Lisbon, the capital of Portugal since 1255, was conquered from the Moors by Portugal’s first king in 1147. It lies on the right bank of the Tagus river and in a region that offers a rich landscape diversity, from broad blue estuary and fertile river plains, through to the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon is an enchanting capital.
The city originally sprang up around a fortress, which is now circled by neighborhoods drenched with medieval charm and houses whose facades are decked with ornate ceramic tiles. As the dusk turns to night, the yellow electric tramcars continue to wind their way up and down the hills of the old capital, while the sound of traditional Fado songs enlivens many a candle-lit dinner table in restaurant or home. The capital also provides ample opportunity for seeing popular celebrations, for shopping, and for enjoying the nightlife along the river bank. With the port and marinas situated nearby, water sports are a natural attraction too.
Not far from the capital lies the town of Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and previous royal residence. The Atlantic coast around Lisbon is of surprising beauty: here the landscape swiftly changes from high, sweeping cliffs to beaches of white sand, backed by lagoons, and frequented by hundreds of windsurfers. Not far away, at Cabo da Roca, lies Europe’s westernmost point. Back in the Lisbon area, many other places stand as witness to Portugal’s rich historical and cultural traditions: ancient monastries and convents of the religious orders, cosmopolitan seaside resorts and enchanting coastal villages, aristocratic country-houses, and the Arrábida hills and nature reserve stocked with ancient trees.
In Lisbon, not to be missed are:
- the medieval quarters of Alfama and Mouraria, and the magnificent St. George’s Castle
- the Bairro Alto and Madragoa, with their typical streetsthe Belém tower and the Jerónimos monastery (masterpieces of Manueline architecture and classified in UNESCO’s International Heritage list)
- the Palaces of Ajuda and Fronteira
- any of Lisbon’s fine museums, highlighting Lisbon’s past as a great seafaring nation and dominant culture
- Lisbon’s riverside discos and bars, particularly vibrant during the summer months
- the local seafood and wines
Nearby places of interest include
- Alcobaça , the monumental Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria, founded in 1152 and classified in UNESCO’s International Heritage list
- Batalha , the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, a Portuguese Gothic building begun in 1388 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The stylish summer resort Cascais and Estoril
- The Marian pilgrimage center of Fátima
- The graceful town of Leiria with its striking medieval royal castle and 16 th century cathedral
- Tomar, a UNESCO’s Heritage town with famous cathedral and Templars’ Castle (12th century)