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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. 



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).


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).

The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian always has plenty on but is the perfect venue for Lisbon's Jazz em Agosto festival, with local and international musicians performing inside and in the outside auditorium until 9 August. musica.gulbenkian.pt/jazz

Super Bock Super Rock moves to a new venue this year, at the old Expo site, the Parque das Nações. Headline acts at the popular rockfest include Florence and the Machine, Sting, Noel Gallagher's Flying Birds and The Vaccines. Catch it on 16-18 July. visitportugal.com

June is party time in Lisbon thanks to a series of concerts and events known as the Festas de Lisboa. 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.

Key Areas

Some of Portugal's most beautiful handicrafts can be found at A Arte da Terra, inside the former stables of a bishop's palace and opposite Sé Cathedral. Jewellery, embroidery, clothes and kids toys would all make great Christmas gifts (40 Rua Augusto Rosa).

Day Trips

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

The swimming season is officially open in June, which means beaches are manned and ready for visitors. Head out to Caparica for some of the best sand, from where you can take a titchy toy train south to the unspoilt beaches of Fonte da Tehla.

May is a great time to visit the Sintra hills, which are a short ride from central Lisbon. Visit on the second or fourth Sunday of the month and you can catch the fantastic Feira de São Pedro de Sintra, a bustling market packed with food stalls and crafts.

Just a short drive from Lisbon, the formerly sleepy fishing village of Cascais has in recent years become a playground for pleasure seekers from the city. There are three sandy bays, which tend to get packed in the summer months, but spring is a perfect time to explore the pretty coastline and stop for lunch and drinks when your legs get tired.

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