Trams in Lisbon
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Trams in Lisbon

© / Al Jorge

Lisbon travel guide

One of the few European capitals with a river and coastline, the maritime voyages of discovery turned Portugal’s largest city into one of the world’s great ports and the centre of an empire stretching from Brazil in the west to India in the east. As a result Lisbon is steeped in history, but also combines tradition and culture with the excitement of a modern, cosmopolitan city.

Boasting a superb setting, the Portuguese capital is built on seven hills around the banks for the River Tagus and is at its best on summer evenings, when pavement cafés and riverside restaurants bustle with life.

Europe’s second oldest capital (after Athens) has survived many twists and turns in its history, including a devastating earthquake that flattened many buildings in the 18th century.

Culture buffs can explore the city’s past by riding on vintage trams, or by visiting its historic bairros (neighbourhoods), such as the labyrinthine Alfama, elegant Baixa, or the cultural beacon, Chiado.

A walk down to the waterfront – one of the world’s great natural harbours – will serve as a reminder why this formidable city has attracted civilizations from the Phoenicians and Celts to the Romans and Moors. And Belém presents an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the country’s famous explorers, who departed from here during the Golden Age of discovery.

The most recent threat to Lisbon’s existence was not physical, but financial. The global economic crises hit Portugal hard, leaving it in need of bailouts from the ECB and the IMF. But the city has seen worse, and is bouncing back yet again.

Alongside the older attractions, newer sights such as Parque das Nações, on the redeveloped site of the 1998 World Expo, draw visitors in their droves. It is also home to Lisbon Oceanarium, the largest indoor aquarium in Europe and one of the largest in the world.

Meanwhile, new high–end restaurants are opening all the time. One of the nation’s culinary heroes, award-winning chef José Avillez, now has eight outlets across the city, while a collection of attractive clubs and bars along the riverfront are all signs of a new optimism.

Friendly, diverse, and dynamic, and with a year-round mild climate, there’s no bad time to visit Lisbon.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.