Top trips in Lisbon
An hour’s train ride outside of Lisbon is Sintra. Attracted by the area’s cooler climate, the Portuguese nobility built fantastic castles and gardens here. One of the most notable castles is Pena Palace. Described by Ferdinand II as the crown of Sintra, this multi-coloured castle is like something out of a Disney film. The town has continued to develop many quirky architectural styles, with one example – Quinta da Regaleira – taking Gothic to a beautiful, if alarming extreme! The incredible sculpture gardens are maze-like, with many hidden tunnels and grottoes to explore. Perhaps most mystical are the Initiation Wells, underground towers built for Tarot initiation rites and complete with gloomy spiral staircases.
Praia de Carcavelos beach
Praia de Carcavelos is the closest and most popular of Lisbon’s sandy beaches. Easily accessible by train, this golden beach is great for sunbathing and surfing. Pack light – with surf schools in the area it is easy to hire the equipment you need. Being so near to Lisbon does mean that the beach can get quite crowded, especially on a warm summer’s day. However, you might feel that this seaside trip is just too good to miss.
This medieval district survived the great earthquake that destroyed much of the rest of Lisbon in 1755 and is still remarkably well preserved today. Originally founded by the Romans, it was the African Muslims who settled there that left the greatest impression on this hillside neighbourhood. Make time for a visit to Miradouro das Portas do Sol, the highest point in Alfama, with gorgeous views stretching all the way down to the river.
We recommend that you take time to wander around the narrow and winding streets. If you get lost, our tip is to head directly up or down. Eventually, you’ll reach either the river or the castle on top of the hill, and can easily make your way from there. Listen out for the sound of fado singing echoing through the alleyways. This traditional folksong has developed uniquely in Portugal and, despite their plaintive sounds, they’re still very popular.
The docklands of Alfama, called Jardim Do Tabaco, are now a high-end nightlife spot frequented by the locals and they attract a very different crowd from when it was used as storage for tobacco.