Over the last few years Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal has experienced a large growth in tourism and has become a "must visit" city on the European tourist trail. Lisbon was destroyed by a huge earthquake in the 1700's, but there are districts where most of the buildings have survived, such as the popular Alfama district which was built on a foundation of solid rock. The Alfama district remains a popular attraction for visitors, with its historic buildings which reflect the cities Moorish influence, the Fado bars and of course the obligatory tourist bars and souvenir shops.
The climate of Lisbon is maritime, but generally the city has similar temperatures to the Mediterranean. The winters are mild and the summers are hot with winters that average about 12-15C maximum, and summers that average about 25-30C maximum. During the spring and autumn there is quite a lot of rainfall, but snow is almost unheard of. Summers are mostly clear and sunny without much rain. However, as Lisbon lies on the Atlantic Ocean, it can be very windy.
Lisbon has made a big effort to promote tourism with a number of Lisboa Ask Me Centres located around the city. Here tourists can ask for free brochures, maps, and advice.
Portuguese is the main language of Lisbon, but most of the younger generation are able to speak some English, and while you may not be able to hold a fluent conversation, you should be able to get by without too many problems. Spanish is also spoken by many locals and it is often easier to get an answer in Spanish than English if you happen to know the language.
Lisbon has a wealth of cultural and heritage sites, so it is worth planning your visit in advance to make sure you don't miss anything.
Lisbon is divided into six different neighbourhoods - Rossio where you can find the equivalent of the Trafalgar Square, Chiado which features a historical shopping district and the view from Bairro Alto which is the wildest clubbing area of the city, Baxia which features the main down town area although it is not much of a downtown in terms of the general sense of the word, Alfama where you can see the Moorish influence on the city, and Praca do Comercio which is a large plaza that really starts the downtown area of Lisbon off and is known as a great meeting place.
The sixth neighbourhood is Belem and is where most tourists end up spending the brunt of their time due to the fact that Belem is packed full of many different monuments and museums. Within the district you can take a ride to the top of the Belem Tower, stop by the Jeronimos Monastery with free entrance into the church area, see the Belem Cultural Centre where you will find artwork from Dali, Andy Warhol, Picasso and more, take a minute to look into the Coach Museum where a wide variety of royal vehicles are kept, or stop by the Statue to Afonso de Albuquerque.
One of the most intriguing districts of Lisbon is the Bairro Alto old town which is one of the most historic regions of the city. Here you will find tourists and locals mingling in traditional Portuguese restaurants, many with daily live Fado music. Check out the daily Fado shows at Cine Theatro Gymnasium.
Probably the most spectacular site in Lisbon is the Cristo Rei statue which towers above the city on the banks of the River Tagus, and is reminiscent of the Christ the Redeemer in Rio. For a few Euros you can take the lift to the top of the statue where you will find amazing views across the river towards the city.
If you want to explore further afield the beautiful beaches of the Silver Coast are just an hour's drive away from Lisbon and have some of the best beaches in Portugal.
Lisbon is also home to many museums with a number of historical art/artefact museums that feature Egyptian artefacts and works of Monet. One such museum is the Calouste Gulbenkian, and if you like the quirky why not visit one of the more novelty museums such as the Museu de Electricidade, which means museum of electricity in English, and is a great stop for tourists of all ages.
Shopping is a major activity in Lisbon given the fact that shops stay open on average later than other areas in Europe closing at about 10pm and malls often later. Bear in mind however that many places close in the afternoon for a siesta between 1 and 3pm. If you plan on doing quite a bit of shopping while in town you may want to invest in a Lisbon Shopping Card that will offer you 5-20% at all of the major stores across the city and in some of the most popular malls such as Mazaens do Chiado, Cento Commercial Amoreiras, and Centro Comercial Colombo.
Lisbon has an easy to navigate metro system which is the fastest way to get around a city. There are many different ticket offices where you can purchase passes during your visit or you can individually purchase a ticket on board the service you choose to use.
A rechargeable card called the 7 Colinas is the most cost-effective way to travel the city. It can be used for any Metro train or Carris bus within the city. The card costs 7 Colinas 0.50€ (around 40p) to purchase the card and you can load money into the card at discounted rate versus paying for each trip on an individual basis. A one day pass costs 6€ (in 2014).
Lisbon has a tram system which has been running since the 1970's. With all the hills in the city, and in congested areas, the tram is a good way to get around Lisbon. The trams mainly operate in the southern section of Lisbon, around the Tagus River.
The city of Lisbon is very bicycle-friendly with bike lanes in most areas of the town. However, Lisbon was built on undulating land, so cycling may not be suitable for everyone. Public transport options allow you take a bike for free on all trains, ferries, and suburban trains but be aware that the metro only allows you to travel for free with a bike after 8pm free of charge.
Traffic jams are common within the inner city areas and parking in these areas can be difficult to find, so if you are staying in the centre of Lisbon you may want to find alternative means of getting around the city centre. If you want to stay outside the city, then a rental car can be a great way of getting to see local towns and villages.
Lisbon is a pedestrian friendly city with most of the major attractions of Lisbon within walking distance of the central point of Baixa. You can also usually find a map to help guide your path at any metro or bus station making navigation simple.
If you want to see Lisbon from the waterfront consider taking a ferry ride to and from Cachilhas. The ferry is part of the metro system and thus if you have a metro pass will not cost any extra.
Lisbon International Airport, known as the Aeroporta da Portela is the largest airport in Portugal, and is located directly between Lisbon and Loures about 7km to the North of the city. Lisbon airport is a major hub for a number of International airlines, and offers both chartered and scheduled flights. Surrounded by mostly urban landscape, the airport sees about ten million passengers pass through its terminals on an annual basis.
Both arrivals and departures can be found on the upper level of the main airport terminal although the baggage reclaim is found on the ground floor so be prepared to travel once you depart from your flight. Directly outside the baggage area is where all taxis, shuttles, and buses can be found making transportation easy to secure. This is also where you should schedule to be picked up by friends or family members if meeting someone in Lisbon.
Taxi - It costs on average about €10 for a taxi from the airport into the city centre although it is metered so you have to watch the meter to make sure that the driver is being honest. It is best to ask the driver beforehand to estimate the cost of the trip to make sure you get an honest driver. Taxis are available in both the departures and arrivals area but you will find the most honest drivers in the departures area of the airport.
Bus - The Aerobus is the most convenient bus service offering a twenty minute ride directly from the airport into the city centre of Lisbon. It leaves the airport from 7am until 9pm on a daily basis every twenty minutes.
Train - There is not a train service at Lisbon airport, but you can take the metro bus and connect with the train network.
There are a variety of airlines that operate via the Lisbon International Airport including British Airways, EasyJet, Monarch, and Virgin Express from the UK. Also serving the LIS are a variety of European carriers and Portugal carriers including but not limited to Aer Lingus, Air France, Air Luxor, Alitalia, Central Wings, EuroAtlantic, Iberia, Sterling Airlines, Swiss, TAAG, Tap Portugal, and Turkish Airlines.
There are four different lounges at Lisbon airport with three located within Terminal 1 and one lounge located in terminal 2. There is wireless internet available for purchase throughout the terminal areas with several kiosks located in the arrivals and departure areas. Cash withdrawal machines can be found at airside and landside with lockers available in the ABC Business Center Lounge in terminal one.
There are plenty of food outlets at Lisbon Airport including fast food options such as Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Oregano, Café Buondi, and Harrods Café offered in both the landside and airside areas. There are also a few café style diners open 24 hours including the Grab and Go and Astrolabio. Those seeking out a drink with their meal may want to head towards the la Pausa Restaurant, First Class Café, or the Passeio Antigo.