With over twenty centuries worth of history behind its plentiful hillsides and Gothic cathedrals, the capital city of Lisbon in Portugal is an ideal escape for any traveler in search of the quintessential European Charm. Lisbon, found on the right bank of the Tagus River, was a former port of the Voyages of Discovery hundreds of years ago. Today, Lisbon remains a city bursting with culture and artistic energy.
Lisbon's historical quarters are a good starting point for visitors who want to explore the city's treasures from the past. Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon, is remnant of an Arab aesthetic with its serpentine streets and quaint courtyards. Among the noted landmarks in Alfama are the Sé or cathedral and the flea market, named the Feira da Ladra.
Alfama's neighboring quaters, Castelo and Mouraria, are especially busy during the Santos Populares or Patron Saints celebration every June. Chiado, Lisbon's cultural center first built during the 19t century, is packed with elegant cafes, theaters, antique shops, and the Museu do Chiado or Chiado Museum.
Lisbon's rich history and culture is best illustrated through the art of tiling. The Tile Museum in the cloisters of the Madre de Deus church houses a vast collection of colorful tiles. Other places to spot these magnificent works of art are the Bairro Alto and the Sao Roque church. Even Lisbon Metro stations have tile works done by Portugal's best contemporary artists.
Baixa, Lisbon's downtown area, is where all the hustle and bustle is concentrated. It is also where the city's oldest and more traditional specialty stores are found. Along Rua do Ouro or Gold Street and Rua da Prata or Silver Street, expect to find vintage crafts and jewelry. For the best clothes and accessories in Lisbon, head down Rua dos Fanqueiros or Drapers' Street.
If you're traveling with kids, go to Lisbon's Oceanário, the second largest aquarium in Europe. Open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April to October and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November to March, the Oceanário has over eight thousand kinds of marine life swimming in 7 million litres of seawater. The Parque das Nações in particular is an impressive second of the Oceanário, where you can find several species of shark.
At night, Lisbon transforms to an even livelier destination. The Tagus riverside offers various places, whether you're choosing to cap off your night or just about to begin an evening of partying and socializing with other tourists and locals.
To reward yourself after a day of touring and sightseeing, make sure to sample the famous Portuguese dish, bacalhau or dried salted cod. This national dish of Portugal has been around since the 16th century, when sailors salted and sun-dried the day's catch to take home with them in their long journeys. It is said that there are three hundred and sixty five ways to prepare bacalhau, corresponding to the number of days in a year. To know if this is true, you must taste and experience Lisbon to find out once and for all!