Lisbon (Lisboa), the capital of Portugal, enjoys
one of the most dramatic settings of any European capital, clinging
to a series of steep hillsides at the estuary of the River
Tagus (Rio Tejo), just 10km (6 miles) from the Atlantic
Perched above the old Moorish quarter of Alfama,
characterised by twisting, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses,
is the magnificent Castle of São Jorge.
Founded in the 12th century, its ten towers crown the hill where
the original colony was situated in Phoenician times. Lisbon
Cathedral (Sé) dates from the same period as the
castle and was an important element in the fortifications. The downtown
Baixa district was built on a grid formation following
the devastating earthquake in 1755. Today, it is one of Lisbon’s
best areas for shopping especially for crafts, gold, silver and
jewellery. A lively area with plenty of cafes and terrace restaurants
to be enjoyed.
Baixa slopes down towards
the River Tagus, Lisbon’s main waterway,
where visitors can take an interesting boat trip along the estuary
and across to the picturesque southern shore. An antiquated elevator
operates between Baixa and the aptly named Bairro Alto
(Upper Town), home of Fado, the traditional folk
music of Lisbon. Worth a visit also is the Gulbenkian Foundation,
a cultural centre and museum set in its own park. The museum houses
a range of artefacts, from Oriental jewellery to French impressionist
The exhibition grounds of ‘Expo ’98’
are now known as the Park of Nations. Its attractions
include the second largest Oceanarium in the world, a Virtual
Reality Pavilion, and the Vasco da Gama Tower.
The 850m-tower (2788ft) offers excellent views of the city.
The fin-de-siècle glories of the Chiado
quarter, traditional haunt of artists and writers, are now re-emerging
after a fire in 1988 which destroyed large parts of the city. Also
worth seeing is the 2.5km- (1.5 mile) long suspension bridge over
the Tagus which is overlooked by a towering statue
The riverside suburb of Belém is where the
ships of Vasco da Gama, Àlvares
Cabral and other famous explorers were launched in the
15th and 16th centuries. The attractions here include the strikingly
beautiful prison tower, known as the Torre de Belém
(a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Monument
to the Discoverers, the Hieronymite Monastery
– one of the architectural glories of Portugal’s
Golden Age – and the Coach Museum.
There are 2 famous seaside resorts close to the capital. Estoril
predates the tourist boom of the 1960s but has adapted well to changing
tastes and demands. The elegant hotels, which fringe the glorious
Tamariz Beach, maintain the standards of the pre-war
era. The entertainment on offer includes a casino, restaurants and
nightclubs, watersports, riding and golf. Cascais
has changed even more quickly, from a small fishing village with
fine but empty beaches to a lively resort with bars, nightclubs
and good-value restaurants.
UNESCO World Heritage Site), a mountain town 25km
(15 miles) from Lisbon, boasts the former summer residence of the
Portuguese royal family, the Monserrate gardens
and a twice-monthly antique market. A classical music festival takes
place every July and August.
is an attractive village, famous for its red wines. Queluz
has an 18th-century rococo palace, supposedly modeled on Versailles.
Mafra is home to a Baroque convent built in 1717.
Ericeira and Sesimbra are busy
fishing villages with good beaches and developing facilities for
tourists. Tróia is a modern tourist complex,
situated on a peninsula near to the industrial town of Setubal,
with a casino, marina, good beaches and sports facilities.
The village of Palmela has a 12th-century castle
and monastery, which is now a pousada. There is a wine festival
here during September. The shrine at Fátima
has been an important centre of Roman Catholic pilgrimage since
1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared to a group of children. Torchlight
processions are held annually on May 13th and October 13th. Battle
Abbey (Mosteiro de Santa Maria) in Batalha is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site. It is a breathtaking example of Portuguese
Gothic and Manueline architecture, built to commemorate the victory
of King João I over a Castilian army in 1385.
Obidos is a beautifully preserved fortified town, dating
from the Middle Ages. Leiria, a quiet country town,
is dominated by its 12th-century castle, built on a plateau high
above the town. An annual fair takes place here at the end of March.
Santarém is the capital of a rich agricultural district
and the venue for the ‘Ribatejo Fair’
Tomar is a charming town on the
Nabão River overlooked by a great convent-castle,
once occupied by the knights Templar. There are spas at Caldas
da Rainha, Cucos and Vimeiro.