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Touted as a modern metropolis to rival London and packed with places of interest, Lisbon is a city that is really going places. There is a plethora of history here, with tales of everything from Roman imperialists to exotic Berber pirates, Moorish builders to fierce Reconquista knights, all wrapped up in the grand palaces and heritage districts. But there is also an atmosphere of bohemianism and the surprise of the new here too.
You won’t have to look far for nightlife as you can just dive into the medley of Fado joints and swish coffee shops in the Bairro Alto district. Then, perhaps, you can take in the latest in digital installation art at the Berardo Collection Museum, or go nose to nose with a grimacing shark at the Lisbon Aquarium. Meanwhile, the mysticism of much-vaunted Sintra hides in the nearby hills, while endless stretches of pristine beachfront abound in the peninsulas around the Tagus Estuary and the Atlantic Coast.
Grab a board, wax it down, and don some board shorts or preferably a wetsuit, because the waters where the Tagus Estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean can get pretty chilly.
Nestled just to the west of Lisbon central, this pretty enclave of sand and sea is where most of the capital’s wave riders will retreat at the weekend.
It’s got some challenging left-to-right breaks, and there are plenty of tour outfitters offering surf lessons on the swells which are perfect if you’re a total beginner looking to escape the city for its beaches.
Apart from being the premier touristic district of Lisbon, packed with al fresco cafes and international restaurants, the Bairro Alto is also the city’s top nightlife spot.
You’ll typically have to wait until early evening for the establishments to really get started, but when they do, it’s all about the authentic pastelaria bakeries and the bohemian drinking joints.
There’s a smattering of old Fado music holes if you fancy a night full of artistic passion, all interspersed with cool new breweries and beatnik style bars.
Now something of a historical monument in its own right, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos marks the shore of the Tagus Estuary with its grand architecture and beige stone.
It’s been here since the early 1960s and is an ornate testimony to the successes of Portuguese exploration during the Age of Discovery.
You can reach the towering landmark by strolling along the waterside of Santa Maria de Belem.
Once you spot it, be sure to pick out the legendary figures of Vasco da Gama (an explorer of India and Arabia) and Prince Henry the Navigator (an adventurer of the Great Sand Sea).
You only need to set foot in places like Sri Lanka and Goa to realize how far the reach of Portugal’s great Renaissance Empire stretched.
These far-flung eastern corners of the realm are the subject of Lisbon’s Museu do Oriente and the space itself is huge.
It is housed in a colossal former fish processing factory, which now enjoys up-to-date exhibition rooms.
The focus here is on all things Asian, with stories of Chinese rituals and seafaring across the South China Sea all part of the tour.
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