Lisbon is an exciting city indeed, crammed with monuments, museums, chic cafes and bars, restaurants, specialist shopping and a host of activities from boat trips on the river to numerous concert and theatre venues, plus newer Lisbon attractions such as the Oceanarium at Parque das Nacoes.
Lisbon city centre isn't all that's on offer - there's more in the surrounding Lisbon region including historic Sintra and the Estoril Coast to the west, and south across the River to the Setubal Peninsula and the playground beaches of Costa da Caparica.
Lisbon, Portugal's capital city, is hugely popular with visitors from all over Europe. It's a city particularly favoured for weekend city breaks. You can see why - Lisbon is a city that offers numerous attractions including a host of museums and art galleries, a bustling waterfront, chic bars, cafes, restaurants and shops in almost every Lisbon district, two huge soccer stadiums on its outskirts, one of the best public transport networks and metro systems in the world, and a fascinating history.
The waterfronts of the Tagus and Tejo bustle with tourist boat trips, and monuments and historic sights are almost everywhere you look. Cultural hotspots include Belem to the west and the Gulbenkian cluster of art galleries to the north near Eduardo VII Park. Checkout the fado music scene in Alfama, ring those bells and soak up the Barrio Alto nightlife, wear yourself out climbing upto the castle, take an open top bus sightseeing tour from Praco do Comercio in central Baixa or just chill and watch the world go by in one of Lisbon's many cafes and bars. Lisbon Airport is centrally placed in the city too, so you're straight off the plane and into the action.
The Estoril coast, incorporating holiday hotspots like chic Cascais, and surfing meccas Ericeira and Carcavelos, offers the best of several holiday worlds. Great beaches and a choice of historic sights and resort activities combine with the Estoril Coast's close proximity to Lisbon City Centre.
The choice of outdoor leisure sports around Estoril won't disappoint, with everything from golf, tennis and surfing on the menu. Cascais, with its modern marina, plays host to worldclass sailing competitions. There's also a huge choice of restaurants in the Estoril area. Checkout the Visit Estoril weblink/restaurant section for details on choice here.
Public transport links by mainline rail are superb from bases such as Cascais and Estoril into Cais do Sodre at the heart of Lisbon city centre.
Road networks are excellent into the area too, with circular roads bypassing central Lisbon. The Estoril coast is also a mecca for golf fans. There's a choice of championship golf courses here, plus one of Europe's largest casinos is here in Estoril. If you're looking for beach holiday bases, but still want easy access to the historic sights and museums in Lisbon city centre then the Estoril Coast is the perfect choice.
UNESCO World Heritage site Sintra to the West of Lisbon pulls in the visitors all year round. Compared to all things fairytale and gothic, the cluster of palaces, a dramatic hill top castle and a choice of museums including one of Portugal's best contemporary art museums, all come together to make Sintra a daytrip hotspot.
Specialist shopping around Sintra is also rather good, as are the Sintra coastal beaches.
It's the mix of natural park landscape with dramatic architecture that appeal particularly here in Sintra. Elevated as the Serra de Sintra is, and slap bang in the middle of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, historic architecture blends with exotic plants and dense vegetation.
The Moors and Romans were here first, recognising the strategic position of Sintra as a gateway. Many a Romantic poet - Byron and Southey - have waxed lyrical on the place. Not surprising, as Sintra really was one of the first hotspots of European Romantic architecture. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, royalty took refuge here in Sintra. It's a pretty place indeed, but expect a top down historical focus here - all palaces and Romanticism.
South of the River Tejo you push into the sublime Setubal Peninsula, commonly known as the Costa Azul (blue like the sea). The Costa Azul coast stretches all the way round from Costa da Caparica to Setubal and the Sado Estuary.
Today the area is a popular haunt for Lisboans and tourists alike, particularly along the beaches of the Costa Da Caparica.
Historic Setubal was heavily damaged by the 1755 earthquake - Pombal had to send considerable help down here. Famous for its fishing heritage, Setubal is renowned for its many superb fish restaurants. Its green here too, as Setubal sits adjacent to the Arrabida Natural Park. Stunning beaches blend with estuary territory - you can expect to see dolphins, and estuary wildlife such as flamingos and storks. It's easy to move around the Setubal Peninsula and Sul Do Tejo area on public transport, particularly buses. See the TST Sul Do Tejo transport weblink right for details on routes/timetables.
Further south, Sesimbra is another hotspot for fish restaurants, and heaves at weekends when Portugese flock here for boat trips, scuba diving and trips to Cabo Espichel. Further south along the Alentejo coast numerous hotspots like Sines make good bases for exploring the region. Sines has a bustling marina and is a hotspot for yachting and sailing. Troia on the edge of the peninsula has a number of Roman remains, and fishing here dates back to the Roman period. Push inland to Alentejo historic locations like Evora.