Lisbon City Guide
Geographically, Lisbon is located on the Iberian Peninsula, at the mouth of the River Tagus, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the oldest cities of Western Europe, characterised by medieval buildings, cosy neighbourhoods, iconic yellow trams navigating its narrow streets and spectacular hilltop views overlooking the river. Tourists often leave the city surprised by what Lisbon has to offer.
Lisbon shares its culture with a wide range of peoples, including the indigenous Iberians, Celts, Carthaginians, Romans, Suebi, Visigoths and Moors, and the influence of each can be seen in the city and surrounding area. In 1147, Christian crusaders under Afonso I captured the city from the Moors, ushering in the maritime Age of Discovery. Famous Portuguese explorers set off to discover the Atlantic archipelagos, the Far East and Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These epic voyages that started from Lisbon, brought about a great age of prosperity for Portugal. Sadly, a devastating earthquake destroyed the majority of the city in 1755.
The desirability of Lisbon is based on the geographical location of the city, which gives it great trade advantages. It has access by sea to the Mediterranean Sea, as well as Western Europe, Africa and further afield to the Americas. The city has a large, natural harbour. These factors also greatly helped Portugal accede to the European Union in 1986. As such, Lisbon is a popular business, as well as top holiday, destination.
The Alfama is one of the oldest surviving districts of Lisbon and it’s where you’ll find most of the city’s top historical landmarks, including the Se Cathedral and Castelo San Jorge. Located on the top of a hill, it’s accessible by Tram 28 and offers fantastic views over the rest of the city.
Torre de Belem is one of the most iconic monuments of Lisbon: an ancient battlement that was built to protect the city. Like with the Alfama, the views from up here atop the tower are exceptional. Don’t forget your camera.
A more modern attraction, the Lisbon Aquarium, Oceanário, is a world-class facility, exhibiting exceptional aquatic biodiversity, and is a great place to enjoy with the entire family. Other notable landmarks that are worthy of a visit include the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Museu da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and Lisbon Zoo.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Lisbon is made up of several neighbourhoods, each with their own unique buzz, where local communities enjoy good food, wine and fresh seafood.
Bairro Alto is a hilltop neighbourhood, with a great selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and some top notch nightlife. A trendy, somewhat hipster neighbourhood, it’s one of the best places in town to check out the local music scene, with offerings ranging from rock to pop, reggae to jazz and all the way to the traditional Fado music.
Alfama, one of the oldest districts in town and it’s where you find most of the city’s smaller, more traditional cafés, selling good bread and wine and buzzing with local life.
As far as dishes go, you should not miss out on sampling regional delicacies like the sweet cakes called Pastéis de Nata, grilled sardines, bacalhau (cod fish) and the local Portuguese wine. Make sure you pay a visit to Mercado da Ribeira, the newest market for food in town where you can taste dishes from some of the most famous and original Portuguese chefs.
Lisbon is a great city for shopping. Chiado is an excellent shopping neighbourhood known for pottery, books and coffee shops, as well as stylish boutique fashion shops from local designers. If you’re looking for those established, international brands then head for Avenida da Liberdade is one of the grandest shopping avenues in the city.
Centro Colombo is one of the largest shopping centres in Portugal, where you’ll find everything from big brand designer stores to electrical. It also has a cinema showing international films in their original languages, as wells as lots of affordable eateries in the food court.
Lisbon is a unique city with lots of character that sets it apart from any other world capitals. A sunny, beautiful and quaint historic destination for those that want to relax, explore or party. Whatever you want, Lisbon has it.