If you’re looking to discover a new European city on your 2019 holiday, why not take in the sights and delights of Lisbon? The Portuguese capital is the ideal year round holiday haven. Boutique shopping, gourmet dining, historic monuments and charming museums are all waiting to be explored. Stunning architecture, iconic buildings and eccentric sights can all be found in Lisbon’s narrow lanes. Taking a stroll of the city is the best way to find hidden spots, sample delicacies from the tiny kiosks and hear the melodic tones of the traditional fado singers. When all the legwork gets too much, the city’s lumbering yellow trams take you on a leisurely ride through the streets. If no holiday is complete without at least one day at the beach, Lisbon has many stretches of pristine sands to enjoy - all just a bus ride away. A slightly longer journey sees you in the Sintra region, home to stunning beaches and traditional fishing villages.
If you like your holidays to come with a side order of adventure, Lisbon’s beaches offer a range of water sports to try. Surfing and paddle boarding are local favourites, well worth a try while you’re in the area. For a more relaxed way to enjoy the coastal waters, taking a boat trip on the Sado estuary can reward you with a truly special sight - a pod of dolphins has made these calm waters their home. When the loveable dolphins make an appearance, visitor of all ages can’t fail to be charmed by their antics.
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 2h 50m
When to go
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Lisbon’s colourful streets are filled with monuments, Gothic cathedrals, monasteries and quaint museums. Climbing aboard one of the iconic yellow trams will see you wind your way across the hillside to explore the city. The Alfama neighbourhood in the old quarter is well worth a visit. The majority of the cultural highlights are in this area of the city and include a beautiful Arabic castle on top of a hill. For many, Lisbon’s star attraction is the huge oceanarium. The steely-eyed sharks steal the show but don’t be distracted, there’s a huge number of fascinating sea creatures to discover elsewhere in this top attraction. With beautiful beaches just a stone’s throw from downtown Lisbon, plus parks, gardens and a winding maze of streets to explore, you’ll never be bored on a visit to Portugal’s capital city.
Any guide to Portuguese cuisine will demand you try the local specialities of salt fish and custard tarts. But they’re missing the true joy for a foodie on a holiday to Lisbon. Gastro tours take visitors around the Portuguese capital for a reason. The streets are full of chances to try new and exciting flavours that you won’t find on any top ten lists. From market stalls piled high with the freshest produce to off-the-beaten-track tapas bars paving the way with brave new recipes, there’s a delicious treat around every corner.
Visitors should definitely try the snacks on offer in one of the many quiosques that line the streets. A Lisbon institution, these quiosques are an affordable and easily accessible way to enjoy some of the city’s best eats. With sophisticated wine bars, boutique bistros and classy restaurants rounding off Lisbon’s extensive culinary offering, a hearty appetite will be well rewarded.
A city holiday can sometimes spell boredom if there’s not plenty of activities on hand for energetic kids - and restless parents! Thankfully a holiday to Lisbon has a fantastic range of options for visitors of all ages. The huge aquarium will wow marine life fans. One of the largest oceanariums in the world, this huge collection of aquatic species is kept in four zones - the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans. The sharks, always popular with the kids, are the stars of the show.
With adventure parks, a historic castle and a huge climbing centre to explore, there are plenty of options whatever the whether. Tours of the city are available by bike or Segway - or the amphibious Hippotrip if you can’t convince everyone in the family to zip around on two wheels.
Action & Adventure
If you head to Lisbon on holiday and don’t take to the waves with a surfboard under your arms, you’re missing out. Just 15 minutes from the city, the excellent beaches of Cascais and Sintra see some excellent swells. Local guides are on hand to help you learn or experienced boarders can hit the waves straight away. With body boarding, paddle boarding and kite-surfing all on the menu too, the beaches are a haven for water sports fans.
If you prefer your adventures to include the city, then why not try exploring on two wheels? With scooter, Segway and bike tours offering a whistle-stop tour of the city’s highlights you can whizz past the historic architecture, zip through picturesque squares and check out the urban art on Lisbon’s city walls. To get out of the city and enjoy the Portuguese countryside, without travelling too far, head west to the Adventure Park. Fun for all ages, the obstacle course features treetop rope bridges and a challenging course to conquer.
A Lisbon holiday in the city doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Portugal’s sandy beaches. The capital is flanked by stunning coastline, with many beaches accessible from the city by public transport. From untouched surfing beaches to shallow waters on family-friendly shores, Lisbon has a beach to wow every visitor. For a wild and dramatic coastal seascape head to the Serra de Sintra. The swells are ideal for surfing - whether you’re watching or taking part, it’s a thrilling sight to see surfers tackle the waves.
For golden sands that stretch for miles, the Costa da Caparica mixes great surf with beautiful beaches and a surfing scene that hits the bars once the waves die down. Families will want to head to the Estoril-Cascais coastline. Praia de Carcavelos beach is the best of the bunch with excellent facilities and a historic fishing port.
A holiday to Lisbon comes with a diverse range of lively and laid-back nightlife options. Lose yourself on the dance floor in one of the city’s best clubs or go on a gastro tour of the city. Sip cocktails outside one of Lisbon’s famous quiosques or delve headlong into the tapas scene for delicious light bites served with some of Portugal’s best wines. With bars, restaurants, quiosques and cafes serving up every kind of cuisine, along with their own unique ambience - there’s a nightspot in Lisbon waiting to welcome you.
For a night out with a difference that mixes culture, cocktails and music head to 49 da ZdB. The bar is attached to the Galeria Zé dos Bois art gallery, which also plays host to live music including some pretty experimental concerts. Party animals will want to head to Lux Frágil. Welcoming DJs from around the world, this club is a Lisbon institution and renowned across the world for putting on the biggest parties. Pack your dancing shoes, it’s going to be a late one.
Lisbon’s wonderful mix of cosmopolitan sprawl, historic neighbourhoods and rustic buildings makes the ideal place to discover hidden gems together as a couple. Creating shared memories are sometimes what a romantic holiday is all about. The charm of the old quarter will woo couples looking for a laid-back stroll among the cobbled streets, while the newer parts of the city will tempt you with their Portuguese take on cafe culture.
Long leisurely evenings can be spent exploring the city, trying tapas, sipping cocktails and finding those all-important dining spots that no-one else seems to have discovered. There are plenty of green spaces in the city to enjoy too. Parks and gardens are the perfect place for a picnic, or for a more secluded lunch a trip to the beach is the simplest way to enjoy a romantic moment on the sands.
To experience the best of Lisbon’s rich culture and heritage, you’ll want to head to the town’s old quarter. This historic neighbourhood on the south-eastern slope is called Alfama and is home to the Castelo de São Jorge. A maze of steep steps, winding alleys, small archways and narrow streets, these ancient streets are a cultural escape all of their
own. As well as the iconic castle to explore, the old quarter is home to museums, churches, panoramic views over the city and a huge flea market. With all this to explore in just one section of the city it would be easy to miss other highlights.
No visit to the city would be complete without a trip to the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa. This neo-Gothic elevator cuts an eye-catching figure in downtown Lisbon. Make the 32m ride to the top to enjoy the view of the picturesque squares below.