Lisbon - Portugal
Sultry Lisbon is one of the most popular emerging destinations in Europe, but still manages to feel relatively untouched by the hand of tourism. The Portuguese capital is great to visit all year, but particularly in spring and autumn when the weather is usually very pleasant.
There are some wonderfully quirky districts and although there is not the rampant consumerism that can be found in many European capital cities, there are plenty of great shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy.
Founded in ancient times, Lisbon was already almost a millennium old when the Romans came in 205BC and gave the city the language that it speaks today. Almost a thousand more years passed before the Moors took control of the thriving, multicultural city that Lisbon had already become. With the new rulers came a new language: Arabic. All inhabitants were forced to speak the new language. But Moorish rule lasted only until 1147, when crusader knights led by Afonso I of Portugal laid siege to, and eventually re-conquered Lisbon, returning the city to Christian rule and the emerging Portuguese language.
The next major event that has shaped the Lisbon we know today was the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of what was, at that time, one of Europe’s largest cities. The city was rebuilt according to the latest trends in town planning and the area now known as Baixa was born.
Culture and Sights
Lisbon is a great city to explore on foot, if you are not afraid of hills. There is a wide array of fantastic buildings from throughout the city’s history, not to mention some great viewing platforms to enjoy.
As befits a city with such a varied past, many different styles of architecture can be found in modern Lisbon; Romanesque, Baroque, Traditional Portuguese, Moorish, Gothic, Modern and Post-Modern styles can be found throught.
Younger visitors will be attracted to the hip Bairro Alto neighbourhood, with its bars, restaurants and shops. This is the hub of Lisbon’s nightlife and keeps going until the early hours.
The best-known museums in Lisbon are the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art), the Museu do Azulejo (Museum of Tile Mosaics – very traditionally Portuguese and well worth a visit), the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (ancient and modern art), the Berardo Collection Museum (modern art) at the Belém Cultural Centre.
For fans of more obscure museums, the Museu da Farmácia (Pharmacy Museum) and Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum) are potential candidates for a visit.
The Teatro Nacional de São Carlos mainly runs productions through the autumn and winter.
Visitors to Lisbon could consider taking a trip out of town to visit some of the delightful surrounding areas. A trip inland will take you to Sintra, which is probably one of Europe’s most beautiful corners, with stunning castles and lush greenery it’s hard to imagine anywhere more tranquil. Also, a trip along the coast will take you to family-friendly sandy beaches.