The Portuguese capital Lisbon, lies on the Western Iberian Peninsula, where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Settled almost 3000 years ago, the city predates Rome, Paris and London by centuries, and possesses an epic narrative to match.
From its early days as a Phoenician outpost to it’s expansion into a 16th century trading giant, from the Great Earthquake of 1755 to its glorious reconstruction, Lisbon has long been a city of shifting fortunes.
For much of the 20th century the city floundered, but the winds of fate have again shiftedin Lisbon’s favour.
No longer a place of faded glory, 21st century Lisbon is again a place of possibilities.
This is a city whose journey has forever beentied to the sea, so it’s not surprising that many of hermost important landmarks can be found along the waterfront.
Rising from the banks of the Tagus River, the fortified elegance of the Torre de Belemstands as a reminder of Portuguese prestige and power in days of old.
Just upriver, rises the Monument of The Discoveries, which celebrates the nation’s most revered seafarers, such as Prince Henry The Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan.
Climb to the rooftop and look down upon theMapa Mundi below, which charts the routes and discoveries ofPortugal’s intrepid mariners.
Nearby, continue your voyageinto Lisbon’s seafaring past at the Jeronimos Monastery.
Vasco da Gama spent his last night in prayeron this site, before departing on his epic voyageto the Orient in 1497.
The vast monastery that stands today was funded by the incredible wealth da Gamma’sspice routes brought to the city.
This vast monastery complex is also home tothe city’s maritime museum, which preserves relics fromPortugal’s Golden Age of Sail.
In the early 1800s, Portugal’s rulers forced the resident monksto vacate their beloved monastery.
Destitute, the monks sold a prized possession their secret egg tart recipe.
Five generations later, the neighbouring Belem Patisserie serves overtwenty thousand pastel de nata to sweet-toothed devotees each day, and the recipe remains a guarded secretto this day.
Once you’ve stocked up onthe world’s finest pastel de nata, set sail to the newest horizons in creativity at The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
Further upriver, the Portuguese love of the sea continues atthe city’s acclaimed Oceanario, where hundreds of species glide by in a celebrationof the global ocean.
From here, climb aboard the cable car andglide upriver again, for birds-eye views of the city and the eleven-mile long, Ponte Vasco da Gama, the longest bridge in Europe.
The waterfront is also where you’ll findthe city’s grand gateway, Praca do Comercio.
This great square in the centre of the Baixa Districtwas once the home of the Royal Palace, until a fateful All-Saints Day in November 1755 when a natural disaster changed Lisbon, and Europe, forever.
At the Lisbon Story Centre, feel the devastatingtremors of that six-minute earthquake, and the terror of the tsunami and five-dayfirestorm that followed.
The earthquake obliterated 85% of the city, but with calamity, came opportunity.
Within a year, the rebuilding of Lisbon waswell underway.
Wide avenues replacedthe medieval rabbit warrens of old, and a new style of elegant, earthquake-resistantarchitecture was born, Pombaline.
The earthquake also shook the city free fromthe religious dogma of old, and from its cracks came the fresh new shootsof The Enlightenment.
Pass beneath the triumphal arch crowned withthe figures of Glory, Valor and Genius, a tribute to the city’s swift reconstruction.
Then simply drift down Rua Augusta, and intoanother of Lisbon’s great squares, the Rossio.
If Praca do Comercio is the city’s gateway, the Rossio is its heart.
Since the middle ages, Lisbon’s citizenshave gathered here for bullfights and celebrations.
Today, it’s the perfect place to relax bythe cool of its fountains and on the waves of its patterned pavement.
Lisbon belongs to that club of great citieswhich are defined by seven hills, so wherever you roam, eventually you’llfind yourself going up to take in the views.
Luckily, Lisboetas have come up with someinnovative solutions to save their legs on hot summer days.
From the Lower Town, ride the Elevador deSanta Justa, to the Barrio Alto District.
Here you’ll find the Convento do Carmo, whose unrestored arches bare testament tothe devastation which befell the city in 1755.
Climb aboard Tram 28, which passes some ofthe cities most iconic sights.
Then from Portas do Sol, make the climb toCastelo de São Jorge.
From high on the battlements of this 11thcentury Moorish citadel the red tiled roofs of Lisbon spread out before you, stepping down to the lower town andthe blue Tagus beyond.
You’ll find trams rattling all over Lisbon, but the most beloved of all is Gloria, which runs between the LowerTown to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcãntara, the perfect place to watch the city lightup at dusk with someone special.
Although the Great Earthquake reduced muchof Lisbon to rubble and cinders, the ancient suburb of Alfama was spared.
Lose yourself amid the ancient cobblestones and steps, where cafes, bars and artisan shopshave taken residence in the dockworkers homes of old.
Yet the area still retains its village atmosphere, especially during the midsummer festivalswhen over 50 street parties pop up all over the city.
The Alfama is home to the Romanesque Towersof Lisbon’s Cathedral, whose walls date back to the second crusade when the city was liberated from the Moors.
If the stones of Alfama could sing, then surely it would be the bittersweet lament of the Fado.
At the Fado Museum, discover the traditionalsong of Portugal, which originated in the bars and lanewaysof the Alfama.
Then as the sun gets low, join locals in afado bar and listen as professional and up-and-coming fadistas sing the heartrending stories ofthe working class and the sea.
Lisbon’s walls may not sing, but the tiles which adorn them possess a musicof their own.
First introduced by the Arabs, over the centuries the Portuguese have made the art of azulejoall their own.
Housed in a former convent, the National Azulejo Museum celebrates the evolution of Portugal’s tile-craftacross the centuries, from the biblical tales of old to the newfrontiers of tile design.
You’ll find azulejo at every turn in Lisbon, from the practical to the purely decorative, but to see the Sistine Chapel of tiles, head to the city’s north, to Fronteira Palace.
Just to the east, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, you’ll find another of the worlds’ great collections.
The museum’s six thousand art treasuresand antiquities represent a lifetime of acquisition by theoil magnate Gulbenkian, Lisbon’s love of creativity isn’t justconfined to her galleries; you’ll find it amid urban renewal projectslike the LX Factory, which has breathed new life intothe city’s fabric factories which fell silent long ago.
You’ll find creativity on the communal tablesof the Mercado da Ribeira, where some of the city’s most innovativechefs and brewers reinterpret age-old traditions.
Lisbon has always been a city of discovery.
So when you’re ready to explore a littlefurther afield you’ll find no end of adventure.
Less than 20 miles west of the city is Cascais, an ancient fishing village that was wokenfrom its slumber when Lisbon’s nobility discovered it’sgolden bays in the late 1800s.
Another playground for Portugal’s Monarchs was Sintra, the home of the Summer Palace.
A half hour drive to the northwest of Lisbon, Sintra is more than a weekend destination; it’s a journey into a fairy tale.
Hans Christian Andersen fell under Sintra’s spell, returning time and time again, calling it the most beautiful place in Portugal.
From Sintra it’s just a short drive to theincredible coastline of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
Spend a few days exploring some of Europe’smost beautiful beaches, such as Praia das Macas, named after the apples which floated downriver from nearby orchards and washed up upon its sands.
From here, venture southward and explore theremote beaches of Adraga and Ursa, where Atlantic waves have carved a dramaticcoastline straight from Homer’s Odyssey.
At Cape Roca, stand upon the cliff top, which until the 14th century was consideredthe end of the world.
Here, on the western-most point in mainland Europe, 400 feet above the pounding Atlantic, it’s easy to understand how Lisbon’s seafarerswere drawn to see what lay over those far horizons.
Yet no matter what wonders they saw, what riches they found, they always yearned to return to their city, Lisbon, the Queen of The Sea.