Lisbon is known as the white city or the city of light. It is also a city of contrasts combining some of the most modern architectural structures in the world with richly decorated palaces, picturesque renaissance churches, castles, monasteries, convents and impressive 18th century buildings and avenues.
All this sits atop seven hills and faces the majestic Tagus River.
For many years Lisbon appeared to have lost its position as one of the cultural capitals of Europe but in recent times it has experience an awakening. More and more visitors are realising what delights the city has to offer with something different around every corner.
In the 1990s the city fathers invested in the future by promoting Expo 98. This impressive scheme not only regenerated a run down part of the city, it also brought Lisbon back into the global limelight. Expo 98 was also the catalyst for the development of a modern transport infrastructure that allows direct access by land, sea and air from anywhere in the world.
The star attraction
The real star is the old city. Combining steep cobbled street with fine avenues, it provides something for everyone.
Although Lisbon lost many historical building s during the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the city in 1755, the city fathers were far sighted enough to begin a rebuilding process. Those historical venues that could be preserved were renovated but out of the disaster sprang current day Lisbon with its typically 18th Century style buildings laid out in a distinctive grid pattern.
Plenty to see
The hilltop Bairro Alto quarter is where the in-crowd shop and dine whilst in sharp contrast Belém is the cultural centre and a constant reminder of Portugal's history. The 16th Century Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site is fashioned in the Manueline style that is unique to Portugal.
The castle of St. Jorge offers an amazing panoramic view of the whole city. Best reached by tram, it provides the starting point for a leisurely stroll down the hill through the Alfama district. This is the spiritual home of Fado music. Unique to Lisbon, it is described by some as Portugal's version of the blues.
Choose your method of transport
The transport infrastructure is particularly impressive. As well as a four line metro network and bus routes across the city, visitors can also use the elêcticos (trams) that climb the steep inclines of the seven hills or use the century old elvadores (funiculars) that link the different levels.
A Lisbon Card is a worthwhile investment when touring the city. Not only does it provide unlimited travel on all forms of public transport, it also allows free entry to museums, monuments and other attractions.
A seafaring heritage
In Lisbon, the visitor is constantly reminded of the proximity of the sea and the great Portuguese maritime heritage. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Belém, for it is from there that many of the great journeys of discovery began.
The tomb of one of the greatest Portuguese seafarers, Vasco da Gama can be found in the Igreja de Santa Maria de Belém and on the river bank is another superb Manueline monument, the Torre de Belém. Designed in the 16th Century by Francisco Arrunda, it contrasts with the more recent, but no less impressive structure of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
Built in 1960 to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of Henry the Navigator, the monument pays tribute to all the voyages of discovery that started from that spot and all the Portuguese sailors who helped to realise a dream.