Lisbon is fast becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe and it’s not hard to see why. With almost year-round sunshine and a rich historical and contemporary culture this vibrant seven hilled city by the sea really does have something for everyone. It’s also a great base for exploring local attractions, such as the World Heritage site of Sintra and the achingly beautiful beaches of the Algarve. The easiest way to enjoy the city and its surroundings is to find yourself some self-catering accommodation in a good location and hire a car. That way you’ll have the freedom to enjoy parts of the city that will be difficult to get to by public transport. The main tourist attractions of Lisbon are well known, St. George’s Castle, Jerominos Monastery, Belem Tower but here are some lesser known delights that you really shouldn’t miss out on.
Once the site of factories, this rejuvenated urban wasteland is now a must-see agglomeration of bars, restaurants, galleries and boutique shops. Situated on the banks of the Tagus and open seven days a week this is contemporary Lisbon at its most vibrant. Choose from almost any kind of food you can imagine and browse the ever-changing art installations and, in the evening, enjoy a rooftop drink and views of the Ponte 25 Abril, Lisbon’s very own Golden Gate Bridge.
Ler Devagar Bookstore
Portugal has a rich literary heritage, and this is reflected in the nation’s love of bookshops. The world’s oldest bookshop, the Liveraria Bertrand is located in the centre of Lisbon but Ler Devagar, literally ‘Read Slowly’ is to be found in the LX Factory complex. Named as one of the ten most beautiful bookshops in the world Ler Devegar is a sprawling shop on several levels, situated, logically enough, in what was a former printing press. The ancient machinery remains in situ alongside an ever-changing array of contemporary sculpture. There are two bars and thousands of books, a veritable bibliophile heaven.
Cemiterio dos Prazeres
If visiting a cemetery doesn’t sound like your ides of fun, then think again because Cemiterio dos Prazeres means ‘Cemetery of fun’. This twenty-hectare site was established in 1833 and contains avenues of ornate ‘houses of the dead’. The tomb of the Pedro de Sousa Holstein family, with its design based on the tomb of Solomon, is the largest family tomb in Europe, containing the remains of 200 family members.
Aqueduto das Aguas Livres
Built in 1744 and only decommissioned in 1968 this is the world’s largest aqueduct. It’s a little way out of the city and so is often overlooked by tourists but a walk along its breathtakingly lofty walkway affords great views of the city.
Hospital de Bonecas
This dolls’ hospital is the oldest establishment of its kind still to operate from the same premises. Located in the heart of the city the skilled staff of the hospital have restored and repaired dolls, stuffed animals and toys for four generations. On arrival dolls are given a diagnosis and then laid to rest in beds while awaiting treatment. Surreal cabinets of arms, legs, eyes and wigs line the walls. There is also a fascinating toy museum, which you can visit if you don’t have a doll in need of repair.