The sun is almost always shining on the coastal capital of Portugal. With sandy, beautiful beaches less than half an hour’s drive from the bustling centre, Lisbon is a city full of possibilities.
When packing, be sure to make room for a pair of comfy shoes, as Lisbon is famously set amongst seven hills. Don’t worry though - the hills are definitely worth the climb and they provide stunning many miradouro – lookout points in Portuguese – over the city. The highest of these is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, a relaxed place to kick back and watch the sun set across the River Tagus. And, if you’re tired of walking, no one will blink if you cheat and take the tram back down.
Lisbon is known for its thriving art scene, with major galleries and independent artists contributing to an artistic culture that spills out onto the streets and even underground into the Metro. Since the first Metro stations were built in the 1950s, the entire Metro system has been decorated with colourful and eye-catching artwork. Stop by the Oriente Metro Station for a tiled mural by artist Erró. Inspired by pop culture and comic book heroes and villains, you’ll see Flash, Superman, C3PO, and others.
At the end of a busy day exploring, head toward the Miradouro de Santa Catarina. From late afternoon onwards, all kinds of people come to this garden terrace overlooking the city to drink beer, play music and jam together. Admire the astonishing view of the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe. During its construction, the bridge was so long that the engineers even had to factor in the curvature of the Earth.
However you experience Lisbon, this is one city bound to take your breath away and put a smile on your face.
An hour’s train ride outside of Lisbon is Sintra. Attracted by the area’s cooler climate, the Portuguese nobility built fantastic castles and gardens here. One of the most notable castles is Pena Palace. Described by Ferdinand II as the crown of Sintra, this multi-coloured castle is like something out of a Disney film. The town has continued to develop many quirky architectural styles, with one example - Quinta da Regaleira - taking Gothic to a beautiful, if alarming extreme! The incredible sculpture gardens are maze-like, with many hidden tunnels and grottoes to explore. Perhaps most mystical are the Initiation Wells, underground towers built for Tarot initiation rites and complete with gloomy spiral staircases.
Praia de Carcavelos beach
Praia de Carcavelos is the closest and most popular of Lisbon’s sandy beaches. Easily accessible by train, this golden beach is great for sunbathing and surfing. Pack light – with surf schools in the area it is easy to hire the equipment you need. Being so near to Lisbon does mean that the beach can get quite crowded, especially on a warm summer’s day. However, you might feel that this seaside trip is just too good to miss.
This medieval district survived the great earthquake that destroyed much of the rest of Lisbon in 1755 and is still remarkably well preserved today. Originally founded by the Romans, it was the African Muslims who settled there that left the greatest impression on this hillside neighbourhood. Make time for a visit to Miradouro das Portas do Sol, the highest point in Alfama, with gorgeous views stretching all the way down to the river.
We recommend that you take time to wander around the narrow and winding streets. If you get lost, our tip is to head directly up or down. Eventually, you’ll reach either the river or the castle on top of the hill, and can easily make your way from there. Listen out for the sound of fado singing echoing through the alleyways. This traditional folksong has developed uniquely in Portugal and, despite their plaintive sounds, they’re still very popular.
The docklands of Alfama, called Jardim Do Tabaco, are now a high-end nightlife spot frequented by the locals and they attract a very different crowd from when it was used as storage for tobacco.
The Jardim Zoológico
The Jardim Zoológico is a piece of wilderness surrounded by city. With such a luscious landscape of exotic trees and plants, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into a jungle. Those looking for a bird’s eye view of the zoo can ride the cable car and glide above the animals and gardens below.
The Christ the King Monument
Make the short trip across the River Tagus to see Christ the King, a Catholic monument that overlooks Lisbon. Inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer, the statue represents the Catholic religion still so important in Lisbon today.
Fernando II e Gloria
Not too far away is the D. Fernando II e Gloria, a well-preserved 19th-century navy ship. Open to visitors as a museum, this frigate ship serves as a great reminder that Portugal was once one of the world’s greatest naval powers and traded with colonies as far off as Africa and South America.
For sailors leaving Lisbon, the Belem Tower was the last sight of home before venturing off on a voyage. This intricate, beautifully-designed fortress was constructed in 1515 to guard Lisbon’s original harbour. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage monument, built in the ornate Manueline style of architecture with Moorish influences. On a tour of the tower, you’ll be able to spot many hidden gems carved into its walls, including small details like an exotic rhinoceros and various historical figures. To reach Belem Tower from central Lisbon, you can take the 15E tram to the Belem district.
The impressive Lisbon Oceanarium is Europe’s second largest aquarium. It’s home to over 15,000 marine creatures, including colourful manta rays, tropical fish and sharks. Apart from these, popular residents here include sea otters and penguins. It’s a must-see for aquatic fans of all ages, but is particularly well-suited for a family day out. Located in the Park of the Nations, the aquarium appears to float in the ocean with its head-turning modern design that’s easily accessed via a footbridge. There are two floors inside, and you can follow the arrows to see marine species from various oceans around the world.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
From central Lisbon, the Castelo de Sao Jorge is hard to miss as it towers above the city on a hilltop. It’s been home to many different inhabitants over the centuries, with the Visigoths and Moors leaving their marks. There are two main sections of the castle, including the ancient Moorish Castle and the medieval Royal Palace. Much of the palace was rebuilt in the 1920s, but it retains its original charm. Visit the Castelo’s Ulysses Tower to enjoy 360-degree views over Lisbon with a camera obscura. You’ll also be able to view historical artefacts detailing the history here, as you wander through the courtyards.
When exploring Lisbon’s nightlife, don’t forget to visit Rua Nova do Carvalho, known as Pink Street. This nickname is simple to explain, and easy to spot, as the road the entire length of the street has been painted fuchsia pink! With trendy nightclubs, burlesque clubs and tapas bars to choose from, this lively street provides a new twist to painting the town red. Be careful not to arrive too early as many places only begin to get busy around midnight.
Pastel de nata are a local delicacy, similar to an egg custard tart, but the best in the city come from Belém. These sweet treats are thought to have been invented by nuns 200 years ago.
Those looking for something savoury may be tempted by the salted cod fish called bacalhau. It is loved by the Portuguese so much that there are thought to be over 365 dishes using bacalhau as the main ingredient, one for every day of the year. So you’ll definitely be able to find at least one version you like!
Lisbon’s scenic white limestone streets are waiting to be explored. Getting lost in maze-like Lisbon is never a problem as, whichever way you go; you’re bound to stumble upon a scene to remember.
However, there’s no need to get lost whilst looking for the perfect hotel. Book your hotel and flights together with easyJet holidays to make sure everything about your holiday is perfect, including the price.