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The capital of Portugal offers a blend of modern glamour and historic charm – with a combination of Portuguese, Spanish and Moorish influence. Many mosques were built in the area in the 8th Century, when Moors invaded and rules the region. Not until Afonso I, the first king of Portugal, recaptured the city in the 12th Century did Lisbon become a Christian region again.
The Arabic and north African influence is still visible in Lisbon, although the city is perhaps best known for being the capital of one of the best seafaring nations in history. Vasco da Gama set off from Lisbon on his voyage of discovery.
Lisbon is not an ocean-facing city, however. While urban areas stretch out to the sea, Lisbon’s main water is the mighty River Tejo, which is so wide in parts, the largest bridge crossing from Lisbon to the other side is 17km (11 miles) long.
Things to see
Lisbon is a beautiful city but subject to massive traffic congestion. Take a drive through the city, especially through Avenida da Liberdade and down to Chiado in Bairro Alto. Chadio square is central to the old city of Lisbon, with its cobbled streets, yellow trams, old shops and wonderful bars and restaurants. For a night time treat, look out for a restaurant offering a Fado night – Fado being the traditional folk music that originated in the city.
Top attractions in the city include the Parque das Nacoes (park of the nations), the extravagant, gold-adorned São Roque Church and the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower).
While the city offers a wealth of attractions, the best enjoyment for those with a car is along the river and out towards the coast. Follow the route of the train that goes from Cais de Sodre in the city to the coastal town of Cascais. Check out the beaches along the road known as the “marginal”, and famous for its race track mentality. Be careful here but driving this road is a must.
Stop off at Oeiras or Carcavelos to swim in the sea or sit on the beach. Continue towards Estoril – once home to the Portuguese Grand Prix, now more famous for its excellent Estoril Casino. Park in the casino gardens and enjoy a stroll through the gardens, to the beach or visit the casino.
Then continue on to Cascais, which was once a fishing village, but is now a popular tourist town, full of British expats and holidaymakers.
Further up the coast from Cascais is the popular surfing beach at Guincho. There are some nice restaurants here, overlooking the sea, where you will be able to eat excellent seafood.
Inland, take a trip to Sintra, which offers hundreds of years of Portuguese history. Sintra Palace was the home of the Portuguese monarch for at least 400 years, before the country became a republic in 1910. The town of Sintra itself was built up in the 8th and 9th centuries by the Moors, because of its high vantage point.