If you are looking to take a quick trip abroad you can immerse yourself in all things Portuguese by visiting Lisbon, the capital and largest city in Portugal. Nonstop flights originating in Boston, New York, Miami and Philadelphia can whisk you across the Atlantic to Lisbon in just over eight hours and have you back stateside as your long weekend ends. There is so much to do in Portugal, with Lisbon providing a rich blend of historic and modern Europe within minutes of its airport.
Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian)
You can view a full millennium of European art within the walls of Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Museum. Its a destination prized by lovers of the Renaissance era with art produced in and curated from Italy, France, Flanders and Holland on display.
The Gulbenkian does not have the traffic of Europe’s top museums, but it does match the variety of pieces found elsewhere. Works from Monet, Rossellino, Degas, Renoir, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Boulle, Duran and Moroni are on display. This museum also features Oriental, Classical, Egyptian, Islamic and Armenian art, and now houses several pieces that were once owned and on display by the Hermitage in Russia.
Lisbon’s fashionable shopping district, Chiado, is often the place where people like to stay when visiting the capital city. Chiado boasts cafes, boutiques, commercial buildings and is also home to the gothic-era Convento da Ordem do Carmo, a Roman Catholic convent that is now an archaeological museum.
Chiado traces its history to Roman times and it, along with the rest of the city has survived sieges, plagues, wars and an earthquake that nearly destroyed Lisbon in 1755. In 1988 a fire swept through the area, damaging or destroying 18 buildings. A reconstruction project restored the community beginning in the late 1990s and Chiado is once again the popular hang out for Portugal’s elite.
Trails of Southwest (Trilhos do Sudoeste)
Visitors to Lisbon seeking to take in what the city has to offer can turn to a tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the capital and its natural surroundings. The Trilhos do Sudoeste is a tour that takes visitors to areas sometimes missed when visiting Lisbon, especially when on an extended weekend trip.
See Cabo de Roca, the westernmost land in the whole of Europe. It is located in Sintra and is a popular place to view migratory birds. Take in the sea cliffs and giant granite boulders that define the area. You will also get to see the breathtaking Pena National Palace, what was originally a monastery and later acquired by the Portuguese royal family. Today, Pena is a museum, a national monument, and is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Lisbon’s Oldest District: Alfama
No stop in Lisbon is complete without a visit to Alfama, accurately described as the city’s oldest district. What Chiado is to shopping, Alfama is to living as it is where many Lisbonians live and play. Alfama is located on a sprawling slope that reaches from the Castle of Lisbon to the Tejo river.
Numerous historic buildings and churches are found in Alfama, a district defined by its many narrow streets and small squares. Overlooking the district is the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge. Its churches include Miradouro de Santa Luzia, the Lisbon Cathedral and the Church of Santa Engrácia. The district is as resilient as its people, having survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people throughout the city and surrounding communities.
Lisbon has many other places to visit including the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Carris Museum and its hidden jewel, the Medeiros e Almeida Museum. If time permits you may also want to take in the Costa da Caparica, visit Estadio de Alvalade and enjoy a stop at Edward VII Park (Parque Eduardo VII).
You can get around the city on foot, by tram, via subway, by bus, or if you want to travel further afield, renting a car can get you there and back safely with time to spare. The major car rental companies are located at the airport with offices in the center city too.
Reed Simpson is a professional blogger that shares information on the best car rental services world wide. He writes for Car Rental Portugal, the best car hire company based at Faro Airport.