Framed by seven dramatic hillsides and featuring an achingly photogenic panorama of cobbled streets, church steeples, and terracotta roofs, Lisbon is certainly one pretty city. Serving as Portugal’s capital, Lisbon also takes pride of place as a recognized global city, due to its premiere international standing in tourism, arts, finance and media, and enjoys the distinction of being one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other European rivals London, Paris and even Rome by quite some time. It enjoys a sweet Mediterranean climate, and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means that it’s the ideal place for sunbathing and paddling as well as historical authenticity.
So you’ve got four days in this wonderful city; where do you start? Never fear, BUCKiTDREAMER, we’re here to help you make some plans that will ensure you make the most out of your short trip. Before you read our top tips, though, why not log on to BUCKiTDREAM and see if you can’t get inspired by the Lisbon adventures undertaken by some of your fellow ’Dreamers. Once you’ve done that, keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy and get ready to start planning that dream break to Lisbon!
The first thing you should know; you’re not going to be stuck for choice in the Portuguese capital. This elegant and vivid city combines the best of international and local cuisine with some of the most fascinating art and culture stops in Europe. Some of the best time you can spend in Lisbon is on foot, exploring the city’s architecture and layout. There’s plenty to see, and so your first day might be best spent just soaking up the unique, inviting atmosphere; and getting a little sun-soaked while doing it.
When you’re ready to get down to business, first on your list of activities should be the stunning architectural marvel of the Torre de Belém, built in the early 16th century to guard the entrance into Lisbon harbor. If you’re into UNESCO world heritage sites, prepare to tick this one off your list. You’ll know you’re onto something special even before you get within its walls, as the tower displays some interesting stonework. Motifs include a lot of Christian iconographies, the patron saint of Lisbon, St. Vincent, and (somewhat bizarrely) a rhinoceros. Inside, you’ll discover more grand stonework and architecture, capped off with some affecting views of the harbor.
If the Torre de Belém has got you quizzical about the ocean, your next stop should be Lisbon’s fantastic Oceanarium. Previously the focal point of the 20th last World Fair, it is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe and hosts just about every single species of marine life you could care to think of. The centerpiece is a 1,000 square foot tank with four large viewing windows, that provides a jaw-dropping panorama of oceanic life. The Lisbon Oceanarium is also one of the only aquariums in the world to house a sunfish, due to their unique and demanding care requirements. So if you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with a sunfish, you better head to Lisbon quick smart!
Another must-see in the city is Alfama, the city’s oldest district. When you consider that this is the oldest district in the oldest city in Europe, you’re talking old. It is a charming labyrinth of cobbled streets and narrow pathways, framed by ancient stone buildings and a relatively modern tram line. You can find the historic Lisbon castle within Alfama’s crumbling walls, which was restored to its previous magnificence in the 1940s; it now provides some wonderful views of the entire city as well as an engaging history lesson. Alfama is also lined with charming native bars and restaurants so it can be a great place to kick back for a few hours and enjoy some of that ever-so-easy-to-enjoy Mediterranean climate.
There are some great places to stay in Lisbon, with accommodation to suit all budgets. On the top end of the scale, there’s the beautiful Corinthia Hotel, situated in an enviable central spot, within walking distance of Lisbon’s main shopping malls and noteworthy museums. The Corinthia combines modern luxury and fantastic, sprawling views of the city with some good old fashioned old-world hospitality; for a contemporary five-star experience, it’s a solid bet.
For something a little more traditional, but no less exotic, there’s the Santiago De Alfama, situated in the titular historic district. A smaller and more boutique experience than the Corinthia, the Santiago comes complete with just nineteen rooms, all set inside a beautiful villa-esque building. Both hotels feature their own in-house restaurants, which are sure to provide you with a taste of local flavors and dishes with a five-star flare.
If that’s all too luxurious for you, Lisbon can be a great city to Airbnb or hostel in. It’s a small enough city to get to grips with in no time at all and can be great fun to explore with some new-found friends. Let’s face it, with this much on offer you’re not exactly going to be spending much time indoors, are you? A host of boutique restaurants and exciting bars also await you in the city of Lisbon, which, aside from its grand culture and enduring history, has got a separate reputation for its vibrant nightlife scene. Take it from us, BUCKiTDREAMER; there’s a whole lot to love about Lisbon!