Lisbon is a weekend-breakers dream. A coastal capital with cultural attractions, historic monuments and nightlife activities in spades, meaning you have everything you could want in one beautiful and ancient city. Lisbon only gained popularity as a tourist destination in 1998 following its World Expo, yet predates even London and Rome, making it western Europe’s first capital city, and it certainly lives up to the title.
One of the most famous sights of Lisbon is the Aqueduto das Águas Livres, a 65m tall aqueduct towering over the Alcantara valley, which is considered a masterpiece of engineering from the Baroque period. The view of Lisbon from the top of the structure at dusk is second to none, but watch out: in the 19th century, serial killer Diogo Alves killed over 70 people, pushing many of his victims from the aqueduct, which led to him being known as “The Assassin of Águas Livres Aqueduct”.
Two of the most significant historical monuments in Lisbon are the Torre de Belém and the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, or the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery in English, both of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Work on the monastery began in 1501 and took 100 years to complete, and has since become a National Monument in Portugal, as well as a destination of pilgrimage for many artists and travellers in the five centuries of its erection, as well as a place of burial for kings and poets. The site is open to visitors, and even without extensive knowledge of architecture, anyone is able to admire the craftsmanship and intricacy of such a grand building, and by looking at it it’s no surprise it took 100 years to complete. Not far from the monastery stands the Belem Tower, originally constructed in 1515 as a fortress to protect Lisbon’s harbor, and to this day is still often seen as a symbol of Portugal as a nation, and a testament to the country’s Age of Discovery.
Fast forward to modern day Lisbon and while the city stays true to its historic roots, the city is also touted as one of the most stylish in Europe with an up and coming fashion scene that should not be underestimated. Lisbon is the home of H&M sister brand COS, with its flagship store nestled right in the centre of the action in central Lisbon. In the tropical temperatures it’s all about simplistic style, and the youth of Lisbon have learned to be thrifty with the Feira da Ladra flea market on their doorstep to snap up some bargains. Naturally, with this new generation of fashion forward and cosmopolitan youth in Lisbon comes a change in the cultural landscape of the city.
The city is renowned for its nightlife, and if that’s what you’re looking for in your getaway, you’ve arguably come to the best place in Europe for it. Innovative bars and clubs are dotted all over the city, such as Op Art Café, which is open as a place to relax with food and drink through the day, then transforms into a club with a view at night, piping in chilled house music and electronica until the very early hours. As the name suggests, Lux offers a more exclusive and high-end experience, acclaimed throughout Europe for its interior architecture and is considered one of the continent’s most fashionable clubs, attracting celebs like Cameron Diaz and Prince – although we suspect this could have something to do with it being part-owned by actor John Malkovich. It would be hard to list every stop off a nocturnal nomad need make in Lisbon, but safe to say you won’t be stuck for things to do once the sun sets.
Of course, you couldn’t go to a seaside city without at least one, or ten, sandy stop-offs. The beaches in Lisbon are considered some of the best the country has to offer, and the illustrious list includes Portinho Beach in the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park, surrounded by rolling green hills which are complemented by white sands and clear waters, and once you see it for yourself it’s not hard to understand why many claim it is Portugal’s prettiest beach. Praia do Guincho is another favourite of tourists and locals alike, a beach with near perfect surfing conditions in summer, and is famed for being featured in the pre-titles sequence of the James Bond installment ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’.
Will you be setting off on a mission to majestic Lisbon? Or perhaps making a pilgrimage to the contemporary cool capital of Europe?