Flights To Lisbon

The capital of Portugal has experienced a renaissance in recent years and has reclaimed its rightful place as the 'golden city' of southern Europe. After slumbering for decades, the city's modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan identity is today much similar to that which it enjoyed in the 15th and 16th centuries during the age of the great discoverers, when Lisbon was the centre of trade with the East and the starting point for maritime exploration of the globe.

The city fathers of Lisbon elected to invest in some rejuvenation in the 1990s, and this ongoing focus on the future has made the most of the city's attributes and attractions, both old and new. Infrastructure has also been improved, with additions like the impressive Vasco da Gama Bridge across the River Tagus, which links the city's airport to a network of national motorways and has facilitated access to other parts of Portugal. There is also a new showcase railway hub, the Gare de Oriente, which is the pride of a new modern suburb on the east bank of the Tagus, creating an even better link between Lisbon and the rest of Europe.

While much is new, there is plenty of the old left to charm visitors, giving the metropolis a slightly provincial air. The delightful, picturesque medieval section of Alfama skirts the city's Sao Jorge castle, and historic wooden trams ply noisily up and down steep hills past art deco cafes and mosaic-decorated pavements. Many of the relics of the city's golden age were destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, but some survived and are popular tourist attractions, complemented now by modern sights, like the futuristic Oceanarium.

Within easy reach of the city are the sandy beaches of several coastal resorts, such as Costa da Caparica, Estoril and Cascais, as well as the forested areas of Sintra and attractions like the extraordinary Mafra monastery. The mood of Lisbon is light and bright, confident, fresh and avante garde, ready to welcome the world to the doorstep as one of the great capitals of Europe.

Getting around

Public transport in Lisbon is inexpensive and useful for negotiating the hills between attractions. The fastest way to get around is by metro, which covers most of the city, and complementing this is a network of trams, buses, funiculars and a vertical elevator to connect the high and low areas of Lisbon. There is also a modern electric train that links the city to all the towns along the Portuguese Riviera, and ferries across the Tagus River. Trams and buses are very inexpensive and the old trams have become a big tourist attraction. It is best to avoid public transport during rush hours, as the crowded conditions are the perfect cover for pickpockets. Various transport passes are available, including the Lisboa Card that allows unlimited transport, free entry to many museums and several discounted attractions and activities. Metered taxis are plentiful and affordable, and a popular means of transportation, but beware of drivers taking long, indirect routes. A car is not recommended for use around the city and it is best to leave it in a garage for the duration of stay and get around by public transportation.

Nightlife

Lisbon has a very active nightlife, offering everything from clubs and bars to traditional Fado music, international concerts and fantastic theatre. The Bairro Alto area is the epicentre of the city's nightlife but there are various other party and entertainment destinations. The guide Follow Me Lisboalists all the major events and venues in the city. Start the evening with cocktails in a café in the Chiado square, before going to Bairro Alto's Bedroom, Pavilhão Chinês or Clube da Esquina. These venues can be followed by pre-dawn partying and relaxing at the docks of Alcântara and in the Santos district; Op Art is one of the favoured bars. Lux, another popular club in the area, is part-owned by actor John Malkovich. Classical music can be enjoyed at venues including the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Culturgest, while theatres such as Dona Maria II National Theatre offer contemporary works and classical plays; there is good opera at São Carlos Theatre. Fado is popular in Alfama and Lapa, the best venue being Senhor Vinho. Concerts are held at Atlantic Pavillion and Coliseu dos Recreios, featuring international bands and artists.

Shopping

Shopping in Lisbon is an all-day affair with plenty of major shopping malls, including two of Europe's largest, namely Centro Colombo and the Amoreiras Shopping Centre. Some of Lisbon's smaller independent shops can be found downtown in the Baixa quarter and strolling through these streets, visitors can marvel at the unique exteriors of shops such as Luvaria Ulises and Ourivesaria Aliança.

The most famous market in Lisbon has to be the Feira da Ladra, which is held every Tuesday and Saturday on the Campo de Santa Clara. Here bargain hunters can sift through clothing, hand-made goods, CDs, books, antiques, furniture, second-hand wares and other bric-a-brac. It's a must when shopping in Lisbon but tourists should beware of pickpockets.

Shops in Lisbon are generally open from 9am to 1pm and 3pm to 7pm from Monday to Friday while on Saturdays shopping hours are from 9am to 7pm and many of the larger shopping malls stay open till midnight.

Siteseeing

Perched on the coast of Portugal and steeped in a rich and diverse marine history, it's no wonder that many of Lisbon's attractions are of the aquatic variety. Visitors will have a grand time exploring the many sights this exciting city has to offer. Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, which is marketed as the second best aquarium in the world and boasting a 1.3-million gallon (5-million litre) and a wonderful array of marine life, or for a slightly more historical look at the sea, the Maritime Museum is one of Europe's best and a must for history buffs. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tower of Belem, stroll through the streets of the charming Alfama, Lisbon's old qaurter, visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge and take a stroll through the Jeronimos Monastery, a World Heritage Site and the resting place of Vasco de Gama.

Kids Attractions

Lisbon has many things for kids on holiday to see and do, ranging from museums and planetariums to zoos and aquariums. There are also great shopping centres and amusement parks for families to enjoy while on holiday in Lisbon. Another plus is that the weather in Portugal is warm most of the year, and the local culture is family-oriented so the people are welcoming to kids.

Dining

With literally hundreds of restaurants on offer, eating out in Lisbon is taste sensation and an experience not to be missed. With an emphasis on seafood and the usual spicy Portuguese fare, this country has a love of spices, especially cinnamon and vanilla, which can be seen in their love of pastries, especially of the custard variety, such as the pastel de nata, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon. Piri piri,small fiery peppers, black pepper and saffron are also popular spices that are commonly used in Portuguese cooking. Try the caldo verdewith potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of spicy chorizo sausage, or authentic Portuguese sardines, grilled as sardinhas assadas.Head to the city centre where all the trendiest and most popular Lisbon restaurants can be found, while the barrio Alto is a good place to sample Indian cuisine. The area of Lapa is known for cosy and well-established restaurants while Estoril and Cascal's restaurants come with breathtaking ocean views. When in Portugal, many choose to have a lengthy and drawn out lunch, pushing dinner later into the night and visitors will have to adapt to this.

Climate

Lisbon has a warm climate with sunny spring and summer days, when temperatures frequently reach 85ºF (30ºC) or above. Winters are wet and windy, temperatures averaging around 50ºF (10ºC).