Sitting on the vast Tagus Estuary with the bright Atlantic just round the corner, Lisbon is Europe’s most westerly capital and one of the most vibrant, welcoming cities I’ve ever been to. It might seem small, but this compact city is surprisingly deceptive and fits a whole lot more into its seven hills than you might think, making it somewhere to visit time and time again.
Holidaylettings.co.uk suggests that on one of your next visits make sure you take in some of these:
I love how Lisbon gives you a taste of contrasting worlds. Here you’ll find exquisitely-decorated monuments next to the clean lines of ultra-modern architecture; international brands such as Prada, Zara, and H&M alongside family-run haberdasheries and ironmongers; Nespresso stores opposite very ordinary bars; and happening street art in the same quarter as historic Portuguese tiled patios.
TIP: Lose yourself in the different quarters and soak up a world where opposites attract in harmony.
Wedding cake architecture
Belem is the place to go to see pristine white monuments with sculptured details poured on top of them – think columns, portals and arches etched with maritime motifs, flora and fauna, all in marble or stone. The Belem Tower and Monastery are the best places to see this unique Manueline architectural style.
TIP: Try to see the Belem Tower at dawn or dusk when the white stone looks anything but white in the rising or setting sun.
No trip to Lisbon is complete without a few rides on the city’s public transport especially the classic No 28 tram. Be prepared for a roller-coaster ride up and down some pretty narrow streets as the yellow tram ricochets along the cobbles. Other (more modern) trams connect central Lisbon with Belem and you might also want to take the Elevador da Bica up the impossibly steep Rua da Bica.
Crossing the Tagus
To cross the wide Tagus Estuary, Lisbon has two amazing bridges. The oldest is Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the giant red 25th April Bridge that runs for 2.3km and has three levels. A later addition further inland is Europe’s longest bridge, the Vasco da Gama whose 17.2km take so long to cross by car you wonder if you’ll ever get off it.
TIP: Get a totally different aspect of Lisbon by crossing one of the bridges. Even better if it’s misty.
Graffiti often plagues city centres, but not in Lisbon where decorating derelict buildings is positively encouraged. Around 300 Portuguese and international artists have left their mark on façades throughout the city. Some of the best can be seen in the Saldanha area – I love the giant green crocodile there.
No guide to Lisbon would be complete without some mention of food and in Portugal’s capital this has to be the pasteis de Belem, a tiny custard pie that you’ll find in all the bars and cafés, and on everyone’s morning coffee and afternoon tea plates. They’re small enough to savour in one delicious bite and I promise you it’s impossible to have only one.
TIP: Visit the Antiga Casa dos Pasteis de Belem where tiled tea room after tiled tea room is packed with pasteis de Belem lovers.