Lisbon Holidays – Culture, cuisine and carefree nights
Lonely Planet may have named Lisbon as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit, but it is still barely known by tourists when you compare it with such cities as Barcelona or Prague. A holiday in Lisbon provides everything the culture vulture, gastronome or party animal could wish for, whether it is for a long weekend or a longer stay. The beautiful beaches of Estoril and Cascais are only a half-hour train ride away, so you can take a cooling dip in the Atlantic Ocean, or simply lounge the day away on the sands before returning the bright lights of the city.
Like Rome, Lisbon is built on seven hills, and you haven’t seen the city if you haven’t taken a ride on the Funicular, the wonderful old railways that climb the almost vertical streets. To see the city spread at your feet, take the lift to the top of Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift), a beautiful neo-gothic art monument to the art of cast-iron, which links shopping area of lower Baix with the Igreja do Carmo (Church of Carmo) high above central Lisbon.
When to go
If you love street parties the ‘Festas dos Santos Populares’ are three two-day splurges in June of free concerts, exhibitions and gastronomy competitions, with lots of food and sangria until dawn. Carnaval is in February, a week of parties and parades. At any time of the year, though, there always seems to be something going on in or around Lisbon.
The city is beautiful, and the cooler months of spring and autumn are probably best if you want to discover it on foot. It is the sort of place that will repay a long weekend at any time of the year – and will leave you wanting to return to sample it in another season.
The weather in Lisbon
Lisbon is supposedly one of the warmest and sunniest capital cities in Europe, and if you are travelling from the cool of a British summer, where even London at the height of the season only reaches spring temperatures in Portugal, highs of up to the low 30º can prove quite stifling. Average summer temperatures are around 27º, but are cooled by Atlantic breezes.
November to March are the wettest months, but still nothing to compare with the wet of a British winter. Temperatures are around 17º, with cool nights, rising to 22º in March and into the T-shirt temperatures of 25º in June.
Get the best deals
Lisbon isn’t as well served with flights from the UK as the Algarve, so you might find it difficult to get a flight deal during the school holidays and Easter. But whether you are a family, a couple or a group, all inclusive deals can be great value and spread your holiday spends. But don’t be too parsimonious – Lisbon is a wonderful city of bars and restaurants and you should try some of them during your stay. If you are thinking of having a touring holiday as well as a visit to Lisbon, look at flight options into Faro and hiring a car there to enjoy the three hour drive.
Airport and transport need to know
Lisbon is quite a small airport, and not really comparable to most international hubs, but a recent major re-building has brought its amenities well up to scratch. (EasyJet, BA and TAP are the airlines that connect Lisbon with the UK.) Unfortunately, the new building is a bit of a hike from the old one, which services budget airlines, so it can take you as long to get from your airplane to security as it will by taxi from the airport into the centre of the city, about ten minutes, twenty minutes by bus.
A metered taxi should cost about 10€ (£8) but there are various reports of sharp practises, so try and fix a price before you leave the airport and make sure that the metre is switched on. There are two shuttle bus services, AeroBus Line 1 and the Aerobus Lines 2 & 3, that pass most of the hotels in Lisbon, as well as train stations Oriente, Comercio Square and Cais de Sodré. The fare is 3.50€ (£3), and the service runs between 7am and 11pm, depending on the route.
Best beaches in Lisbon
Lisbon is mainly a destination to enjoy theatres, culture, nightlife and gastronomy, but the nearby beaches of Cascais, once the resort of the royal court, and Estoril, which also has a world-famous casino, are worth the short train ride.