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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. 



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).

Lisbon's charming parks and historical plazas become host to a variety of folk, indie, rock and jazz musicians every Friday and Sunday from May through September with the Meo Out Jazz performances. Bring snacks and drinks and spend a lazy afternoon soaking up the sun and the sounds of Lisbon.


The Torre de Belém is to Lisbon what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Lisbon's iconic building celebrates its 500th birthday this year with a series of atmospheric May concerts inside this impressive tower that juts into the Tagus (Avenida Brasilia, Belém).

Lisbon's iconic Belém Tower celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. From April, an exhibition of paintings, prints and information about the tower's history takes place in the similarly aged refectory of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Praça do Império, Belém, mosteirojeronimos.pt).

Lisbon's version of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Ponte 25 Abril is the spectacular backdrop for the start of the Lisbon half marathon on 22 March, with around 35,000 runners taking to the city's streets, with a finish at the historic Jerónimos Monastery in Belém. meiamaratonadelisboa.com

Portugal doesn't take its Carnival as seriously as Brazil, but there are still entertaining parades around town, with the main ones by the River Tagus in the Parque das Nacões, on 19 February. Also worth catching, in the beautiful Teatro São Carlos, is Verdi's opera Macbeth, from 21 February to 1 March ((9 Rua Serpa Pinto, tnsc.pt).

Lisbon's top art museum, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, displays the treasures from the Royal Palaces of Spain from the 15th century, a time when Spain and Portugal's histories were closely intertwined. The exhibition "A Shared History" includes priceless sculptures, manuscripts and paintings, including Michelangelo Caravaggio's Salomé with the head of João Bastista. Until 25 January (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 45A Avenida de Berna, museu.gulbenkian.pt).

The Baixa looks at its best in the lead up to Christmas, the grid of streets strung with decorations and a giant tree in the centre of Praça de Figueira. Cafes and pastelarias stock up on bolo rei ("king cake"), a crown-shaped fruit cake with a fava bean secreted inside: tradition states you pay for the cake next year if you find it.

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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

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.

For a romantic Valentine's escape, head north of Lisbon to

Head north of Lisbon to the seaside resort of Nazaré. This is where in recent years the world's top surfers have smashed records for the largest waves ever surfed, and January is the time when monster breakers get funnelled ashore thanks to the coast's unique underwater geography.

Head up the Tagus to the village of Golegã. Attractive at any time of year, you can sample rural Portugal at its best during the Feira Nacional do Cavalo, on 7-16 November. This 10-day horse extravaganza features show jumping, dressage, equestrian displays, live music and a wondrous array of local characters. fnc.cm-golega.pt

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