Lisbon is a pleasant surprise for the first time visitor. The laid-back Portuguese capital knows how to blend its ancient treasures, sunny climate and new world vitality into a fascinating destination for everyone, from romantic couples and art lovers to hedonistic thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts.
There’s wonderful architecture to marvel at, outstanding museums to pop into and picturesque streets to stroll, but most of all, there is a unique vintage feel that envelops the city without overwhelming, and that’s precisely what makes Lisbon so special after all.
However, this everyone’s kind of city is no ordinary place. It does wear its past with grace and pride, but it also looks into the future with confidence. Epic Gothic cathedrals and waterfront monuments that celebrate the country’s Age of Discovery stand side by side with striking contemporary design while familiar backstreet eateries serving seafood and custard tarts fill the charming cobblestones as much as the fashionable wine bars and high-end restaurants that have opened up lately.
Vibrant and Booming Art Scene
From landmark museums to contemporary galleries and streets lined with vibrant graffiti, Lisbon has one hell of an art scene. There are sidewalks covered in mosaic, abandoned buildings revitalized with large-scale graffiti murals, industrial warehouses turned into galleries, and a young, creative energy that envelops the city making it a cultural hotspot.
The atmospheric Bairro Alto has a blooming cultural life while the trendy neighborhood of Chiado is bursting with theaters, bookstores and artsy hangouts such as the famous A Brasileira cafe. Together, they form the core of Lisbon’s growing arts district, a hotbed for artists, designers and other creative types to exhibit their work in public.
For the visitor, there are endless opportunities to venture into the city’s diverse art scene and strolling the streets or mingling with the passionate free-thinking Lisboetas in beautiful Baroque squares are certainly two of them. Otherwise, the capital boasts an outstanding variety of museums, galleries and innovatory experimental spaces teeming with all forms of art, from music, film and dance to painting, fashion and design. Highlights include the Galeria Zé dos Bois (ZDB) – dedicated to visual and performing arts, the cutting-edge Alecrim 50 Galeria de Arte, the long established Galeria 111 in Campo Grande as well as the striking Centro Cultural de Belém where art movements such as surrealism, abstract and pop art are gorgeously displayed in Museu Colecção Berardo.
For lovers of street art, The Hall of Fame in the district of Amoreiras and Galeria de Arte Urbana in Calçada da Glória showcase the city’s best graffiti.
From Intimate Fado Houses to Funky Mega-clubs
With a nightlife that rivals Madrid’s, Lisbon is fast becoming one of Europe’s hottest party spots, enticing revelers with a fantastic mix of bohemian tascas, hip bars and wild live music venues. Just like in most Iberian cities, the action revolves around hopping from bar to bar or hanging around with your friends rather than partying till dawn in noisy, jam-packed nightclubs. Hot spots include the bustling Bairro Alto area and the historic Alfama with its modish Fado houses.
But if you’re more into clubbing and DJ-centric music fear not, there are numerous discos and trendy clubs lining the waterfront. Lively Irish pubs, alternative bars, gay-friendly venues and theaters complement the picture.
Overall, Lisbon’s nightlife scene is as characterful and libertine as the city itself, a dynamic mix of avant-gardism, living culture and good old fashioned fun in the neighborhood.
The Portuguese Riviera
Apart from being one of Europe’s prettiest, most bohemian and culturally rich capitals, Lisbon is also an excellent base for day trips to summertime playgrounds such as Cascais, Estoril, Oeiras and Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of continental Europe. Dotted along the scenic coastal road known as Estrada Marginal, these seaside towns frequented by European royals and aristocrats ever since the ’20s, make up the Portuguese Riviera.
Well connected to downtown Lisbon, Estoril and Cascais are among the chicest resorts in the country, offering nice sandy beaches, palaces, gardens, golf clubs, surfing and a lively atmosphere.
It sure is a fascinating place this retro-laden city with its nostalgic Tram 28, characterful neighborhoods, stunning museums, old picturesque streets basked in sunshine, progressive art scene and unique small-city vibe – a mix that many European capitals have struggled to master, but only a few have come as close as Lisbon.