After years as the savvy traveller’s favourite under-the-radar destination, Portugal is enjoying a glorious renaissance, attracting a record number of 11.4m foreign tourists in 2016.
Now that the secret is finally out, from October this year it will be easier than ever for City workers and east Londoners to join the party thanks to the launch of new flights to Lisbon with national carrier TAP, departing 12 times per week from London City Airport.
Not only does this make business trips ultra convenient, it means a weekend away in Lisbon is closer than ever before.
This cosmopolitan capital is the country’s most popular tourist destination, and on the streets it’s easy to see why. The city is a joy, commanding a glorious position on the River Tagus with pastel-hued neighbourhoods scattered across seven hills – perfect for working off Lisbon’s world-famous custard tarts.
Capped by viewpoints or miradouros, the peaks of these hills afford incredible views over the city, the Tejo and beyond. While much of the city was destroyed in the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1755, some earlier architecture remains, including the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora and the Igreja do São Roque, both built by the Italian Renaissance master Felipe Terzi in the early 17th century.
For an impressive testimony to the earthquake itself, check out the formidable Gothic ruins of the Convento do Carmo in Chiado, or soak up the grand squares and elegant architecture for which the city is now famous, such as the stunning Praça do Comércio, designed by Manuel de Maia in 1755 just one month after the devastation. The latest additions to the city are no less impressive, with the wave-inspired MAAT museum of art, architecture and technology a modern homage to Portugal’s seafaring history. For a quirkier take on the museum experience don’t miss the Museu dos Coches, featuring one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world, each one a work of art.
Where you need to go
Fast becoming known as the California of Europe, Lisbon is proving a hit with startups and entrepreneurs, lured by the attractive price points and fabulous lifestyle opportunities.
As such the city is buzzing with young talent and the energy that comes with it, complementing the classical vibe of this traditional capital. Find the hipsters drinking bicas (espresso) and sangria in Principe Real on Rua Dom Pedro V and around Praça das Flores, or head to LX Factory, a creative complex that was first home to small businesses and now offers shops and cafés, restaurants, and even a small market on Sundays.
Foodies will be in heaven here with dynamic dining to be found in every district. From classic fare at traditional tascas – bacalhau à brás (salt-cod with onion, egg, and potato) and chickpea and octopus salad – to high-end restaurants offering a bounty of fresh seafood, you’re guaranteed a feast in Lisbon.
The city is also home to some superb modern gastro hotspots such as the Time Out food market in Cais do Sodre, featuring some of the hottest local street food vendors and producers all under one roof, and new opening SUD, a swanky all-day restaurant with rooftop pool that feels more like a member’s club than an eatery – we dare you not to spend a whole day there.
Nights up on the roof
By night the city comes alive; Lisboans love to party and the cobbled streets of Bairro Alto are a favourite after-hours warm up before the masses descend on the n cocktail bars of Cais do Sodre and the mega clubs on the waterfront.
The city is also famous for its rooftop bar scene, perfect for sundowners before dinner – hospitality is an art form in Portugal and wherever you venture you’re bound to make friends. Offering a lively mix of culture, food, wine, and history, as well as 260 days of sunshine per year and great value, it’s no wonder Portugal is being rediscovered as Europe’s next big thing. Why not forget your Friday night post-work pints and try an alfresco ginjinha (sweet cherry liquor) in Lisbon instead?