Exploring the Ancient City of Lisbon

Lisbon is Beauty By The Sea


Lisbon, a cosmopolitan city with a rich cultural life and many national museums and art galleries, offers the traveler a wealth of activities from sightseeing and shopping to fishing and sailing.

Two majestic rivers, the Tagus and Douro, begin in Spain and then flow westward across Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon, a port city offers the traveler several ways to explore the region. Cruise ships stop at its shoreline every week and thousands of cruise passengers visit the city on previously planned excursions arranged by the ship's personnel.

In fact, that is how we enjoyed our visit to Lisbon. We arrived a few days prior to the embarkation of the ship and stayed at the posh Ritz Lisbon Hotel and explored the sights and sounds of this centuries old city.

Lisbon became the capital of Portugal in 1256. Portuguese kings and nobles built villas and palaces in the countryside west of the city. Several are available for touring and make excellent day trips.

Lisbon is a very colorful city with its multi-colored tiled residences and office buildings and the food is excellent. Seafood is plentiful as small fishing villages dot the city and restaurants usually prepare an excellent fresh catch daily.

We spent one afternoon touring the Serra de Sintra, one of Portugal's most opulent Royal Palaces. Located in the heart of the old town of Sintra, the main part of the palace was built in the 14th century, on a site once occupied by the Moorish rulers. The palace was the favorite summer retreat for the court and continued as a residence for Portuguese royalty until the 1880s. Be sure to gaze above you when you enter the former banquet hall, painted in the 17th century with its magnificent ceiling divided into octagonal panels decorated with swans. The palace contains elaborate architecture including intricate Arabesque designs on 16th century tiles that frame doorways. There are also elaborate domed ceilings and eighteenth century Delft-like tiled panels decorating walls. Everywhere we looked there was something beautiful and unique to see. We highly recommend a visit to the Sera de Sintra.


We also enjoyed the wonderful night life in the city where we went to a Fado club where we dined on Portuguese cuisine and listed to the fado music of the country, a kind of soul music that is pleasing to the ear and uniquely Portuguese. Like the blues, fado is an expression of longing and sorrow. The people of Lisbon have listened to this music for in cafes and restaurants for more than 150 years. The music is usually accompanied by a guitar. Lisbon's best fado houses are run by musicians who love of music, not as a tourist attraction. We enjoyed a visit to the Luso, located in the Alfama, one of the oldest in the area, which has been in existence since the 1930s.

We had a chance to visit the Maritime Museum, which contained a fascinating history of navigation including many ships, among them the Royal Barges used for transportation for royalty seen in recent years only in the movies.


Strolling down cobblestone sidewalks of Lisbon was like stepping back in time. Twenty centuries of history are contained in the old city in the Alfama. It was there that we also sampled some exceptional port wine-Portugal's most famous product. The wine is grown at vineyards on the mountainsides of the country.

The city also has many beautiful churches which date back to the 17th century with elaborate courtyards and are available for guided tours.


Shopping plazas are outdoors. And as you stroll about the plazas, take in the sounds of the rippling waters of the beautiful fountains and smell the aroma of the flowers. Pause, take a look at the ages old beauty around you. It is like you are stepping back in time.

Travel tips for Portugal. Many museums are closed on Mondays. The normal hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. Smaller and private museums may have different opening times.


The major religion of the country is Roman Catholicism. Church services are held most evenings and every Sunday morning as well as on religious holidays.

Voltage in Portugal is 220volts and plugs have two round pins. Most hotel bathrooms offer built-in adapters for electric razors, but you will need to supply your own adapter for other appliances. Public telephones may be used for phoning internally or abroad, either with coins or cards.

Shopping in Lisbon. Pottery, ceramics and tiles are plentiful and make wonderful souvenirs. White lace and embroidery items are also beautifully hand-made in the country. Port wine is a nice gift for yourself after you arrive home and want to remember the wonderful time you had in Lisbon as you enjoy some savory port.


  • Portugal Consulate in New York, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10111. Call 212-765-2980.