The Romans, Moors and Crusaders have long left Lisbon, and what they’ve left is a hillside city brimming with culture, character and cool. From the Moorish Alfama district to the bustle of Baixa, every pocket of Portugal’s capital has its own treasures to offer the savvy traveller. We’ve gambolled in the gardens and mused over the museums to bring you our top five Lisbon must-sees…
We love a lively jingle at Smith and, although fado, Portugal’s very own musical stylings don’t exactly pepper our playlists, a visit to a genuine fado house is essential. Translated as ‘fate,’ the genre’s structure is characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics and is reputedly linked to the country’s seafaring past when sailors sang soulfully of their separation from home. But don’t be put off by the morbid tone – get yourself over to Bairro Alto and pop into Senhor Vinho (+351 213 972 681) on Rua do Meio à Lapa for an authentic experience – it’s owned by one of the city’s top fado stars.
Described by limping Romantic Lord Byron as ‘a garden of the earthly paradise’, the nearby Sintra countryside certainly live up to his hype. Ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the lush forests of this exquisite UNESCO site, and don’t miss the awe-inspiring Moorish architecture of the Pena Palace and the white-chimneyed Palácio Nacional de Sintra.
Cascais, Portugal’s favourite beach is perfect for soaking up sun and sea. And if lying face down in the sand all day gets too much, take the 20-minute walk down the coastal road to the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), and watch the enormous waves crash into caves crafted from the rock-face by the churning ocean.
Head over to the Museu do Chiado to catch the country’s leading collection of Portuguese art from the 19th century onwards. There’s more than 5,000 pieces to admire, so when you feel your legs beginning to quiver, relax in the charming café overlooking the sculpture garden, and sip a galau coffee to perk yourself up for round two.
The hilltop gardens of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara treat you to some dizzying views across the city. Catch the sunset over the rooftops, then people-watch as the sedate card-players and dog walkers give up their ground for the evening injection of young fun-lovers en route to the revelries of the Bairro Alto.
Staying in Lisbon? Chiado 16, a luxury guesthouse perched atop a heavenly hill in the chic Chiado district, is but a stroll away from shops, cafés and cultural curiosities. Or there’s Heritage Av Liberdade, historic, hip and homely, this hotel blends traditional Portuguese charm with laid-back luxe. Bed down in the Hotel Britania, a hotel with history where you can expect modernism and luxury with art deco flair, situated just off the beautiful Avenida da Liberdade. Or skip the city and go straight to the beach with a stay at the slick and fashionable Farol Design Hotel on the Cascais waterfront.
Compiled by Harry Illingworth