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Turn your city break into a microadventure

Lisbon: Cliffside camping in Sintra Cascais

The mission is simply to go to sleep, but to sleep wild at the western tip of Europe on the cliffs of Sintra Cascais above the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The 417 bus from Lisbon takes just 45 minutes to Cascais. Then the bus to Sintra (403) will drop you off on the way. According to your preference, there's lush woodland to sleep in, or smoothy grassy heathland looking out over the sun setting into the Atlantic.

Next stop across that ocean lies New York - you'll really feel that you are at the edge of a continent. Take enough food and water for your visit, as it is pretty quiet out there. You can also visit the Cabo da Roca lighthouse for great views and nice cliftop walks.

Level of Difficulty: Easy - the activity is sleeping. What to pack: Suitable clothes (check the weather forecast, and remember it gets cold and windy by the sea!), woolly hat, headtorch, raingear, sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag.

Best time to go: May

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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


The Arco da Rua Augusta arch is one of Lisbon's most impressive buildings, marking the entrance to the Praça do Comérçio. You can take a lift and stairs to the top for fantastic views over the Baixa and riverfront.


Take the Cascais train line to the suburb of Carcavelos, which hosts one of the city's biggest and best flea markets every Thursday morning. Straggling along the railway tracks you'll find stalls selling an enormous array of inexpensive clothes, towels, ceramics and shoes. Don't miss Carcavelos beach either, which is popular with surfers.


Take the famous tram 28 to the Basilica de Estrela, one of Lisbon's most impressive churches. You can climb stairs to the roof for fine views across the western suburbs, and peer down from the top of the distinctive white dome into the church below.


Entre Tanto (Rua Escola Politécnica 42, 961 204 571) bills itself as an indoor market, and consists of a range of boutiques secreted inside a former seventeenth-century palace. Great for a browse, you can buy everything from a surf board to perfume, shoes and furniture. There's an appealing café at the back, too.


Tuk tuks have become very popular in Lisbon, their narrow frames able to negotiate some of Lisbon's steepest and narrowest streets. Tours depart from various points of the city, such as in front of the Sé cathedral.


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.

Sightseeing


This year is Lisbon's tenth MOTELx International Horror Film Festival, showing a diverse a range of classic, contemporary and experimental films from various countries, all designed to ensure you don't relax for a minute. From 6-11 September, www.motelx.org/en


The Jazz em Agosto festival sees local and international musicians perform inside the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and, better still on a summer's evening, at its open-air amphitheatre in the leafy gardens. Guests include guitarist Marc Ribot, avant-garde trumpeter Peter Evans and Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra. There are also screenings of jazz-related films. 4 - 14 August.


July is the month of mega rock festivals in the capital. First up is NOS Alive (7 to 9 July, www.nosalive.com) featuring Radiohead, the Pixies, The Chemical Brothers and Tame Impala. Next up is Portugal's most famous rock festival, Super Bock Super Rock, with a line up that includes Iggy Pop, Massive Attack and Young Fathers, Bloc Party and more. 15 July, superbocksuperrock.pt


June is famed for its Festas de Lisboa, with a month-long programme of festivals and events. The highlight is on 12-13 June when the city becomes a giant street party to celebrate its adopted saint, Santo António. Alfama is the heart of the action. (www.festasdelisboa.com)


The Sintra Music Festival sees national and international classical musicians perform at some of the region's most evocative buildings, including the Palácio Nacional, the Palácio de Queluz and the Palácio da Pena. It opens with a performance by Michael Nyman at the Olga Cadaval cultural centre; 12-29 May. (www.festivaldesintra.pt)


The Peixe em Lisboa (Fish in Lisbon) festival brings together top chefs from around the world, who showcase their talents with fish and seafood dishes that you can sample in Pátio da Galé, Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon's main square. There are also dishes prepared by top local restaurants, all at affordable prices; 7-17 April.

Day Trips


Take the fantastic coast-hugging train line from Cais de Sodré station out to Estoril, famed for its sandy beaches and the casino where Ian Fleming took inspiration for his Bond stories.


Take the bus out to Caparica on the Atlantic coast, where miles of wave-battered sands attract top surfers. Head to the seafront for plenty of excellent seafood restaurants.


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).

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