Like many great cities of the world, Lisbon is built on a hillside, creating a picture-perfect jumble of cobblestone alleyways, ancient fortifications and secret passages. Emotional fado, traditional Portuguese folk music, drifts from pastel houses, while around each corner lies the possibility of another spectacular river view.
It can be hard to capture a picture of Lisbon without the fortified Castelo de Sao Jorge (St George’s Castle) towering on its hilltop perch in the background. Climbing the walls for a panoramic view over the city’s red rooftops makes it clear why this was such a strategic defensive position. Don’t miss the Ulysses Tower, which has a camera obscura offering a 360-degree view of Lisbon.
The trams in Lisbon are icons of the city. Built in the 1930s, the bright yellow streetcars take visitors and locals alike up and down Lisbon’s steep hills. The number 28 route is especially scenic and a great way to sightsee.
The Belem Tower, built in 1515, is oft-photographed due to its dramatic location. The four-story tower originally served as part of the city’s defenses. Near the tower, the National Coach Museum merits a visit to view the various ornate Royal carriages.
Another building from the same time period is the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery), a must-see in Lisbon. Built in 1502, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the final resting place of world explorer, Vasco da Gama. The grand scale of the monastery is a reminder of Portugal’s once-powerful past.
While you’re in the area, indulge in a Portuguese custard tart (Pasteis de Belem). Head to the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem to eat the sweet treats in the place they originated.
The sheer size of Praca do Comercio will give you a sense of the military and economic power of Portugal half a millennium ago. Grab a gelato and take a stroll along the perimeter.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum covers a staggering period of art, from Egyptian mummy masks to Qing porcelain to Old Master paintings. Entry on Sundays is free, but it is very busy. For a quieter experience, visit during the week (except Tuesday).
Discover more recent history at the Berardo Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art, featuring works from Picasso, Dali, Warhol and more. With more than 1000 works of art, the museum is worth a few hours.
Finally, take a visit to the Lisbon of the future at Parque das Nações, originally the site of the World Exposition in 1998, now a revitalised neighbourhood. In contrast to old Lisbon, Parque das Nações is filled with glittering high rises, the second largest aquarium in Europe and state-of-the-art concert halls. The aquarium, the Oceanário, is truly mind-blowing with 8000 marine animals swimming in seven million litres of water. It’s the closest you can get to being underwater without getting wet.
Enjoy a relaxing cruise holiday with a range of spectacular ports of call, including flights, two nights in Singapore and London and 34 nights onboard the Magellan on a 38 Night Singapore to London Cruise Holiday from $5127pp twin share.
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