Quick guide to Lisbon, Portugal Currency: Euro
Lisbon is both the capital and the largest city in Portugal. It lies on the coast next to the Atlantic Ocean and part of the city constitutes the most westerly point in Continental Europe. Around 27% of the population of Portugal live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. The city looks out over the Tagus River and, like Rome, is built on seven hills.
Lisbon is a place of contrasts and variety. Visitors can choose to go to the beach, visit historical monuments and art galleries or dance until dawn at one of the city’s many nightclubs.
Lisbon experiences mild winters and very warm summers. Its winters are among the warmest in the whole of Europe and the average temperature in January, the coldest month, is around 12 °C (54 °F). August is the hottest month of the year with daytime temperatures averaging 26 to 33 °C (79 to 91 °F). The hottest temperature ever recorded was 41.8 °C (107.2 °F). Late spring, once the winter rains have stopped, and early autumn are good times to visit.
In August the city empties of its residents, who leave in search of cooler climes, and many establishments are closed.
The tram, which was first installed in the 19th century, is a great way to travel around the city’s many hills. Apart from one modern line (Line 15) all of Lisbon’s iconic yellow trams are small, four-wheeled carriages dating from the early 1900s. Tram routes 12 and 28 offer fantastic sightseeing for tourists.
Ride the Elevador da Glória funicular, a National Monument opened in 1885, to the top of the hill for impressive views of the city. A one day travel ticket, covering tram, bus, metro and funicular, is available for €3.70. Pre-paid tickets are cheaper than those bought on board.
A Travessa is an institution in Lisbon. Set inside a seventeenth-century convent, this restaurant serves hearty traditional food made with fresh, local ingredients. The vaults and cloisters are packed to the rafters every night so booking is essential.
The Mercado da Ribeira is a food market which has been the gastronomic heart of the city since 1892, with some claiming it dates back to the 13th century. In 2014 it was transformed into a food court selling food by some of the city’s top chefs. Enjoy a ‘bica’ (espresso) and a bite to eat from one of the 35 stalls at lunchtime.
The Bairro Alto district is the destination of choice for revellers in the city. Here, you’ll find a maze of narrow streets lined with bars, restaurants and places to go dancing.
The club scene in Lisbon is thriving and offers some weird and wonderful locations for a night out. The superclub Lux is housed within a giant dockland warehouse with a rooftop balcony, while the Pensao Amor bar is located in a former brothel.
Enjoy the ‘fado’, a traditional form of melancholic Portuguese song, at the Clube de Fado, where you can eat dinner with a live musical accompaniment.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a UNESCO Site and former monastery, was commissioned to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the route to India by sea in 1498 during Portugal’s so-called ‘Age of Discovery’. The nearby Torre de Belém, a sixteenth-century Gothic fortified tower, has defended Lisbon’s harbour for centuries and offers panoramic views of the Atlantic.
Take a walk through the Alfama district, a maze of winding medieval streets which lead up to the Castelo de São Jorge, a ninth-century Moorish castle. Don’t miss Praça do Comércio, an enormous square with ocean views.
Hotels in Lisbon
There is bountiful accommodation in Lisbon ranging from five-star luxury hotels to hostels and guesthouses.
The Valverde hotel is a five star boutique hotel containing twenty-five individually designed rooms. The nineteenth-century building has six floors and a courtyard complete with heated swimming pool, a rarity in the city centre. It is currently the top-rated hotel out of 232 on TripAdvisor.
LX Boutique Hotel is a four-star, mid-range option overlooking the Tagus River, close to the buzzing Bairro Alto neighbourhood.
Lisbon is one of Western Europe’s cheaper capital cities and there are plenty of bargains to be had. The main shopping streets are Chiado and Avenida da Liberdade, where you can find international high-street shops selling clothes at half of the UK price.
Embaixada is an experience as much as a shopping destination. Set within a nineteenth-century Moorish palace, this ‘concept store’ is home to a variety of fashion and design boutiques all set around the grand central staircase. Many of the shops in the Baixa area have been passed down through the generations and retain a vintage feel.