Lisbon has undergone relatively little architectural change compared with other European capital cities in the past couple of hundred years, but when a city is this bewitchingly beautiful, that can only be a good thing. Traditional blue and white tiled squares and red roofs make Lisbon an explosion of colour and beauty, making the centre one of the best city centres to explore on foot.
Lisbon is where some of the most famous explorers in the world set sail for undiscovered land, and this heritage is proudly observed in the riverside area.
Portuguese food is based on humble, yet delicious ingredients, and lends itself very well to upscale luxury dining, of which there is no shortage in Lisbon. Several grand, old buildings have been renovated into unique luxury hotels that you won’t find in many other cities, meaning that all aspects of a luxury city break are well catered for in Lisbon – the City of Light.
Lisbon – at a glance
1. Bairro Alto
On the slopes of one of Lisbon’s 7 hills, this “High quarter” offers great views over the city from its narrow cobbled streets, which these days house a variety of cool, bohemian bars and restaurants.
This is the cosmopolitan heart of Lisbon, where culture, art and fine dining meet in a sun-drenched part of town. Boutique shops and numerous coffee shops adorn the black and white cobbled streets. Make sure to visit the eye-opening interior of the “A Brasilera” coffee shop, once a haunt of the numerous poets and intellectuals that made Lisbon their home in the 19th century.
Lisbon’s city centre has seen it all throughout the ages. Almost completely destroyed by a fierce earthquake in 1755, it has been magnificently restored to its former splendour. Avenida da Libertade (Freedom Avenue) houses all manner of luxury fashion names, and Praça do Comércio is the architectural jewel in Lisbon’s crown. This huge waterfront square is not to be missed.
The oldest quarter in Lisbon, originally established by the Moors and retaining the Arabic influence in its layout and architecture, Alfama is a charming, traditional quarter. Winding streets conceal a variety of small bars, cafés and restaurants, where you are very likely to get treated to “Fado”, Portugal’s national style of music. In June, the colours, sights and smells of “Festas dos Santos Populares (Feast Days of the Popular Saints) take over Alfama.
Belem is a waterfront district, where Lisbon’s history as a base for transatlantic exploration is most keenly felt. Here you will enjoy spectacular views of the “Ponte 25 de Abril” (25th of April Bridge) across the River Tagus, which commemorates the end of the long Salazar dictatorship of Portugal in 1974. Stroll along the waterfront to see the “Monument to the Discoveries”, which pays homage to Portugal’s master navigators and explorers, and the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), a tower with incredibly intricate carvings.
Also, do not miss Belem’s famous custard tarts with sugar and cinnamon, still made to a secret recipe that is centuries old.