A BUDGET city-break destination with 290 days of sun a year? What more reason do you need to go?
Perched on seven hills, the Portuguese capital’s cobbled streets are steeped in gothic glamour.
From its bright-tiled buildings to its gastronomic delights and electric nightlife, Lisbon is perfect for a long weekend.
Just a short train-ride from stunning beaches and charming fishing towns, it is the subject of our latest City Q&A.
ARE these streets made for walking? Climb the steps to Sao Jorge Castle, the city’s highest point. Start at Lisbon’s grandest plaza and the gateway to the city, Praca do Comercio.
Surrounded on three sides by 18th-Century arcades in pastel lemon and on the fourth by the Tejo Estuary, all visitors arriving by boat once disembarked here.
It is then a 20-minute slog uphill, through winding alleyways full of small shops, cafes and homes to the majestic castle. Scaling the steep streets is a challenge but the unrivalled views are worth every step. Entry to the Roman-built castle is worth the £8.50 fee too.
What’s on the bucket list? A short tram ride from the centre is the Unesco Belem Tower. Built on the banks of the Tagus river to defend the city, a tour of the 16th-Century battlement takes you up five storeys — and more steps — to the roof terrace. Inside the Jeronimos Monastery, another World Heritage Site, is the tomb of Vasco de Gama, explorer and national hero.
A 40-minute train ride down the coast is the idyllic fishing town of Cascais. Tickets are just over £2 for a winding journey along the pretty coastline. The quaint town has two lovely beaches — perfect to soak up the afternoon sun.
After working up an appetite, take your pick of the restaurants and enjoy the fresh seafood, washed down with a cold glass of wine or two.
Where should I eat? Start the day with coffee in a bar at the edge of the Terreiro do Paco, one of the city’s most beautiful squares.
It is a short walk to the Time Out food market. Set aside a few hours for stall-hopping! And don’t miss the pastel de nata from Manteigaria — a delicious custard tart and Portuguese speciality. For lunch, try Bairro do Avillez, in the Chiado district, where chef Jose Avillez has reimagined traditional dishes.
He owns three restaurants under one roof. I got a table at Taberna but it is best to book ahead.
Order the exploding olives and watch for your partner or friend’s reaction as they eat one.
The beef croquettes were the best thing we tasted all weekend and the tuna steak was to die for, as was the hot Nisa cheese and the pastel de nata.
The trendy Prado restaurant, set in a former fish factory, is a riot of plants and Grand Design-style ideas that will have you itching to redecorate when you get home.
The menu bursts with modern dishes that salute traditional ingredients.
The cabbage dish — stick with me — will make you question everything you think you know about the vegetable. If I could have that on tap, I would seriously consider going veggie. The sweet potato pud was another highlight and pick a chilled red wine for a refreshing touch.
I fancy a drink . . . See the sun set from Lisbon’s rooftop bars with Park the city’s best. A cocktail lover’s paradise, it’s perched on top of a multi-storey car park.
Climbing the stairs, again, you will wonder at each floor if you are in the right place . . . until you reach the secret garden oasis. The cocktails are cheap as chips and the views are stunning, making for a great way to start your evening.
For slightly different backdrops, try the rooftop at Hotel Mundial, or Topo.
Both sit in the shadow of the castle on the hill, giving you a great backdrop for a pitcher of sangria.
For a big night out, head to the Bairro Alto district where you can bar-hop and dance the night away in the cobbled streets.
LOVEHOLIDAYS offers three nights’ B&B at the 4H Mundial Hotel from £234pp based on two sharing, including flights departing Luton on April 19.
See loveholidays.com for more information or call 0203 870 6844.
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