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As cities go you can’t get much more original than Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is an ancient city with a very modern vibe and a perfect destination for that city break you’ve been longing for. 

Lisbon is full of contrasts with activities for every kind of traveller, from tourist guide wielding culture buffs, to beach bums and families. But the first thing you’ll notice about Lisbon is its outstanding architecture, which is hardly surprising given the legacy of this place – it was the capital of the once mighty Portuguese Empire after all. A surviving array of Moorish, Romanesque and Neoclassical buildings will simply blow you away. As will the city’s hills – all seven of them!

But before you start to think about packing some hiking gear, don’t worry, as Lisbon’s charming old-style trams will get you to the peaks with the minimum of effort. Make sure you take a camera though, because the panoramic view from the top will take your breath away. And the narrow, winding and cobbled streets and lanes below will do the same, so put those feet up and grab a beer at one of Lisbon’s many grand squares. 

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Shopping


Take a boat up the Tagus to see the main sights from the water, with the option to hop off at Cacilhas, the port opposite Lisbon famed for its fish restaurants. For more information visit www.yellowbustours.com.


Hilly Lisbon has several excellent "miradouros" (viewpoints) and has recently unveiled a new one: next to the ruined Convento do Carmo, with fine views over Chiado and the Old Town.


There's more to Lisbon's cuisine than grilled sardines, as you'll find at the Lisbon Fish and Flavours festival. Sample fish and seafood from some of the world's leading chefs including Hélio Loureiro (chef for the Portuguese national football team) and Leandro Carreira of London's Viajante. Catch it on 9-19 April (Pátio da Galé, Terreiro do Paço, visitportugal.com).

Sightseeing


At this time of year, the seaside resort of Nazaré is where the world's bravest surfers gather in an attempt to ride the world's biggest waves. These can be up to 100 feet tall: watching the surfers is an awesome sight.


One of Australia's best jazz singers, Sarah Mckenzie, appears with up-and-coming US jazz star Hailey Tuck at the Centro Cultural de Belém Grande Auditório, 23 January.


A giant tree in Praça de Figueira is the centrepiece of the Baixa's alluring Christmas decorations in December. Look out, too, for cafés selling traditional Bolo Rei, a crown-shaped fruit cake with a bean secreted inside: tradition states you pay for the cake next year if you find it.


Those of a certain age will enjoy Supertramp's visit to the Atlantic Pavilion, Portugal's largest indoor venue, on 4 November. 11 November is the festival for São Martinho, celebrating the first of the year's wine tasting.


Check out the swish new premises for Lisbon's historic Coach Museum on Praça Afonso de Albuquerque in Belém, displaying royal carriages from around the world. On 18 October runners take to the streets for the Lisbon Marathon, which ends by the river in the Parque das Nações.


The São Jorge art cinema hosts the MOTELx International Horror Film Festival, with a range of classic, contemporary and experimental films from various countries, all designed to ensure you don't relax for a minute. Catch it on 12-16 September (MOTELx, Cinema Sao Jorge, 175 Avenica da Liberdade, en.motelx.org).

Day Trips


A little north of Lisbon, the walled town of


The Casa Museu Medeiros e Almeida is one of Lisbon's best though little known museums and is a perfect escape if you hit a rainy day. It contains the private collection of a wealthy industrialist: a mind-boggling assortment of priceless Chinese porcelain, eighteenth-century ceramics, English silverware and historic clocks.


Half way between Lisbon and Sintra lies the ornate eighteenth-century Palácio de Queluz, a summer residence for the royals and complete with a mirrored throne room and ornate garden, now looking even better after recent restoration.


The Jardim da Cerca da Graça is Lisbon's newest park, just below the church of Graça in the district of the same name. Take a stroll through the greenery for wonderful views across the city from its various miradouros (viewpoints).


Head south to the green hills of the Parque Natural da Arrábida, with lovely cove beaches and the chance to spot wild dolphins in a sheltered bay that avoids the largest Atlantic breakers. visitportugal.com


Do as the royals did in summer and head to the cool hills of Sintra, packed with stunning palaces and ornate buildings. In July there is the added bonus of classical music concerts for the annual Sintra Music Festival, held in many of the grand buildings themselves. festivaldesintra.pt

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