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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


Hop on the Tagus-hugging rail line to the seaside suburb of Carcavelos, which not only has the nearest surf beach to the capital, but also boasts one of the region's best flea markets, a rambling affair by the rail tracks every Thursday morning.


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.

Sightseeing


The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is a stunning new addition to Lisbon's museum scene, in a spaceship-like building right by the river in Belém. Designed by British architect Amanda Levete, the new museum merges with an early twentieth-century electricity generating station to host various exhibitions. https://www.maat.pt/en


Lisbon has several fabulous viewpoints and the modern Amoreiras Shopping Centre has just added another: five euros will take you to the rooftop of the modernist building for views right across the city and the Tagus beyond. Avenida Engeneiro Duarte Pacheco, 1070-103.


In December, the historic walled village of


Justin Bieber drops into Lisbon as part of his world tour at the Atlantic Pavilion, 25 November, three days after The Cure at the same venue.


Lisbon gets sporty on 2 October, with the Lisbon Marathon starting from Cascais and heading along the riverfront into town, and the half-marathon starting across the mega Vasco da Gama Bridge. Later in the month there's also top football at the attractive stadium of Belenenses, who take on city rivals Benfica on 23 October.


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

Key Areas


The attractive Tagus-side town of Golegã shows off rural Portugal at its best during the Feira Nacional do Cavalo. This ten-day horse extravaganza features show jumping, dressage, equestrian displays, live music and a wondrous array of local characters, 4-13 November.

Day Trips


January often sees great waves at the nearby beaches, and the suburb of Carcavelos (train from Cais do Sodré) is the surfers' favourite: head to the east end of the beach, next to the fort, for the best breaks.


It may be winter, but on a sunny day you can't beat a blowy walk along the miles of sandy beach at Caparica, just south of the city.


Fátima, 90 minutes north of Lisbon, is one of Europe's most important pilgrimage sites and on 12-13 October thousands visit to celebrate the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917.


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.

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