For the simple charm and maritime magic of a vintage-era Southern European capital.
In the summer months, Lisbon swelters under a cerulean blue dome. ‘A praia’ (to the beach) sings out from the city’s sun-kissed, begonia blossomed streets as surf boards are stacked on top of cars and everyone makes for the beachy ‘burbs of Cascais and Estoril – 20 minutes drive from the city-centre. The aim being to cool off in the frosty Atlantic, get some sand between their toes, and tuck into the seaside classic of a plate of garlicky ameijoas (clams) washed down with a tumbler of brain-freeze cold lager.
Set against the ever-present backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, this dainty sun-kissed city lives in a Latin fairytale of timeworn manners and traditions.
Just check out the century-old wooden trams and iron funiculars that still lurch and rumble their way among the seven steep hills over which this city lies. Or witness the best of this bygone heritage by wandering through the Baixa district, where age-old herbalists, haberdashers and tailors rub shoulders in the baroque streets of the ornate city centre.
Meander up one of Lisbon’s loftiest hills to the Moorish Alfama neighbourhood, where sunset-amber walls and dusty lanes orbit the Arabic-cum-medieval castle that looms, omnipresent, over the terracotta rooftops of the city below. At the imperial Belém waterfront, Portugal’s “Age of Discoveries” is celebrated in the form of a lavish monastery and dazzling river-facing statues, built with the coin of one of the most ostentatious colonial empires in history.
For Lisboetas (natives of Lisbon) today, excess is largely channelled into nocturnal activities, making the city a libertine’s dream. A night on the (azulejo) tiles always starts in the bar-filled cobbled lanes of boho Bairro Alto. It inevitably peaks to the dawn chorus of Euro house on the sundeck of one of the city’s immense river-facing warehouse clubs. Should sore heads make sightseeing a chore, skip it and laze away the day on the nearby Atlantic-battered beaches. Just 30 minutes drive from the city centre, wild stretches such as Guincho, Adraga and Grande curl out around the surrounding coast, making Lisbon one of the best city/beach-combo destinations in Europe.
Telephone code: dial 00 351 for Portugal, then 21 for Lisbon, when telephoning from the UK
Time difference: None.
Flight time: London to Lisbon is just over two hours.
Local laws and etiquette
If driving, you must have a fluorescent bib in the car. It’s to be put on should you break down on a busy road and need to be visible to other motorists – and it’s a legal requirement.