NATO summit, Lisbon is officially recognised as an alpha-level global city. In 1994 it was named European Capital of Culture.
Last month Traveleads Administration Manager Jan Telford visited the city to discover for herself why Lisbon attracted over 3 million tourists last year alone.
We arrived into Lisbon International Airport and were surprised by how easily accessible the city proved to be. The most cost effective away to reach the city is to take the Metro (1.45 euro each way) Allow approximately 20 minutes for your journey.
If you prefer to jump into a taxi and transfer directly to your hotel then expect to pay on average approximately 15 euros (Depending on traffic). We stayed at the Vintage Hotel & Spa - Lisbon
The Vintage Hotel & Spa is perfectly situated at the crossroads of Lisbon’s most fashionable and popular neigbourhoods. From here you can stroll to the upmarket boutiques on the Avenida Liberdade, to the bustling bars, restaurants and galleries of Bairro Alto and Chiado and to the wonderfully bohemian district of Príncipe Real. The rooftop terrace affords a second to none panoramic view across the Lisbon rooftops and includes the iconic Castelo de São Jorge. On the ground floor, The Vintage Restaurant - where breakfast is served – has a delicious Portuguese menu for lunch and dinner. Or, if you really want to take relaxation to the next level, treat yourself to a swim, steam and spa treatment – all in the peaceful surroundings of The Vintage Spa.
Lisbon enjoys a subtropical Mediterranean climate, which means it benefits from mild (but often wet) winters, and hot summers - where temperatures can range between 20-30 degrees. The best way to explore the city is on foot. Lisbon is a city of hills, so for those with limited mobility, or time, a day pass for the Metro will help you navigate the city, they cost just 6 euros and are also valid on buses and trams. We enjoyed three days of sightseeing and were fortunate enough to see the many hi-lights Lisbon offers, including:
Belem – an area definitely worth a visit. This used to be the main harbour and was once the departure point of all the Portuguese ships that set sail during the ‘Discoveries Era’. You can breathe the history here, amongst the majestic monuments, spacious gardens and gorgeous river views. We visited the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. The building looks amazing, however, the exhibitions were a little obscure for us – I would only recommend going inside if there is a specific exhibition you want to see. Other ‘must sees’ in this area are: Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, which sadly was closed for a private ceremony when we visited but is generally open to the public. The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the gothic style in Lisbon. Padrão dos Descobrimentos (The monument dedicated to Discovery) located on the northern bank of the Tagus river, and Torre de Belem, the tower of St Vincent - built in the early part of the 16th Century, the fortified structure is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
If you are feeling energetic the uphill walk to Castelo de Sao Jorge provides a great workout, and as the castle sits on the highest of Lisbon’s seven hills the views are fabulous! On the way up to the castle you will pass through the buzzing bohemian district of Alfamar, a great place to stop for lunch. Or why not combine lunch with a visit to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, we enjoyed a light lunch complemented by modern art and sculpture – perfect!
Visitors to the city will notice lots of signs that read ‘Miradouro’ if you see any of these signs follow them as Miradouro translates to ‘viewpoint’ and these signs will lead you to the best vantage points and some incredible photo opportunities.
Restaurants and dining options are plentiful in Lisbon and we were lucky enough to visit several different eateries. Two that I would recommend are; Chimera – a quirky little restaurant serving a delicious five-course tasting menu. Great value for money and if you would like to change one of the five courses (Octopus is not for everyone!) they will happily oblige. Mercearia do Seculo – with just 16 seats you will definitely need to book ahead to avoid disappointment. The food is absolutely delicious in this delightful home-style-bistro, tucked away on a residential street, well off the tourist trail. The theme here is fresh, healthy and organic with no compromise on flavour or presentation. Mercearia do Seculo doesn't currently have a website but you can find out more on their facebook page
No visit to Lisbon would be complete without visiting one of the traditional bakeries. Don’t leave without trying the pasteis de nata (custard tart) – to die for, especially when still warm from the oven!
I would like to return later in the year when the weather has warmed up. We missed strolling through the parks, sitting in the squares enjoying a drink and the Botanical Gardens were closed for refurbishment. A great excuse to book another visit!