If you’re thinking of booking a luxury getaway in Portugal, Lisbon is a brilliant destination to choose. As you’re probably aware, it’s the nation’s capital, and it’s also a really interesting city to explore. There’s just so much to do here that it’d be easy to spend your whole break looking around without getting the least bit bored, and whether you plan to stay here for a week or two or you just want to visit on a day trip, you can get a few ideas of the absolutely unmissable sights below.
I think one of the loveliest things about Lisbon is its winding, narrow backstreets and historic little neighbourhoods. It’s well worth heading out of the main tourist thoroughfares to see at least one of these (though if you’ll be here for a while, I’d recommend trying to visit more).
Among the most charming is Chiado, which has somehow held on to its 19th-century atmosphere. This was a great time for the area, when it became a favourite haunt of artists and intellectuals – and everything from the architecture to the ambience manages to evoke that past. Plus, it’s a really decent place to shop and seek out little cafes. The cafe A Brasileira is probably among the best known locally, and if you’ve got a taste for coffee, it’s the perfect spot to try bica (that’s traditional black Portuguese coffee to you and me). There are some nice churches around here too; Igreja do Loreto has a particularly impressive interior.
Portugal has some real culinary treats – you’ve probably heard of its reputation for seafood and wine. What you might not know, however, is that it is the birthplace of fantastic little custard tarts – and you can try them at their best in the riverside precint of Belem.
Pateis de Belem are one of Lisbon’s most treasured treats, and reproductions are now sold all over the country. What’s great about coming to this cafe – which has the same name as the treats – is that the recipe here is a secret and, since it’s where the tarts originated, you can really taste them at their best. They’re served warm and you’re given sachets of sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on top. Delicious! Be warned though – once you’ve had these, none of the tarts you have anywhere else in Portugal will seem as good!
Lisbon’s also a brilliant place to see some impressive architecture. There is a huge number of buildings to see, so I won’t attempt to list them all, but here are a few that you really can’t miss:
• Azulejos - These are painted tiles, and they’re a massive part of Lisbon architecture. Ok, so tiles might not immediately sound too exciting, but they’re an important part of the city’s character – so much so that you’ll even find impressive designs at a lot of the city’s underground stations. If you want to know more about them and see some of the most striking murals made of azulejos, head to the Tile Museum in the cloisters of the Madre de Deus church.
• Monastery of Jeronimos - This is probably the most famous piece of architecture in Lisbon, and you can visit here when you head to Pateis de Belem, since this is situated in Belem too. Built in 1502, it is an amazing example of Manueline – an architectural style dating back to the Age of Discoveries, characterised by maritime motifs and sculptural details.
• Tower of Belem - Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Belem, this tower is where sailors set off from during the Age of Discoveries. It’s for this reason that it’s so important, but also because it is another amazing example of the Manueline style.