Three day Lisbon Travel Tips

By: Wendy Palmer
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is one of the least publicised "city break" cities in Europe. Yet despite this apparent lack in tourist marketing, Lisbon is one on Europe's most beautiful cities and has a unique, exotic quality that conjures up impressions of far away places from Portugal's colonial past.A three day city break vacation in Lisbon provides sufficient time to visit most of the key tourist attractions. It was early October when we enjoyed such a break and the weather was perfect. Each day had blue skies and sunshine with a pleasant breeze preventing it getting too hot. Despite this, the evenings were still warm enough to eat outside. However, Lisbon's weather is not always so good in late October and it might be safer to plan to visit a little earlier than we did.Our first afternoon was spent exploring the Castle of St George at the heart of Lisbon's Alfama district, the oldest and most picturesque part of the city. The castle, like so many on the Iberian peninsula, is of Arab origin. It is situated on top of one of the highest of Lisbon's many hills that make up its switchback-like topography. The castle was taken by the Christians from the Moors in 1147. It still retains its strong, outer walls, various defensive buildings, eleven towers and the former Moorish palace that became the residence of the Kings of Portugal between the 14th and 16th centuries. We found the castle such an atmospheric place that we were content just to wander around its enchanting gardens, stopping to look out from the ramparts over the panorama of red roofs, or to simply sit and listen to a guitarist expertly playing intoxicating melodies in the courtyard below us.

When we eventually left the castle, we descended through the narrow streets and alleyways of the Alfama district, where the pointed roofs of the houses almost touched each other and the sloping buildings seemed to defy the laws of gravity. The sudden appearance and noise of a tram, rattling into view from around a bend, told us that we were back in the twenty-first century once more. But there was still plenty more to enjoy in our stroll through the city and back to our hotel.Our second day was spent visiting Sintra. Although Sintra is part of the district of Lisbon, it is a town in its own right and takes about thirty minutes on the local train to get to from Lisbon. It is simply one of the most beautiful places in Europe and holds a world heritage status. Our day there was packed with things to do and sights to see. It is as if the very landscape of the place has been remodelled into art. The former summer palace of the Portuguese monarchs is located here. It was built in the 14th century and later extended. Many of its rooms are quite outstanding and the palace constantly proclaims reminders of the splendour and opulence of Portugal's imperial past.There is another palace in Sintra that absolutely demands the tourists' attention and his camera. It is called the Pena Palace and to see it you will either have to give up part of your day to take a demanding hike or get a taxi to drive you to it. Either way, the journey is worthwhile. Standing at an altitude of 1500 metres, this nineteenth century building with its pink and yellow towers, domes, and drawbridges is the stuff of fairytales, Disney, and fantasy fiction.Also high in the hills, but much less of a hike to get to, are the remains of a Moorish Castle which dates back to the 8th century. The walk around the top of its extensive walls provides magnificent views of the surrounding district. Looking westward, the glorious panorama includes the Atlantic coast and it is easy to make out the many beautiful beaches which are located only a short drive away from Sintra.Before leaving Sintra, make sure you leave time for a wander through the medieval alleyways, enjoying the many little tourist shops with a stop off at one of the cafes for some refreshment.Our final day was more of an unplanned, chill-out, sort of day. The highlight and area we spent most time in was Lisbon's lower city area, the Baixa. We also included the ruins of the Carmo Convent and further out of the centre, the Portuguese parliament buildings and nearby botanical gardens. In the late afternoon we returned to the Alfama district to explore the parts we had missed on our first day.Like any city breakArticle Search, there was much that we didn't get around to seeing but I feel that three days was just about the right length of time to get the feel for this wonderful city and enjoy the most important things it has to offer.

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