Portugal has always been popular as a holiday destination, due to the beautiful climate and stunning beaches.
But Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is also a great place for city breaks and longer beach holidays in the nearby resorts of the Estoril Coast. With attractions such as the stunning 25 April Bridge, the Barirro Alto Quarter and the Belém Tower, you won't be short of things to do.
With a flight time of just two and a half hours from most airports in the UK, Lisbon flights couldn't be more convenient for those looking for a lively city break in Europe. You can take flights to Lisbon from Bristol (BRI), Cork (ORK), Dublin (DUB), Edinburgh (EDI), Liverpool (LPL), Gatwick (LGW), Heathrow (LHR) and Luton (LTN) to Lisbon (LIS). As you fly into Lisbon (LIS) Portela International airport, look out for the river Targus and the seven hills around which the city is built.
Getting to Lisbon from the airport is straightforward as there is a new metro station. If you don't have much luggage you can also take the 44, 745 or 83 buses, which stop outside the airport and will take you to the old city centre. If you have more luggage, the simplest choice is to take an Aerobus or AeroShuttle bus service into the city centre for just €3.50. They run every 20 to 30 minutes and stop at all the key places. Helpfully, there is a screen on board to help you see where you need to get off.Lisbon is a relatively unexploited city and it's a bit of a well-kept secret. There is a great selection of boutique hotels, unusual and quirky shops in Chiado, a wide range of restaurants and some great sightseeing opportunities. Nightlife is lively and cosmopolitan in feel. The hills create a light breeze to keep you cool in the summer months, making sightseeing much more relaxing. The climate is as refreshing as the atmosphere.
It's useful to know that the locals commonly refer to specific historical neighbourhoods, or bairros, such as Bairro Alto, Baixa, Alfama, Chiado and Belém. Each has its own attractions. It's worth having a quick read of your Lisbon guide book in advance so you can focus on the sights you would most like to see and become acquainted with the city layout.
The city is easy to navigate by metro but you can also use the yellow trams, particularly the renowned Electrico 28 (Tram 28), which will take you all over the city and provides a cheaper alternative to city tours. The trams are a much-loved and historic feature of the city. They have been running since 1873 and even have a dedicated museum, called the Carris.
When you have tired of shopping or sitting in a café on the wide avenues in the Baxia (city centre), take a ride on Santa Justa's Elevator, which connects the lower streets of the Baxia with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). You can walk to the beautiful St Jorge's Castle (Castelo de São Jorge), which is situated on the highest of Lisbon's hills, via a picturesque route though the old bairro of Alfama, with its maze of street and alleys carved right into the hillside. Don't miss out on a view of the Ponte 25 de Abril (25 April Bridge), which is the sister bridge of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Another high point, literally, is the famous statue of Christ the King, which is a version of the huge statue of Jesus overlooking Rio de Janeiro. If monuments are of interest, then be sure to visit the Belém area of Lisbon, which is filled with them. Don't miss the Discovery Monument, which is stunning. Look out for the Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimo), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Belém Tower (Torre de Belém). Put Se Cathedral and the Carmo convent and museum on your list of excursions if you enjoy religious sites. Sao Roque church is also well worth a visit. If you're still hungry for more then put Quelez Palace, the Aqueduct or the popular Oceanarium on your itinerary too. Don't forget that the historic city of Fatima is only 123 km from Lisbon. Why not make a day trip if you have a little longer?
With so much on offer, it's not surprising that Lisbon was the Expo '98 site. To the strains of traditional Fado music, over 11 million visitors arrived at the World Fair that year to celebrate 500 years of Portuguese discoveries.
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