Lisbon might be the capital of Portugal, but it is small by European "big-city" standards. Some people see the aging trolly system, streets that have changed little in the past 100 years, and the rustic cuisine and wines and think that Lisbon can't let go of its past. But few cities in Europe have the same kind of Old World allure as the Portuguese capital.
The narrow lanes and neighborhood eating a drinking spots are attractively quaint, while the museums and architecture put the past on display everywhere around the city. Alongside its historic vibe, Lisbon also has a very modern side. There is a vibrant music scene here, plenty of arts, and a summer events calendar that is as full as anywhere else on the continent. If you visit one city this summer, it should be Lisbon.
Summertime means shopping in Lisbon. The Baixa shopping area is the oldest in the city, with modern boutiques located along Rua Augusta and older stores (with more atmosphere and more local products) located on the periphery. Avenida da Liberdade, the widest (and most pleasant) boulevard in Lisbon, features high end retail spots and also some of the most opulent hotels and expensive restaurants in all of Iberia.
Historic buildings like the Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery are on many itineraries, though it is just as delightful to forget the tourist trail and head to the famous Bairro Alto neighborhood for a taste of Lisbon's legendary nightlife. Summertime is jazz season here. The Out Jazz Festival takes place outdoors throughout the summer, while July's Cool Jazz Festival brings some of the continent's best musicians to the city.
Unlike many European capitals, which are located on rivers, Lisbon sits directly on the ocean. Summertime boat cruises are a romantic addition to any trip (and best when scheduled to coincide with the sunset). 30 minutes outside of Lisbon is the town of Cascais. It can be reached easily by train, though it is also possible to travel past the beautifully rugged coastline in a chartered sailboat. The village has a charming historic vibe that makes it an attractive day-trip in and over itself. The waters near Cascais hosted past World Sailing Championship regattas. Conditions are perfect for learning to sail or just enjoying a cruise on a chartered wind-powered vessel.
Of course, there are plenty of hotel options in Lisbon. Yes, some of the city's opulent hotels can serve up a great deal of luxury. For Lisbon is a very unique city...so why not opt for an utterly unusual accommodation. Casas Na Areia a collection of luxurious beachside bungalows that meld modern chic with low-key elegance that makes Lisbon what it is. They are located about an hour outside of Lisbon...close to the action but far enough away for a feeling of seclusion.
This is an ideal honeymoon spot (and the perfect place for a romantic getaway for all non-newlywed couples). The bungalows (there are four) sit right on the white sand beach. You can sometimes sit on the shore near Casas Na Areia and see dolphins surfacing in the coastal shallows.
The beach here is secluded and always uncrowded. If you can't make it onto the water, you can still enjoy the sunset with a stroll on the sands of perhaps a horseback gallop up to the best shore vantage point. Yes, the bars of Bairro Alto, the ongoing jazz concerts, and the charming streets of Lisbon are worth a few days, but a stay on the beach at a spot like Casas Na Ariea can give you a truly complete (and truly memorable) Portuguese vacation experience.
Wherever you are headed this summer, you can find unique accommodations nearby. Search our web site to find the perfect vacation home near you.
Where will you be going this summer? Does Portugal sound appealing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.