The capital of Portugal has experienced a renaissance in recent years and has reclaimed its rightful place as the 'golden city' of southern Europe:
After slumbering for decades, the city's modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan identity is today much similar to that which it enjoyed in the 15th and 16th centuries during the age of the great discoverers, when Lisbon was the centre of trade with the East and the starting point for maritime exploration of the globe.
While much is new, there is plenty of the old left to charm visitors, giving the metropolis a slightly provincial air. The medieval section of Alfama skirts the city's São Jorge castle, and historic wooden trams ply noisily up and down steep hills past art deco cafes and mosaic-decorated pavements. Many of the relics of the city's golden age were destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, but some survived and are popular tourist attractions, complemented now by modern sights like the futuristic Oceanarium.
Within easy reach of the city are the sandy beaches of several coastal resorts, such as Estoril and Cascais, as well as the forested areas of Sintra and attractions like the extraordinary Mafra monastery. The mood of Lisbon is light and bright, fresh and avante garde, ready to welcome the world to the doorstep as one of the great capitals of Europe.
Best time to visit Lisbon
High season for a holiday in Lisbon is a long one, the weather being inviting and clement from spring right through summer to the autumn months, with warm days often continuing right through to November. Even if you travel to Lisbon in winter you will find it mild, rather than cold, but there is often rain in winter.
Local time is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.
Portuguese is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood.
There are no health risks attached to travel to Portugal. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is necessary for entry for anyone travelling from an infected area and destined for the Azores or Madeira. Health facilities are good and reciprocal health agreements exist with most European countries, including the UK, whose citizens can receive low-cost emergency care at state hospitals. It is advisable that travellers obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travel. Dental care and repatriation costs are not covered under this agreement, and medical insurance is therefore advised.
Service charges are not usually added to hotel and restaurant bills but it is customary to leave a 10 percent tip. Bar staff and taxi drivers also expect tips, which usually entails rounding up of the bill to the nearest Euro.
Generally, safety is not a problem for travel in Portugal but there is a rising incidence of petty theft and pick pocketing in tourist areas, so reasonable care should be taken. Portugal has a very poor road safety record so exercise caution and drive defensively when exploring in a rented car.
It is a legal requirement for foreigners to show some form of identification on request.
Perched on the coast of Portugal and steeped in a rich and diverse maritime history, it's no wonder that many of Lisbon's attractions are of the aquatic variety. Visitors will have a grand time exploring the many sights this exciting city has to offer.
Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, which is marketed as the second best aquarium in the world and boasts a 1.3-million gallon (5-million litre) tank and a wonderful array of marine life. For a slightly more historical look at the sea, the Maritime Museum is one of Europe's best and a must for history buffs.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tower of Belem, stroll through the streets of the charming Alfama, Lisbon's old quarter, visit the São Jorge Castle and take a stroll through the Jeronimos Monastery, a World Heritage Site and the resting place of Vasco de Gama.
Visitors wanting to see the sights in Lisbon should look into purchasing a Lisboa Card, which grants the bearer free admission or 50 percent off of admission fees to most attractions as well as free access to public transport. The card is valid for 24 hours and is available from tourist offices throughout the city.
With hundreds of restaurants on offer, eating out in Lisbon is a taste sensation and an experience not to be missed. With an emphasis on seafood and traditional Portuguese fare, this city has a love of spices, especially cinnamon and vanilla. This can be seen in their love of pastries, especially of the custard variety, such as the pastel de nata, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon.
Piri piri, small fiery peppers, saffron and black pepper, are all popular spices that are commonly used in Portuguese cooking. Try the caldo verde with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of spicy chorizo sausage, or authentic Portuguese sardines, grilled as sardinhas assadas.
Head to the city centre where all the trendiest and most popular Lisbon restaurants can be found, while the Bairro Alto is a good place to sample Indian cuisine. The area of Lapa is known for cosy and well-established restaurants while Estoril and Cascal's restaurants come with breathtaking ocean views. When in Portugal, many choose to have a lengthy and drawn out lunch, pushing dinner later into the night. Visitors will have to adapt to this.
Lisbon has a very active nightlife, offering everything from clubs and bars to traditional Fado music, international concerts to fantastic theatre. The Bairro Alto area is considered the entertainment centre but there are various other party destinations. The guide Follow Me Lisboa lists all the major events and venues in the city.
A good way to start the eveing would be to have some late afternoon cocktails in a café in the Chiado square, before going to one of Bairro Alto's various nightclubs. These venues can be followed by pre-dawn partying and relaxing at the docks of Alcântara and in the Santos district, with various bars open until sunrise.
For the more discerning visitor, classical music can be enjoyed at venues including the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Culturgest, while theatres such as Dona Maria II National Theatre offer contemporary works and classical plays. Additionally, there is good opera held at São Carlos Theatre.
Fado is popular in Alfama and Lapa, with many excellent venues scattered across the area. Furthermore, concerts are held at Atlantic Pavillion and Coliseu dos Recreios, featuring famous bands and artists from around Portugal and abroad.
Lisbon weather is warm with sunny spring and summer days (June to August), when average temperatures frequently reach 82ºF (28ºC). Winter in Lisbon (December to February) is wet and windy, with average temperatures dropping to 46ºF (8ºC) lows. The best time to visit Lisbon is in the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to October), because the weather is warm, hotels are cheaper, and the crowds are smaller than in the summer peak season.
Portugal is one of the friendliest countries in the world and the attitude to LGBT+ equality is very matched. Recently, Portugal was voted equal number one country in the world for LGBT+ equality along with Sweden and Canada.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.
Country specific diphtheria recommendations are not provided here. Diphtheria tetanus and polio are combined in a single vaccine in the UK. Therefore, when a tetanus booster is recommended for travellers, diphtheria vaccine is also given. Should there be an outbreak of diphtheria in a country, diphtheria vaccination guidance will be provided.
Those who may be at increased risk of an infectious disease due to their work, lifestyle choice, or certain underlying health problems should be up to date with additional recommended vaccines. See the individual chapters of the ‘Green Book’ Immunisation against infectious disease for further details.
There are no certificate requirements under International Health Regulations.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for most travellers visiting this country. Information on these vaccines can be found by clicking on the blue arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for some travellers visiting this country. Information on when these vaccines should be considered can be found by clicking on the arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.