Lisbon charms its visitors again and again with its unique atmosphere. At the same time, the bohemian, historic and trendy city destination offers endless things to see and experience even for the seasoned traveller.
The City of Light. Queen of the Sea. The City of Seven Hills. These are all nicknames that have formed over the years for Lisbon, basking in the sun by the Atlantic – and there is a valid reason for each of them.
Finnair's direct flights take passengers to the Portuguese capital in just under five hours. But what are the best parts of a city break in Lisbon? Here are the most important tips that will help you indulge in the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.
Wandering through the wonders of the city
Up and down, up and down – and up again. You should pack your most comfortable running shoes for your trip to Lisbon. Like Rome, the city is built on seven hills and there is a lot of height elevation – accompanied by wonderful viewing platforms. You can get a particularly nice view of the city from Saint George’s Castle, as it was built on the highest point of the city.
The best way to get into the ambience of the city is by taking a day tour by foot, admiring decorative houses with mosaic patterns and feeling the bohemian vibe of the city. When you get tired from walking, it's easy to hop on a tram, funicular or city-built elevators, which make it easier to move around the steepest differences in height.
The little yellow trams date from the 1930s and are one of the symbols of Lisbon. The number 28 tram is especially popular with tourists. It takes you past the most famous sights, cathedrals and squares, passing through the popular areas of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. Travelling the route from start to finish takes about 50 minutes and costs three euros.
A nice walking route also runs along the banks of the Tagus River from the centre to the Belém Tower, which was built in the 16th century to protect Lisbon from attacks. From the beach, you can admire the 25th April Bridge also known as the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge, which is about two kilometres long and closely resembles San Francisco's Golden Gate. The bridge connects Lisbon to the municipality of Almada, whose main attraction is the Cristo Rei statue. Its mission is to protect the city of Lisbon.
A foodie's paradise
A foodie will find a versatile selection in Lisbon from Portuguese dishes to international gourmet restaurants. Foodies who especially enjoy seafood will find unforgettable dishes here. Grilled sardines, cod and crabs are in a class of their own, along with the fiery piri-piri chicken and traditional meat stew. Portuguese cuisine has pure flavours with high-quality and fresh ingredients.
If the preferences of your travel companions differ, the Time Out market is an excellent dinner destination. The market hall has numerous counters selling different dishes: burgers, seafood, Portuguese classics, tartar, croquettes, stuffed sandwiches, pizza, Asian food and sweet treats. There are groups of tables in the middle of the market hall and each member of the party can compile a meal according to their own preferences with a strong mojito, wine or beer.
Excellent restaurants and evening venues can also be found in the super popular Bairro Alto neighbourhood, which is full of trendy bars and cafes. During the day the area is very quiet, but after the sun goes down the streets are bustling with people.
The Portuguese love sweet pastries, especially their own national treasure: pasteis de nata cream pastries. The pastries of the Pastéis de Belem cafe, which was already established in 1837, have become legendary, and the queue at the cafe's take away counter often reaches far into the next block. On the other hand, you can usually slip into the cafe's large interior spaces more easily if you are ready to enjoy your delicacies on the spot.
Take a trip to Sintra
About a 40-minute train ride and a half an hour's drive away is the fairytale town of Sintra, which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The old town and numerous old palaces and castles are the highlight of the trip for many Lisbon travellers.
Located at the top of the mountain, the Palácio da Pena, completed in 1894, and its green surroundings are often covered with fog and thus has a magical atmosphere. On clear days, the views from the palace's balconies are magnificent and reach all the way to Lisbon. Be prepared, however, for a thick haze to obscure the view. The visit is still definitely worth it, even though the queues are huge during the summer season. So remember to bring a water bottle with you!
Enjoy year-round sunshine
Lisbon is said to be one of the sunniest cities in Europe, and that's why it's an ideal holiday destination all year round. The summer season starts already in March and ends only at the turn of October-November when the rainy season begins. Still, even in November, you can do just fine in shorts and a t-shirt.
It rains the most between November and February. Still, even in the winter season, the sun shines every so often. The coldest is during winter in January-February when the daytime temperature is slightly above 10 degrees Celsius. Correspondingly, the hottest is in midsummer when the temperature can be anything between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, the winds blowing from the Atlantic make the unpleasantness a little easier.