Portugal's capital is one of Europe's most exciting destinations. It may be down to its youthful, creative population, or it could be the gourmet and artistic renaissance that the city is undergoing. Or perhaps its the blend of superb museums and historical attractions. Whatever the reasons, Lisbon will captivate everyone who visits.
You can sit by the river Tagus sipping local wine in the warmth of a summer evening, or take the funicular railway up into the Bairro Alto to visit the area's bars and clubs. Climb up to the castle and take in the gorgeous views across Lisbon's surrounding area, or unfurl your towel at Cascais and soak up some rays.
Lisbon's mixture of coastal relaxation, art, fine food, history, and excellent public transportation is hard to beat. That's why people are flocking to the city - why not join them?
Lisbon is a wonderful city for gourmet food fans, especially those who have a taste for seafood. Clams, lobster, salt cod, shrimp, and monkfish are fixtures on menus across the city. Head to places like Ti-Natercia and wash your meal down with a glass of wine from the nearby Douro Valley.
Lisbon has quite a history. For years it was a Moorish city, and the citadel and Alfama are a legacy of this period. Then it became the capital of Portugal as the nation explored the world. If you are into history, São Jorge Castle is a must, as is the City Museum. There are more offbeat historical attractions too, like the unique Puppet Museum in the Convento Das Bernardas.
Part of the fun of visiting Lisbon is exploring the ancient neighborhoods on foot. Sure, some areas may be hilly, but the Bairro Alto, Chiado, and Alfama reward anyone with the energy to venture into their dense networks of cobbled streets, where you'll find hidden restaurants, souvenir stores, and lively bars that are frequented by locals.
One of the great things about Lisbon is that you can be at the beach in a flash. Resorts like Estoril and Cascais can be reached by train in around 20 minutes. Further afield, the Silver Coast offers some of the world's best surfing beaches and beautiful scenery, and is just an hour from central Lisbon.
Recent years have seen Lisbon surge into the top ranks of European art destinations. New galleries have popped up like the Museu Coleção Berardo with its focus on pop art and minimalism, the collection at the Centro de Arte Moderna keeps expanding, and areas like Belém are a hotbed of street art.
In a spectacular display of gothic architecture, this monastery has remained an awe-inspiring construction for centuries. Enormous and ornate to the last stone, the complex invites visitors to wander between epic pillars and beneath webbed ceilings, whose engineering has stood the test of time. Visit the Archaeological Museum and Marine Museum on the premises for historical context, and then head to the water to see the age-old Belém Tower and more contemporary Monument to the Discoveries.
Discover the history of human expression through the precious items in this collection of art; the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum has it all. The institution is particularly lauded for the expansive selection of European masterpieces, with epics from Rembrandt and Rubens to Degas and Monet. Ancient artifacts from the Far East, book art from thousands of years ago, and delicate jewelry from every age complement this world-class collection. Let yourself be inspired by these galleries.
The grandest of Lisbon's open squares, Praça do Comércio is situated directly on the water. The Arco da Rua Augusta ushers you into the area and its nice cafés, where you can enjoy the breeze before exploring the next attraction. Visit the Museum of Lisbon for world-class art, and cross the square to the Story Center for an interactive re-telling of the city's past. Two essential sights are just a short walk further - the Chiado Museum of Contemporary Art, and the spectacular Lisbon Cathedral.
Rising high over the city center, this Moorish castle beckons to tourists from far and wide. Climb aboard Tram 28 to ascend the hill in style, and enjoy the breathtaking views over the Tagus River. The peak is alive with Portuguese heritage, with street performers and cafés complimenting the classical gardens, archaeological digs and historical exhibitions. The camera obscura offers a detailed look at the city down below in real time, and for a natural view find Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
Since the Middle Ages, this square has seen the greatest social events in Lisbon play out. From Bullfights to public executions, the gatherings were once much bloodier than today. Locals and tourists now gather to enjoy cafés, shops, and a bit of history. Discover the time-worn and atmospheric Igreja de São Domingos church, and walk a bit further to find the noble statue of King John on horseback. A short walk from the square, the century-old Santa Justa Elevator is a fascinating sight.
Lisbon is pretty much a year-round destination, although it's at its best between March and May and around late September and early October. At those times, you'll avoid the intense summer temperatures (and the tourist crowds) and still encounter great sightseeing and even beach weather.
Most tourists arrive in Lisbon via Portela Airport (LIS), which is served by American Airlines and United. When you touch down, you can take one of the two Aerobus services into town (both cost EUR3.50) or catch the Metro (which charges EUR1.90 per journey). If you take a taxi, expect it to cost around EUR20.
Those arriving from other parts of Europe by train tend to get into the Gare do Oriente, which caters to high-speed international services. The station is a few miles east of the city center, but it's on the Metro so transferring to hotels isn't usually a problem.
If you are driving from Porto in the north, take the A1 straight into Lisbon. Those coming from southern areas like the Algarve should take the E1 and then change onto the A2, which runs into southern Lisbon. Spain's E90 highway runs from Madrid to the Portuguese border, becoming the E802 then the A6 before arriving in Lisbon.
Intercity and international buses to Lisbon are operated by Alsa and Eurolines, and all services terminate at Sete Rios bus station. From there, you can take the Metro from Jardim Zoológico into the heart of Lisbon.
Whatever kind of hotel you are looking for, Lisbon will deliver. If you need luxury pampering, hotels like the Olissippo Lapa Palace or the Avenida Palace will be ideal. Good self-catering options include the Heritage Apartments, and there are hotels with easy access to the airport as well, including the Travel Park Hotel. Budget travelers are also in luck. Lisbon has a galaxy of lively and quiet hostels, with the Old Town Hostel and Yes! Lisbon Hostel being two of the best.
Bairro Alto - literally the "upper town", Bairro Alto is located at the summit of a steep hill, overlooking the modern city center. Dating back to the 15th century, it's an atmospheric neighborhood full of cobbled streets, stairways, bars, and homely restaurants.
Chiado - one of Lisbon's retail hubs, Chiado is full of interesting stores and luxury boutiques. It's the place to find lively cafes like Café A Brasileira (once the haunt of the city's literary elite) and also hosts major cultural institutions like the Lisbon Opera House and the National Theater.
Alfama - Lisbon's oldest neighborhood, the Alfama dates back to the period when the city was a Moorish stronghold. Nowadays, its chaotic street network is a joy to explore on foot, and there are plenty of historical attractions in the area, including the Se Cathedral and Lisbon's Castle - probably the best place to obtain views across the city.
Lisbon is not hard to navigate by public transportation. Most areas of the city are connected via the subway, which is quick, clean, and efficient. To ride it, the best option is to get hold of a Viva Viagem card (which costs EUR0.50). It can be charged with as much credit as you like and used on an as-you-go basis, or you can add specific tickets to your card. Single journeys on the Metro, buses, and trams cost EUR1.40 and day passes cost EUR6.
The basic taxi fare in Lisbon is EUR2.50, and after that you'll have to pay EUR0.10 for every 162 meters (which works out at around EUR1 per mile). Expect to be charged a 10-20 percent surcharge after 6 pm.
Lisbon itself isn't the easiest city to get around by car, with its narrow streets, trams, and traffic problems. However, if you have your own vehicle, you can easily get out to resorts like Cascais or the beaches of the Silver Coast, so it's a handy option. Companies with branches in Lisbon include Europcar, Sixt, and Avis, and you can find vehicles available for as little as EUR6 per day for a compact model or EUR10 for SUVs.
If you want to shop for designer fashions and accessories, take a stroll around the Chiado neighborhood, where you'll find brands like Hugo Boss, Sisley, and Benetton. Baixa is another place to look, featuring chains like H&M, while the Avenida da Liberdade hosts fashion labels like Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein. For a more unusual shopping experience, take tram 28 to the Feira da Ladra market, where small stalls sell everything from watches to antiques.
Leading supermarkets in Lisbon include Pingo Doce and Continente, while everyday items can be found at El Corte Inglés. If you want to stock up on fresh produce, the best choice is Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, a huge street food venue. Your grocery bill shouldn't be too high, with a gallon of milk coming to around EUR2.25 and 12 eggs priced just over EUR1.50.
Portuguese food is easy to adore, but not as well known as it should be. Lisbon is the ideal place to find out what's so great about it. Check out the bacalhau (salt cod) at Ti-Natercia, or the bifana (pork sandwiches) from the Beira Gare cafe. Ribadouro is a superb seafood restaurant, while Restaurante O Tachadas is the best place to head for steaks or pork belly. Dining out won't be very expensive, with a meal coming to about EUR15-20 in most cases.