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Falling in love with Lisbon: 5 reasons why you’ll be enthralled by Portugal’s cool capital this Autumn

From the moment you arrive in this historic, maritime city one can’t help but be captivated. Autumn in Portugal’s capital is special; the vibrancy of the city remains, yet the crowds of high season have passed. It’s when one can all too easily fall in love with Lisbon. You’ve probably read that Lisbon is the ‘new Barcelona’. Well the city is so much more; it has a unique identity, built upon its stunning geography, romantic architecture, sensational cuisine, vibrant culture, and fascinating history – these are the 5 reasons you should visit Lisbon this autumn. 1. The urban capital that embraces the ocean Portugal was one of the world’s great maritime powers, and its capital, built at the mouth of the River Tagus, has a rich history reflecting influences from each corner of the globe. The city’s orientation to the Atlantic set the city to be an outward looking metropolis, and today’s visitors can combine a city break to Lisbon with a day on the beach too. Praia de Carcavelos is one of the city’s most popular beaches, as visitors can easily reach it by train within about half an hour. Yet if you have a rental car and a little more time, then the Troia Peninsula is the place to discover. Stunning, board sandy beaches, an exclusive enclave that’s become popular with the A list including Madonna. 2. Distinctive neighbourhoods that delight Lisbon is one of those cities where it is a joy just to stroll, get lost a little, and explore. Lisbon is a city where a climb up a steep alley way is often rewarded by a spectacular panoramic view, and a trip on a city tram makes a mundane journey a memorable experience. After a while one becomes orientated – discovering the old school elegance of the Príncipe Real quarter; the popular central district of Chiado; the labyrinthine charm of Alfama; the funky Alcantara port district (pay a visit to the Lx factory); and of course, the pulsing nightlife of Barrio Alta. Here, amongst the historic buildings, many of which escaped the devastation of Lisbon’s 18th century earthquake, one finds hundreds of bars and clubs, as well as some of the best Fado houses and venues. Adega Machado fado house is a favourite for great food and a soulful musical experience. Santos-O-Velho is a historic waterside area that’s been revitalised. It has a contemporary urban and design vibe. Expect to find cool concept stores, interesting bars, and also a great view of Lisbon’s conic Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. 3. Gastronomy that encompasses street food to fine dining The Portuguese kitchen has to be one of the most appetising in Europe. It’s no surprise that fish and seafood is a big thing in Lisbon, with impressive quality and variety. From the ubiquitous salted cod (bacalhau); inexpensive and tasty fried little Atlantic mackerel, known as carapauzinhos; to sophisticated, market-fresh dishes of soft-shell crabs, oysters and lobsters. For a quick and satisfying snack, try some of the Portuguese ‘conservas’ – canned fish, including tuna or sardines, that are of exceptional quality. What’s more the tins are so colourful and original, making great gifts and souvenirs. Visit the Conserveira de Lisboa for an inspiring collection. If you have a sweet tooth then you’ll love the pastel de nata custard tarts, also known as pastel de Belem. But be aware, not all pastels de nata are created equal in this city – for some of the best head to the Manteigaria coffee shop where you can try them fresh from the oven. Lisbon’s dining scene is increasingly chic, with influences from across the world, reflecting Lisbon’s global perspective. There are currently 8 restaurants in the city that boast 1 or 2 Michelin stars, temples to Lisbon’s avant-garde gastronomy. There are also hip new places opening like ‘ JNĉQUOI Avenida’, a city hot spot for ‘social hedonism’; a place that brings together an upscale restaurant a bar, a gourmet deli, a wine cellar and even a men’s fashion store. 4. Art and culture that’s accessible Lisbon is refreshingly open and non-elitist. This extends to the city’s cultural scene, where art is part of daily life, from beautiful architecture; exquisite tiles fund everywhere; striking street art and graffiti; to urban museums that open their doors for free on Sunday mornings. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is a wonderful place to gain a remarkable insight into the heritage of Portugal colourful tile work, so often seen on the exteriors and interiors of the city’s buildings. 5. One the longest history’s in Europe With a city history that goes back nearly 3,000 years to the Phoenicians, Lisbon has a real sense of place – an authenticity that’s captivating. The capital boomed during the 15th and 16th centuries, as Lisbon was at the epicentre of Europe’s imperial world trade, leaving a legacy of grandeur, art and culture. Modern day Lisbon is once again flourishing – taking its places proudly as one of the coolest capital sin Europe. Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd. Passepartout Homes Ltd. offers an exclusive portfolio of luxury villa rentals in Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Thailand and worldwide. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande

Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Founder and Director at Passepartout Homes, a curated portfolio of spacious villas, selected for their ease of accommodating extended families, large groups, weddings, corporate retreats and other private events. The company was born out of her desire to share her family holiday home combined with a passion for travel and interior design. Paola prides herself for knowing each client by name and is dedicated to learning their idea of perfect holiday home. Besides running Passepartout Homes, Paola also works as digital Marketing and Social Media Manager for luxury holiday villas and advises home owners on vacation rental best practices.

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  1. There’s a lot more to Lisbon than many people think. Any capital city that’s as close to the coast as is Lisbon is has been doubly blessed. All that culture, all that history and beaches too. Probably shouldn’t be sharing this with the world but Lisbon is a great place for a long, long weekend as there is so much to do.

    1. And I think a lot of people are surprised by the quality of food too. Lisbon’s got some very promising chefs. A lot of imagination going into the menus. Probably better value than many other European capitals.

  2. Yes, Lisbon’s great. The local train network isn’t the prettiest in the world but it’s fine for getting about and exploring the local peninsula. Even though the central beach is quite small I like Cascais, it’s got some stylish shops (I bought one of my favourite handbags there) and plenty of good value restaurants. You can stroll along the seafront promenade and it is not too far back to Lisbon on the train.

  3. Some friends of mine have just done a week in Lisbon and they’ve come back raving about the city. I’ve never been there and they are so enthusiastic that I want to visit next spring. They got out of the city for a bit as well as taking the train to the beach they visited the pink palace at Quelez and also Sintra both of which they loved.

    1. I’ve heard the National Palace of Quelez, or pink palace, is a bit of a hidden gem that’s not always well known about. I only learned of it through my brother when he visited. It’s supposed to have gorgeous gardens and lots of original features and interior furnishings that show off the royal family and a bit of the history. It’s a shame it’s not advertised more but then again perhaps that prevents it from being too heavy on tourists and more of an exclusive, special treat if you discover it!

  4. The first time I visited I visited the cobbled streets of Bairro Alto on my way to visit the São Roque Church. It was a wonderful stroll through a neighborhood with lots of old houses and colorful street art. And at night, you can mingle with other tourists inside many hip and quirky bars, or dine in traditional restaurants. I loved my stay there, but it was very short. I would like to have visited other quaint neighborhoods in Lisbon. Maybe in one of my future travels.

  5. My friend went to Lisbon earlier this year for her third time and she loves it there. It’s easy to see why when you consider how diverse and colourful it is. I love the blend of classic with contemporary while still retaining that authentic chic charm. I’d like to learn more about its history so if I ever go, which I’d really like to, I’d quite like to do some tours and get an educational angle to the visit. I just hope it doesn’t get too overcrowded and blighted by over tourism as I think there’s a real risk to gems like this of the culture and environment being damaged by a booming tourism industry.

  6. This article really makes me want to plan a trip to Lisbon soon. Also, a friend who visited the city shared some mesmerising details of Alfama which (I guess, if I am not wrong) is its oldest district. He literally fell head over heels with the town’s old cathedrals, museums, streets and the scenic beauty of River Tejo.
    Also, the fact that the entire city of Lisbon is built on seven hills fascinates me a bit too much. All in all, Lisbon is definitely going to be my next destination stop.

  7. Lisbon is often way underrated as a destination for a long weekend. In fact, it’s got so much going for it, that I’ve known people who’ve done a whole week there. And still they felt that there was more to see and do.

  8. A friend is just back from a long weekend in Lisbon and he looks very frazzled and scorched. Lisbon in July isn’t recommended.

    You suggest Autumn which I’m sure is very nice. I went for a long weekend in January which was amazing. The temperature got up to 19 centigrade and there were a couple of people in the sea at Estoril. Not sure that Lisbon does winter ..

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