Overview

Introduction

Like most great maritime cities, Lisbon is a boisterous mix of modern urban culture amidst a rich historical setting. Spread across a number of hills, the city seems to defy navigation, and relies instead on a whole range of transport systems to get people around: metro, buses, trams and even creaking yellow elevadores (funiculars) that haul their way to hilltop neighbourhoods. A trip on the famed vintage Tram 28 does its best to make sense of the city’s bewildering topography.

Each district has its own character: the considered elegance of Baixa, constructed after the earthquake and tsunami of 1755; the almost Medina-like Alfama, with its crowded, cobblestoned streets, steep stone stairs, and the haunting sound of fado, songs of heartbreak and loss;Belem, the departure point of Vasco da Gama and the great adventurers of the 15th and 16th century, memorialized by the sweeping Monument to the Discoveries on the waterfront and perhaps nowadays just as famous for its too-delicious egg-yolk pastries, its Pasteis de Belem.

Throughout the city, buildings of the distinctive Manueline style – a local form of late Gothic – and the dazzling azulejos that are to be seen even in the darkest places, are integral to Lisbon’s special character. The National Azulejo Museum in the 15th century Madre de Deus Convent makes a fascinating visit, rivaled by the more modern Gulbenkian.

In times past it was to the hills and coast west of Lisbon that royalty and the European aristocracy retreated for their long summer holidays and to escape political turbulence. At Estoril, the largest casino in Europe is still in operation, though its clients no longer tend to be deposed kings or even stranded spies, like Ian Fleming. It is more likely that the main attractions are the area’s soft sandy beaches and fine fish restaurants that stretch between Estoril and the beach resort of Cascais.Windsurfers and kitesurfers thrive on the northern winds that  race across the more remote beaches at Guincho.

Dominant on a hill, the elegant town of Sintra is home to 5 palaces and a castle, including the exotic Pena National Palace with its flamboyant pastiche of the medieval and Moorish, extraordinary painted rooms and stunningly tiled chapel. The town still possesses an air of old-fashioned, high-styleromance and splendour, as befits the preferred choice of devotees of hedonism like Lord Byron.

The surrounding area – the Serra de Sinta,described by the Romans as lunaemons(mountains of the moon)– is ideal walking country, taking in a green and fertile landscape that leads to the Atlantic shore. Splendid views that capture unvisited sandy beaches culminate at Cabo de Roca, known as the place “where land ends and the sea begins.” A hundred metres above the crashing waves of the Atlantic, it does indeed feel as if you stand at the brink of the known world. There is something unique about the might of the Atlantic that both challenges and intimidates – feelings that can connect even the modern traveller to those early Portugese adventurers.

South of Lisbon, across the Tagus River, it is as if the city and its bustle have instantly evaporated: this is another world. Natural beauty dominates; the atmosphere is calm, quiet and reflective. Between Setubal and Sesimbralies Arribada natural park, a region of undulating hills, green mountains, pines, cypresses, small coves, empty roads, a few villages and deserted white sand beaches. In the Sado river estuary bottle-nose dolphins can regularly be seen.

As so often in Portugal, a small area can offer so many different experiences. Lisbon alone can fill the senses to the point of confusion, but there is calmness, too, and tranquility, in the hills around Sintra or the endless beaches on the Troia peninsular. Just a short visit can feel like an epic.

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Highlights

Cakes
Try a traditional custard cake in Lisbon, the Pasteis de Belem – truly delicious.

Golf
Play at the regions best golf courses at Estoril, Sintra, Costa Azul or Oeste.

Heritage
Visit the the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Belem, a stone tribute to Portugal’s maritime heritage and the Tower of Belem, a classic Manueline structure symbolizing Portugal’s era of expansion; and the cosmopolitan glamour of the Estoril coast to the palaces of Sintra – summer retreat of the kings of Portugal.

Festivals

Lisbon Fish and Flavours (30 March - 09 April)
Visitors have the chance to enjoy various gastronomic fish and seafood dishes.

Festivities of Lisbon (01 - 30th June)
Lisbon comes alive in celebration of its Patron saint, Santo Antonio. Entertainment, festivities and processions take place.

Sintra Festival (June-July)
Enjoy the sound of classical music and dance in romantic surroundings.

National Gastronomy Festival (Oct-Nov)
A chance to purchase delicacies - cheese, fresh fish, aromatic herbs and spices - at the National Gastronomy Festival in Santarem.

Note: Dates subject to change.

Useful information

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Rosanna Melaragni
Rosanna Melaragni
Best time to go
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
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Time Difference

GMT + 0

Currency

Euro

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

2 hours 35 minutes

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Talk to our Portugal expert

Rosanna Melaragni
Rosanna Melaragni

Rosanna is the head of our Discovery Department which covers tailor made holidays to Portugal and the Azores, Italy and Sicily, Scandinavia and the new programme to Spain. She is our longest serving member of staff having joined in 1994 after completing an honours degree in French and Italian and subsequently working for a tour operator in Yorkshire. She is responsible for brochure writing, contracting accommodation, programme costing, computer inputting and generally troubleshoots where necessary. She has global knowledge of our tailor made programme.

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
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  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
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