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5 Reasons To Visit Lisbon

Lisbon is without a doubt one of the most diverse, culture-rich and exciting cities in Europe. Having remained off the radar for some time, in recent years Portugal’s capital has suddenly appeared on everyone’s must-do list. And with good reason. This city boasts beautiful architecture, delicious dining, breath-taking views and an abundance of historical treasures. Whether you’re looking to learn all about Lisbon’s history, try local Portuguese food, soak up the sunshine on one of the Atlantic beaches or if you simply want to get lost in the maze of narrow cobbled streets, Lisbon has it all. If you’re still unconvinced, here are 5 reasons to visit Lisbon!

By Emma White

 


History  

Walking along the bustling streets of Lisbon’s Baixa district, it would be easy to forget that you were in one of the oldest cities in Europe. But it takes no time at all to find your way to Moorish Alfama, where you can find the Lisboetas hiding from the midday sun in the shade of the old, white washed buildings which loom over the labyrinth of narrow streets. A visit to the Castle of São Jorge or an afternoon spent sifting through the weird and wonderful goods at the Feira Da Ladra flea market will transport you right back and give you an overwhelming sense that time is standing still.  

 

And if discovering Lisbon’s past on foot seems like a lot of work, why not hop on the famous number 28 tram and sit back as you are taken on a tour of Lisbon’s main historical sights. The quaint yellow Remodelado trams rattle through the city passing important attractions such as the Basílica da Estrela, the grand Assembleia da República, the ancient Se Cathedral and the Baroque styled Santo António Church. Admittedly, the comfort factor might be lacking considering that these trams still have some original parts including the classic wooden benches!  

 

Miradouros  

One of the capital’s best features is its hilly landscape. Steep hills don’t often appeal to the average holidaymaker – how can sore legs, breathlessness and sweaty backs ever be considered as any sort of fun activity? But in Lisbon, big hills mean big views. The city is well known for its many viewpoints or miradouros which offer jaw-dropping views over the spectacular patchwork of brightly coloured rooftops which stretch as far as the eye can see. For the most complete view of Lisbon in all its glory, the Castelo de São Jorge viewpoint located within the castle walls is the place to go. This viewpoint offers countless angles for those all-important photos, with the blue Atlantic as the perfect background. 

If you’d rather have the magnificent Moorish castle as the main feature of your panorama then head over to Miradoura de São Pedro de Alcântara located in the Barrio Alto district which provides the perfect setting for a romantic moment watching the sun set behind Lisbon’s iconic monument. For something a little different visit the Parque Eduardo VII, the view from the top of the landscaped garden looks upon Lisbon’s downtown district nestled neatly between two hills with the Tagus River and the southern bank visible in the distance.  

 

Beaches  

City breaks can sometimes get a bit hectic, especially over the summer months, but Lisbon’s proximity to the stunning Atlantic coastline means that visitors are able to combine the thrills of a city break with the pleasures of a beach holiday. Lisbon’s efficient transport system allows for easy access from the city to a selection of glorious sandy beaches which each offer their own little slice of paradise. Unlike many other European city destinations, you can marvel at the sights of the city in the morning then hop on the train and be plunging your toes into the soft sand and breathing in the salty sea air in just under half an hour. You really do get the best of both worlds in Lisbon. The Praia de Carcavelos is arguably the best and most popular beach of the region thanks to its lively atmosphere and unbeatable scenery, whilst Tamariz beach near the historic fishing port of Cascais is also highly rated and thanks to its many great bars.

Backstreet eateries 

No trip would be complete without a dive into the wonders of the local food culture. Lisbon is packed full of exciting foods that will have you squealing with delight in-between (large) mouthfuls of salty seafood and sweet, flaky egg tarts. Lisbon’s iconic pastry which dates back to the 16th century, pastel de nata, can be found in almost any pastelaria in the city, but there seems to be a general consensus on where to find the best pastel de natas in Lisbon. Head over to Belém to join tourists and locals alike who have travelled to satisfy their sweet tooth with a box of Antiga Confeitaria de Belém’s famous pastries. But if you’re a savoury lover, make your way to Restaurante Laurentina o Rei do Bacalhau to sample some of the best of Portugal’s other world famous national dish – Bacalhau (salted cod). 

Fado  

Most Lisboetas would agree that one thing not to miss out on whilst visiting their homeland is fado music. Much like its birthplace, Portugal’s national folkloric sound has recently experienced a resurgence in line with the tourism boom. The hauntingly beautiful ballads originated in the streets of Alfama in the early 19th century and traditionally express what the Portuguese call saudade, which translates to mourning or longing for something lost. Fado music is usually enjoyed in an intimate setting such as a small restaurant, dimly lit by candlelight and always performed for a silent crowd.

Photo credit: Viking Cruises

In between performances from multiple artists, guests can sample local delicacies accompanied by wine as part of their dinner-and-show package. While some fado venues have become labelled as tourist-traps, it is still very easy to find yourself a cosy restaurant or bar offering an authentic experience without the steep prices and large groups of tourists. Some of the best venues include Adega Machado in Barrio Alto and Sr.Fado in Alfama, both of which will guarantee an unforgettable show that will have you wishing you hadn’t waited so long to visit this wonderful city.