Lisbon City Guide
Lisbon- the capital city of Portugal- is called ‘Lisboa’ in Portuguese and is a favored vacation destination. This port city, which was once a sleepy backwater, is currently enjoying a great cultural renaissance, quite similar to that of its ‘golden age’ of the 15th and 16th centuries when it produced master mariners, like Ferdinand Magellan who circumvented the globe and Vasco de Gama who became the first European to sail to India.
Lisbon’s fathers in the 1990’s decided that a massive overhaul of the city was due and they then went on to inject much investment into this effort. These efforts soon paid off and resulted in the improvement of much of the city’s infrastructure. Modern day Lisbon boasts of several impressive additions like the Vasco de Gama Bridge, which spans the River Targus and links the city’s airport to a network of highways and the Gare d’Oriente railway hub that facilitates better rail links between Lisbon and the rest of Europe. The rejuvenation of Lisbon also enabled it to wear the crown of the European capital of culture in 1994 and to host the grand Expo in 1998.
Vacationers today gravitate towards Lisbon to partake of its many unique attractions that include an old-world historic quarter, treasure filled museums and galleries, a rich culinary heritage, a lively nightlife scene, good shopping options and easy access to spectacular beaches.
Where to stay in Lisbon
Lisbon’s many hotels are located all over the city in its various diverse neighborhoods. Depending on your individual tastes and preferences, you can choose to base yourself in one of these charming neighborhoods of this port city.
The grid-shaped Baixa district is the business district of Lisbon and contains many examples of Pombaline-style architecture. The term refers to the Prime minister who rebuilt the city after it was wiped out by the devastating earthquake of 1755. This district hosts the headquarters of prominent Portuguese banks and other commercial enterprises. Accordingly, it hosts several business-oriented hotels of various grades and types.
The Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon is located to the west of the Baixa district. This neighborhood is located on a hill and is one of the premier shopping districts in the city that is home to upscale cafes, boutiques, hotels. If you enjoy luxe shopping pursuits then maybe a hotel in the Chiado district will meet your accommodation needs in Lisbon.
The Bairro Alto or the Upper City dates back to 1513 and occupies one of the legendary seven hills that surround Lisbon. The Bairro Alto is accessed by the old-world Santa Justa Elevator or Carmo Lift.
The Bairro Alto is a picturesque neighborhood in Lisbon, which in recent times has come to be considered as a ‘hip’ enclave that hosts some of the best bars, clubs and restaurants in the city. If you like to be in the midst of all ‘hot and happening’ on your vacation, then a hotel in the Bairro Alto should be a perfect match for you.
The Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon. This medieval district was partly destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and is perched above the Baixa district. The Alfama hosts several landmarks of Lisbon like the Castelo São Jorge, or St. George's Castle, a crumbling castle that was once used by the Romans. The Alfama district has a quaint air about it and offers great river views.
The Lisbon neighborhood of Belém is located on the outskirts of the city. This neighborhood hosts some of the city’s finest museum and attractions like the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Museu Nacional dos Coches, the National Coach Museum, the Museu de Arte Popular and the Museu de Marinha.
Beach side hotels
Lisbon is located within close proximity to a few beautiful beach side resorts like Estoril and Cascais. Many visitors who are on vacation in Lisbon like to combine a cultural holiday with a sea-resort vacation and choose to stay at hotels located within these beach side communities. They then commute into Lisbon by train.
If you have time on your hands and are in Lisbon during the summer months then perhaps these beach resort hotels can meet your accommodation needs in Lisbon.
Places to see in Lisbon
The Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983. This intricately carved church which was built to commemorate Vasco da Gamma’s successful voyage across unknown oceans to India is located in the neighborhood of Belém in Lisbon. This beautiful church is also the final resting place of this great mariner, for it also contains his tomb.
The Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém)
The Lisbon neighborhood of Belém is located where the River Targus meets the sea hence Belém was often the starting point for many an exploratory marine voyage in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Torre de Belém was constructed as a fortified lighthouse on the Targus River. This ornate tower is one of the most renowned attractions in Lisbon which is believed to have been built as an ode to Portugal's 'Age of Discovery.’
Museu Nacional dos Coches
The National Museum of Coaches is one of the most popular attractions in Lisbon. This museum which is believed to be the best coach museum in the world contains an impressive collection of opulent coaches which date back to the 17th and 19th centuries.
This museum is also located within the Belém neighborhood of Lisbon, a neighborhood which is considered to be a treasure trove for an enthusiastic sight-seer on a vacation in Lisbon.
Lisbon’s old world charm is best experienced in its old quarter ,Alfama which is located on the edge of the majestic by crumbling Saint George's Castle(Castelo de Sao Jorge) that dates back to the 10th century and the rule of the Moors.
The castle offers gorgeous views of the river and is a popular tourist attraction. Also located within the medieval town of Alfama is the Cathedral Sé de Lisboa, which lacks external beauty but has much historical importance as it was the first church to be built in Lisbon on the site of a Saracen mosque after the city was conquered by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
The church today contains many relics, icons and images which are of great tourist interest. Aside from these prominent landmarks, the Alfama also hosts many small taverns and restaurants which offer traditional Portuguese Fado performances (haunting ballads of love and loss usually performed by a single performer).
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum hosts the private art collection of Gulbenkian, an Armenian oil magnate who died in 1955. This permanent collection includes Chinese ceramics, Islamic ceramics and textiles, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, Japanese artworks and lacquer ware and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens and Renoir. If you love art then the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum should be a must-do on your sight-seeing list for Lisbon.
Lisbon’s Cristo Rei statue is similar to the Christ, the Redeemer statue in Rio and it is located on the bank of the Tejo River. This statue which soars to a height of 100 meters offers panoramic views of the city from its summit which can be accessed via elevator.
Best time to visit Lisbon
Lisbon’s climate is quite agreeable and it enjoys balmy spring and summer days when temperatures routinely touch 85ºF (30ºC) or more. Winters in Lisbon are similarly quite warm with the lowest temperatures registering around 50ºF (10ºC).
This amenable weather renders Lisbon as a year round destination that can be visited at any time. In fact we at Fare Buzz often announce tempting flight deals for Lisbon so if you are currently scouting around for cheap air tickets to Lisbon, you would do well as to follow us on Twitter or Facebook, to receive advance information about these cheap air flights to Lisbon.
Getting around in Lisbon
Lisbon is easily accessed via its Lisbon Portela Airport which is located five miles north of the city . This airport which is one of the busiest airports in Southern Europe is connected to the city center by the airport shuttle bus which runs all day. Additional connections to the city are provided by metered taxis which are available outside the arrivals and departures areas of the airport.
If you are staying in one of the beach side resorts around Lisbon then it perhaps makes sense to rent a car for the duration of your stay in Lisbon. You can hire a car from one of the outlets of the various car rental agencies which have a presence at the Lisbon airport. However if you are looking for better car rental rates, then you should perhaps consider using the services of Fare Buzz for your Lisbon car rental needs for we have a wide array of affordable car rentals for Lisbon along with similar deals for various other destinations.
If you are staying in a city center hotel, you can easily get around the city by making use of its inexpensive and extensive public transport system which is made up of a network of buses, trams, funiculars, electric trains, ferries and a vertical elevator system which connects the elevated and low-lying areas of the city.
Where to shop in Lisbon
Shopping in Lisbon is an enchanting experience. The Portuguese capital, which still happens to be one of the least expensive cities in Western Europe, continues to have an old-world air about it, especially noticeable within its Baixa (downtown district). Located here are many traditional and specialist stores, many of which are adorned with quaint trimmings like wooden counters and antique glass display cabinets.
Several of these stores function as family-owned businesses and offer exquisite, traditional wares like handmade gloves, embroidered linen, hand painted tiles, luxurious soaps and bath products, regional ceramics and hats and riding boots at prices which are relatively reasonable compared to elsewhere. Some shopkeepers even wrap your purchases in wrappings of yesteryear like brown paper and string. All these various factors help to make the shopping experience in Lisbon truly charming.
That is not to say modern consumer delights can’t be found in Lisbon, for the city’s Avenida da Liberdade offers the gamut of luxe fashion brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and more while areas like Bairro Alto, Prinicipe Real, Chiado offer a mix of trendy local and international fashion and lifestyle finds at various price points.
Lisbon’s main markets like Ribeira Market and Feira de Ladra in Alfama (a large flea market held on Tuesday and Saturday mornings) are also recommended as shopping haunts in the city. As for malls, Lisbon is home to several gargantuan shopping malls like Colombo, Atrium Saldanah, Centro Vasco Da Gama, Armazens do Chiado and El Corte Ingles (an outpost of the Spanish department store), all of which offer a multitude of shopping options for the shopping enthusiast.
Where to eat in Lisbon
Lisbon’s dining scene is constantly evolving and changing. Traditional Portuguese cuisine restaurants headed by innovative chefs like Jose Avillez and Vitor Sobral seem to dominate the city’s culinary landscape though restaurants offering diverse, international cuisines are also gaining in popularity.
Favored restaurants in Lisbon at present include establishments like Belcanto, Cantinho do Avillez, Cervejaria da Esquina, Tasca da Esquina, 1300 Taberna, Café Tati, Carvoaria Jacto, Restaurante Pharmacia and Restaurante O Pitéu.
Nightlife in Lisbon
Lisbon which is fast gaining a reputation as one of the trendiest cities in Europe, offers its own inimitable brand of nightlife which draws party-goers from around the world. Electronica, house music, live music, rock and traditional Fado, Lisbon’s thriving nightlife haunts cover all genres as they cater to varied tastes and preferences.
A night on the town in Lisbon typically starts off with dinner at a fashionable eatery in the city’s Chiado or Barrio Alto districts, followed by a night of much revelry at one of the many bars and clubs that line areas like the docks of Alcantara. Nightlife haunts in Lisbon tend to stay open until late and are busiest between the hours of 2 AM to 4 AM.
Current favorites on Lisbon’s nightlife scene include joints like Op Art(a bar with a view) Chapito(restaurant cum bar)and Cinco Lounge, clubs like Club Lux, Bedroom, Pavilhão Chines, Clube da Esquina, and Fado Houses like Senhor Vinho and Bela Vinhos e Petiscos.