Portugal lies along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in south Western Europe. It shares a border with Spain in the east and north, while the Atlantic dominates the coastline in the west and south. Considered one of the friendliest and safest countries in the world, Portugal is famous for its typical seafood dishes, popular beach destinations, and 16th to 19th century architecture from when this country was a powerful maritime empire. It's also known for its soccer legends, fado music, historical cities, and port wine.
If you love food, culture, lively nightlife and wondering around cobbled streets, you will love Lisbon. The capital of Portugal is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating London and Paris. Consequently it is steeped in history which can be felt everywhere you go. The city still utilises century old wooden trams, which add to Lisbon's authentic, nostalgic vibe.
Visit in June during the "Sardine Festival" to enjoy the city at its most vibrant. Also known as "The feast of St Anthony" - Every year the peak of the Festival kicks off on June 12th with weeks of celebrations following. The streets fill with decorations, music, dancing, stalls selling alcohol, grilled sardines, bifanas - the atmosphere is lively, upbeat and optimistic.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN LISBON
1. Get lost in the Alfama district.
Explore the oldest district in Lisbon - once the poor area of Lisbon where seaman and dock workers lived - now a fashionable and popular area filled with history and culture. You can spend a day just walking around the narrow streets. Explore the squares and Lisbon's most historic buildings including the photogenic 'Se Cathedral' and amazing views from the castle of St George. Have an Al fresco dinner listening to traditional Fado music while you watch the world go by. Catch tram 28 for a cheap tour of Lisbon. Riding one of Lisbon's old trams is definitely a highlight, meaning it can also get very busy. Ride in the early morning, or later at night for a more peaceful experience. The tram fare is 3 euros each way, or you can purchase a 24 hour ticket in the Metro stations that include unlimited public transport. The price of this ticket is just over 6 euros.
2. Visit Belem
Belem is a quaint area of Lisbon, just a short tram ride away from central Lisbon. Hire a bike for a fun and cheap way to explore the many historic monuments (for example the Belem tower pictured below). Home of the famous custard tarts (Portuguese: pastel de nata) Belem is well known for having the best. Nothing beats enjoying an expresso and pastry in the early morning sun while you plan your adventures for the day.
3. Carmo Convent
This former catholic convent is evidence of the destruction caused by Lisbon's 1755 earthquake. Built between 1389 and 1423, its unique gothic style makes it a favourite stop with tourists. Now an archeological museum and instagrammers dream, this roofless structure has to be seen to fully understand the awe it brings.
4. Day trip to Sintra
Visit the instagrammable Pena palace, a multicoloured castle pulled straight from a fairy tale. Explore Quinta da Regaleira - A UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will find the "initiation wells" - these spiral staircases are more underground towers as they never contained water. They were used mainly for ceremonial purposes. End your day at Praia da Ursa (pictured below), a beautiful beach accessed by a fairly steep climb. It is 'off the beaten track' so to speak, so it will be peaceful however because of this - don't be surprised if there are a few naturists there!
5. Watch the sunset
Head up to 'miradouro da graça' or 'miradouro de Santa Catarina' to enjoy the most amazing sunsets. There are plenty of rooftop bars there with the famous city views, our favourite roof top bar which experiences amazing sunset views is a place called “Park”. Its located on the 6th floor of a parking garage, so don't be confused as you approach and enter a car park! Enjoy some evening drinks at Bairro Alto, followed by a stop at the famous Pink street.