18 reasons why Lisbon should be your next city break

Lisbon leapt nine places to 26th in the World’s Best Citiescategory at this year’s Telegraph Travel Awards’. It is the cheapest Western European destination for a city break this year, according to the Post Office, and is increasingly appearing on British travellers’ short break hit list.

As if you needed any more convincing, here are 18 reasons your next getaway should be to the Portuguese capital.

1. Your pound goes a long way

Portugal is in the Eurozone so Lisbon’s value for money is no thanks to the euro but instead the reasonable costs of the city. The Post Office ranks it the sixth cheapest city break in Europe, and cheapest in Western Europe, with a three-course evening meal for two, with a bottle of house red, costing on average £39.41.

Lisbon's pastel-shade views
Lisbon’s pastel-shade views CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

2. And goes even further for beer

A bottle of the amber nectar can cost as little as €2 (£1.55) in restaurants and cafes.

3. Port is little dearer, but with good reason

Portugal’s national drink, port or porto, is in abundance in the city. If you’re not a fan of supping the rich fortified wine, it’s as much if not more fun to nip into one of the plentiful off-licences simply to peruse the walls and walls of bottles ranging from the dusty, worn, 100-year-old, €1,000 stock to the more fresh post-Millennium additions, all labelled in a classic, simple stencil style.

Dusty port bottles in a shop window
Dusty port bottles in a shop window CREDIT: ALAMY

4. A passion for discovery

Lisbon is as proud as punch of its role in the Age of Discovery, with the city being the starting place for dozens of exploratory voyages around the globe, including Vasco da Gama’s expedition to India in 1497. Padrão dos Descobrimento, a large monument on the north bank of the Tagus, celebrates this: it features statues of early navigators peering out to sea, led by Henry the Navigator.

Henry the Navigator leads his fellow explorers looking out to sea
Henry the Navigator leads his fellow explorers looking out to sea CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

5. Hard-working trams

The city still supports century-old wooden trams and iron funiculars that lurch up and down the narrow streets. Just watching them trundle along is joy, while the metal tracks cut into winding cobbled streets is exemplary of Lisbon’s nostalgic character.

Lisbon's Bica funicular
Lisbon’s Bica funicular CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

6. This spooky-looking elevator

Willy Wonka has nothing on this. Set at the end of Rua de Santa Justa, the Carmo Lift is said to be the only remaining conventional vertical lift in the city and has been a visitor attraction since it was completed around 1902.

7. It knows good sausage

If you thought the Spanish did sausage well, wait until you’ve tried the Portuguese range. Lisbon’s second square, Praca da Figueira, often plays host to a market, replete with food stalls that fill the air with the aromas of everything from chorizo and rich black pudding to farinheira, a smoked flour sausage, and alheira, a chicken equivalent.

8. It loves Brazil

And the city’s miniature Christ the Redeemer, Cristo Rei or Christ the King to the locals, on the south bank of the Tagus that looks out over the city is testament to that.

Christo Rei overlooking the Tagus
Christo Rei overlooking the Tagus CREDIT: ALAMY

9. The world’s finest custard tarts

The custard tarts at Pasteis de Belém are world-famous and that’s why queues for the sweet, rich, perfectly crisp treats often stretch along the pavement.

These probably last about 15 minutes
These probably last about 15 minutes CREDIT: ALAMY

10. A fine Gothic monastery built with maritime riches

The Jerónimos Monastery, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and includes a delicate Gothic chapel, in which some of Portugal’s greatest historical figures are entombed.

11. The city is a big fan of murals

Who isn’t?

12. This bridge

Named after Vasco da Gama, of course.

Vasco de Gama bridge
CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

13. The city of seven hills means vistas galore

That Lisbon, like Rome, was built across seven hills means nearly every street’s brow affords immensely satisfying views over the city as it slips down towards the river. None more so than from the Castelo São Jorge, reached by a climb through winding ancient streets of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood.

14. And that counts for bars too

Including one on a car park roof.

15. More sun than anywhere else in Europe

Perched on the western edge of Europe, Lisbon is the continent’s sunniest capital city, boasting an average of 2,799 hours of sunshine a year, pipping Athens, which has 2,771 hours of sun a year, to the post.

16. So head to the beach

“Just 30 minutes drive from the city centre, wild stretches such as Guincho, Adraga and Grande curl out around the surrounding coast,”writes our destination expert Guyan Mitra of Lisbon’s Atlantic-battered beaches.

Praia do Guincho
Praia do Guincho CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

17. An excellent day trip

Sintra, the aristocratic hill town to the west of the city, is a Neverland of fairytale palaces, manicured floral gardens and wild woodlands. The train to Sintra departs from Rossio station every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes.

Sintra in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains
Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains CREDIT: FOTOLIA/AP

18. Convenient airport

Small mercies include an airport just 6.2km from the city centre, and a 20-minute Metro ride.

By Hugh Morris – The Telegraph

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