En español | Lucky for visitors, Lisbon has remained less crowded than many other European destinations despite how much the city has to offer. “It’s been underrated,” says guidebook publisher and PBS host Rick Steves. “It has rich culture, a fascinating seafaring past, friendly people and beautiful coastline.”
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Check into your hotel or Airbnb accommodations. (Before you go: Consider making a reservation somewhere in the up-and-coming Chaido neighborhood, where the Casa do Barão makes a good central base for exploring; rooms in the stylishly renovated 18th-century building include breakfast.) Buy a Lisbon Card, which you can purchase online, then exchange the voucher you'll receive for a card at the airport or tourist office once you get to the city. It's about $45 for a 72-hour pass and offers discounts or admission to many city attractions as well as free tram, bus and metro rides. Get oriented with a ride on Tram 28, the famously scenic streetcar route that rambles up and down the city’s hills. For dinner, stop at Time Out Market, a new bustling food hall in a 19th-century building. The city’s top chefs offer innovative takes on specialties such as ham, mackerel and octopus, all at bargain prices. Grab a glass of the country’s refreshing vinho verde (green or young wine), a fizzy, light summer drink.
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Head a few miles north to the village of Belém to see the grandiose Jerónimos Monastery, the final resting place of Vasco da Gama, who sailed to India and put Portugal on the world-explorer map. Make sure to try the city’s famous pastéis de Belém, a custard pastry, at the shop of the same name where it was invented in the 1830s. Then dive into cutting-edge Lisbon at the stunning Berardo Collection Museum, where one of the country’s richest men displays his collection of 20th-century art from Picasso to Warhol to Pollock. Even if you’re museumed out, you’ll want to wander across the sloping roof of the architecturally dazzling MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology), which crouches on the waterfront. Tonight, back in town, enjoy dinner and a fado performance, the county’s soulful answer to the blues. O Faia restaurant and club is a good choice.
Take a short train trip to Sintra, a summer mountain retreat. Tour the Pena Palace, a romantic fantasy of a castle, built less than 200 years ago. Then wander the secret underground passages and delightful gardens of Quinta de Regaleira, whose forests feel like the setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Take a bus back to the city via windswept Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe. Back in Lisbon, line up for dinner at Cervejaria Ramiro, famous for garlic shrimp and pretty much any other shellfish. If the line's too long, a 15-minute walk away is Solar dos Presuntos, a family-run spot also known for delicious Portuguese-style seafood dishes.
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You can wrap up your visit in many different ways, depending on your mood and time limits. A visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium, the city’s world-class aquarium, offers a chance to explore modern Parque das Nações, the site of the 1998 World’s Fair, which now has a marina, housing and shopping areas. Others will want to visit quirky sites such as the National Tile Museum, devoted to the ornate ceramics decorating buildings and street signs. Or simply take a walk around the São Jorge Castle, and the Baixa and Bairro Alto neighborhoods, to absorb the city’s wonderful energy one last time.
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