Destination Insight: Lisbon
Destination Insight: Lisbon
As one of the more affordable cities in the euro-zone, Lisbon has a great deal to offer business travellers. The city centre, with its tiled pavements, open squares and spectacular fountains has a certain faded, laidback charm which will likely encourage you to linger and maybe extend your business trip into a bleisure weekend.
If you're planning to extend your stay in the city and make the most of what's there, why not start with these suggestions for things to see and do in and around Lisbon?
Time Out and Other Markets
One of Lisbon’s newest foodie attractions is also among the best. This huge covered market near Cais do Sodre is fringed with over 30 different premium restaurants and food stands on a self-service basis, so you can sample a starter, main and dessert from three different outlets in one sitting. You can also try the Wine Experience and Superbock Beer Experience, where you can taste a variety of local and regional brews and vintages. You may have to fight for a seat at one of the many communal benches here, but it’s well worth doing so.
On a similar tip, you might also want to visit the Baixa Food Market on Figuiera Square, where the tempting, pungent aroma of sausages, cheeses and baclau, not to mention fine wines, will give you pause to consider how much space you can set aside in your checked baggage. Nearby is Martim Moniz Square, a great daytime spot where locals gather to enjoy the food stalls, cocktail shacks and live music.
Near the prime tourist zone around the Sao Jorge Castle you’ll find the old historic district of Alfama. Take in the narrow streets of whitewashed houses, decked with tinsel and birdcages, which give you a sense of time having stood still, and enjoy a glass of Vino Verde at one of the many pleasant pavement bars and restaurants here.
Belly Up at Belem
One of the city’s essential sweetmeats are natas cakes, delicious, caramelised custard tarts, which should already be familiar to anyone who frequents Nandos. You’ll find these in pastelerias all over the city of course, but the best place to sample them is the Pasteis de Belem, the bakery that’s been residing over the secret recipe since 1837, where hungry customers queue around the block to get a slice of the puff pastry action.
The impressive medieval Tower of Belem nearby is another reason to visit the area. Nearby is the colossal Discoveries Monument on the banks of the Tagus River which pays tribute to Portugal's long history of exploration, with a group of explorer figures dramatically clustered along the prow of its ship-like edge dangling over the water.
The beautiful hilltop town of Sintra is a popular draw and easily done in a day, being a simple 40-minute train ride away from central Lisbon's Rossio Station. The main sights are the Pena Palace and the Quinta de Regelarias. The Quinta is a stately home with sprawling grounds, complete with intricate towers, grottos and waterfalls to explore.
The multi-coloured Pena Palace is among Europe’s most striking castles, a 19th century tribute to the Portuguese Empire it draws on a wide variety of architectural styles. The castle is perched some 500 metres above sea level, so is best reached with a bumpy tuttuk ride (around 5 euros per person) to the summit.
Getting Up and About
Lisbon is a fiendishly hilly city to navigate, but help is at hand thanks to a number of urban transport initiatives, such as funiculars and trams. And there are also lifts which take elevation to new heights. The extravagantly ornate Art Deco Santa Justa Elavador in Baixa Chiado is a tourist attraction in its own right, with a 5 Euro fee to take it to the top.
The city has retained a number of charming vintage, yellow 1920s trams in service, many of which are packed with tourists like the proverbial sardines. The most iconic of all is perhaps the No. 28, which rattles its way up through streets so narrow that you can almost reach out and touch the walls. There are also more expensive, and less authentic, tourist trams with audio commentary. These are usually red.
Then there are a range of other vehicles you can hire to zip about, such as vintage VW beetles, tuktuks, motorinos and these rather fun go-cars.
Hit the Bairro Alto
Lisbon’s nightlife doesn’t really get going until gone midnight, but when it does you’re best hiking up hill to the Bairro Alto, where the party in the many. tiny affordable bars in its undulating alleyways spill over into the street. It’s also where you should gravitate to to experience the music of fado, a type of folky Portuguese blues dripping with melancholy. The Portuguese even have their own word which sums up the spirit of fado – ‘saudade’ which roughly translates as a feeling of sad, wistful nostalgia for time passed, departed loved ones or simply for the way things used to be.
Visit the Vineyards
For a complete contrast, consider venturing out of the city a little and exploring the rural area just north of Lisbon. This area is home to clutch of stunning vineyards which produce high quality wines. Some of the best include Quinta de Carrafouchas, a family run institution with a beautifully ornate 18th century fountain (pictured above) and tiled pool, the elegant Sao Sebastiao which has its own horses and dressage grounds used for private events, and the larger Quinta do Gradil which makes a fine, almost sherry-like brut cava and also supplies Tesco with its own brand of Portuguese red. You can also take in the unspoilt, green peaks of MonteJunto where some of the charming windmills have been restored and converted into lovely cafes and restaurants.
For a customised experience of these out of town areas, backed with expert local knowledge, check out Our Land Tours who can tailor an itinerary to your tastes and budget.
Getting to Lisbon
Lisbon's Humberto Delgado Airport is served by a wide range of UK carriers and airports. including Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff and Newcastle. It's 7km from the city and can be reached in around 30 minutes from the centre on the metro. You can get a rechargeable Viva transport card to use at any metro station.