What Makes Lisbon The Destination Of The Summer?

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Lisbon by Gillian Reynolds

Normally, when I’m sitting at home in rainy Scotland, seeing others on holiday in gorgeous European cities fills me with envy. This year, however, I discovered that jealousy isn’t quite as bad when you’re there, too! It seems everyone and their granny took themselves off to Lisbon this summer — myself included. It is undoubtedly the destination of the summer, but why is it proving so popular? Here are four reasons I think people are flocking to Lisbon in droves, and you should, too:

The Food

The culinary scene in Lisbon is unbeatable, particularly for fans of seafood and tapas (or petiscos, in Portuguese). Being situated on the Atlantic Ocean, fishing is one of Portugal’s most important industries, and cod is the star of the show. If this sounds like it would be up your street, make sure to visit Ponto Final and try their pataniscas de bacalhau (cod fritters). Ponto Final is well worth the 10-minute ferry ride from Cais do Sodré terminal for the stunning views, incredible service, and very generous portions. However, due to the restaurant’s popularity, I’d advise arriving at 12.30pm or 7pm on the dot if you haven’t booked in advance. Where petiscos are concerned, your best bet is the upmarket Ourives Petisqueira in Alfama, and if you’re looking for a bit of everything, the Timeout Market lives up to its hype.

The Views

Lisbon, like Rome, is built on seven hills, which has its pros and cons – the major drawback obviously being the walk to the top of one of said hills in 27-degree weather! But I can assure you that no trip to Lisbon would be complete without a visit to at least one miradouro (viewpoint). My personal favourite is Miradouro da Graça, which is especially stunning at sunset (then again, what isn’t?). There’s even a small bar where you can buy a drink or snack while you take in the view. Miradouro de Santo Estevão is a lesser-known but almost equally impressive place to take in the contrast of Lisbon’s pastel buildings against copper rooftops.

The Day Trips

If you’re feeling stifled by the heat of the city at any point, there are plenty of beautiful spots within an hour of Lisbon’s limits. Although surrounded by water, the main attraction in the city is actually the River Tagus, rather than the sea. For a beach day, you’ll need to head a bit further out, but luckily it’s super easy. You can hop on the train to Carcavelos from Cais do Sodré station, which will have you swimming in the refreshing (I may or may not be putting a positive spin on ‘freezing’) waters of the Atlantic in less than an hour. For a more active day, the nearby town of Sintra, with its magnificent Palácio da Pena and surrounding forest, is well worth a visit. I would suggest buying tickets for the palace in advance, as it can be really busy during the summer months.

The Culture

As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon has a rich cultural history, and there are plenty of tours and museums where you can learn more about the country. I would thoroughly recommend the ‘Chillout Lisbon walking tour’ for an interesting overview of the city, and as for museums, you have a range of themes from which to choose. There’s the MNAC (National Museum of Contemporary Art), which boasts a remarkable collection of works in its permanent and temporary exhibitions, and the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) which, although slightly further out, celebrates tile as an art form. However, the most moving for me was the Museu do Aljube – Resistência e Liberdade (Museum of Resistance and Freedom), a former prison that reflects on the Estado Novo dictatorship, and its consequences for citizens in both Portugal and its colonies.

These reasons, and countless more, make Lisbon a fabulous option for a city break, so I’m really not surprised it’s been such a hit this summer.

Words by Gillian Reynolds

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