Friday, 16 January 2015

Destination Lisbon, Portugal



Smoulderingly gorgeous mingled with gritty and edgy, Lisbon is irresistible. Bathed in charming traditions of yesteryear, the genuine warmth of the people wraps around you like a cosy sweater. Portugal’s capital city will melt even the hardest of hearts.

Nailed to the estuary of the River Tagus, Lisbon unfurls over seven hills. The bewitching and beguiling streets of the historic centre beg you to roam. It is like travelling along a conveyor belt of surprises.

Meandering through the opulent Baixa district, you get a sense of the city’s past as you stumble across herbalists and haberdashers rubbing shoulders with art galleries and restaurants.




Alfama
 ©Turismo de Lisboa - www.visitlisboa.com


Board a rickety old tram – an experience not to be missed – through the old Moorish district Alfama. The number 28 rambles along narrow, cobbled streets flanked by whitewashed houses. The stunning views of the city cascading down to the river on the way to the omnipresent Castelo de São de Jorge (Saint Jorge Castle) are picture perfect.

Perched, on one of the city’s highest hilltops, the castle resonates with history. It passed through the hands of the Visigoths in the 5th century, and became a Moorish royal residence before being conquered in a long siege in the 12th century by the Crusaders. It was partially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake that rocked much of Lisbon.

Sauntering back down, I peered into the ancient Se Cathedral and also discovered plenty of super restaurants and managed to catch a performance of fado – the melancholic folk music for which Lisbon is  renowned. The singer accompanied by a guitar belted out what seemed to be poetic lyrics.


Take a tram 
 ©Turismo de Lisboa - www.visitlisboa.com


Lisbon is such an easy city to get around either by foot or by public transport. I jumped on a bus to Belém, the place to go to while away a pleasant and interesting afternoon. 

At the waterfront, the grandeur of Portugal’s Age of Discovery marked by the spectacular Jerónimos Monastery – erected to honour the intrepid explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India – and amazing statues. The 16th century Tower of Belém, was built to protect the entrance to the Tagus.  

It would be a mortal sin to visit this area and not go to the Antiga Confeitaria to savour the Pastéis de Belém. These delicious egg custard tarts are still made according to the original secret recipe created by two Catholic nuns in Jerónimos Monastery.

Initially, this delicacy was only served in monasteries. However, in 1837 some enterprising priests set up the Casa Pastéis de Belém which turned into a great money spinner. To this day there are always queues for these pastries, but I can assure you it is worth the wait.

Foodies will also want to check out Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira. This market traces back to the 13th century and has now been transformed by the guide Time Out Lisboa into the city’s biggest fresh food market. 

This medley of food shops and restaurants is a destination for both locals and tourists. You will be spoilt for choice sampling the different regional specialities. Just make sure you arrive hungry and thirsty.



River Tagus
 ©Turismo de Lisboa - www.visitlisboa.com



A walk along the Tagus had me wallowing in mystic and magic. On the other side of the river is the awesome statue Cristo Rei, inspired by Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and built as a thank you to God for not involving Portugal in the Second World War.

My eye was drawn to the mesmerising bridge, the 25 de Abril, one of the city’s most celebrated landmarks that spans the Tagus. This beautiful construction, constructed in the 1960s, looks like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I discovered, the same architects were behind the design of this one. 

Sitting in the rather grand Praça do Comércio, the largest square in Lisbon, and one the city's main crowd pullers, I realised what makes Lisbon all the more alluring is that it makes you feel at home.

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there

British Airways offers a daily service from London to Lisbon three times weekly from £110 return including taxes and charges. Hand baggage only from £80 return including taxes and charges. To book or for more information visit  www.ba.com/Lisbon  or call 0844 4930787

It is hard to beat BA. You always know you are is safe hands and the in-flight  service is hard to beat

Stay

Hotel Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade, Rates from €162 per night. Prices are subject to change. For more information and the best rates visit www.sofitel.com

French savoir-fare fused with the laid-back, gregarious charm of Lisbon. You will be hard-pressed to fault this hotel. A wonderful place to stay

Hotel Altis Grand is a member of Great Hotels of the World Luxury Collection. For best rates and more information or to book visit www.ghotw.com/hotel-altis or call 020 7380 3658

The Altis Grand blends Portuguese geniality with elegance. Don’t leave Lisbon without visiting the D. Fernando Grill, set on the 12th floor of the hotel. The food is great and the view is to die-for

For more information about Lisbon visit www.visitportugal.com and www.visitlisboa.com 


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