Lisbon and the Cascais Coast
With the prospect of Americans returning to Europe in upcoming months,
Lisbon is poised for yet another well-deserved moment in the sun. Voted World’s Leading City Break Destination at the 2019 World Travel Awards, Portugal’s capital features new attractions, moderately priced hotels and superb restaurants in a spectacular riverside enclave overlooking the Atlantic.
Only a 30-minute train ride away, the Portuguese Riviera’s golden beaches and rocky shores unfurl.
From Boston or Newark, enjoy an easy 6-hour flight across the Atlantic aboard Portugal’s award-winning flagship carrier, TAP Air Portugal (www.flytap.com). Buy the Lisboa Card (www.visitlisboa.com) at the airport for free Metro, bus and tram transportation plus free or discounted museum admission.
A 15-minute taxi ride takes you to central Saldanha Square and four-star DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon-Fontana Park (www.lisbonfontanapark.doubletree.com). The snazzy design hotel has spacious black, white and grey guestrooms, plus a greenery-filled bar and winter garden. Saldanha Mar’s Mediterranean fare includes the freshest fish from surrounding waters.
Head west to the Alcântara district along the Tagus River to discover the Pilar 7-Bridge Experience in the 25th of April Bridge. With twin towers painted vibrant International Orange, it looks like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The highlight: Views from the lofty observation deck.
Nearby Lx Factory, once a sprawling textile mill, now houses New Age eateries, shops and art studios selling sustainable local goods. At the weekend street market, browse for local cheeses and wines along with handmade jewelry and vintage clothing.
In Belém, just west, MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, rises from the riverfront like an enormous white wave. Opened in 2016, MAAT hosts international exhibits, but focuses on contemporary Portuguese art.
Steps from the bold Monument to the Discoveries is ornate white-limestone Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The former 16th-century monastery features Manueline-style nautical carvings of anchors, armillary spheres and entwined ropes. Don’t miss the ornate tomb of explorer Vasco da Gama, who discovered the coveted sea route to the Indies in 1497.
One block away, Pastéis de Belém has served Lisbon’s luscious custard-filled tarts since 1837.
Back in central Lisbon, Museum Calouste Gulbenkian displays everything from Roman statuary to French Impressionists. But it’s renowned for Art Nouveau vases and jewelry by French artist René Lalique. The Modern Collection showcases Portuguese art.
Just south, under the yellow-and-white arcades of Praça do Comércio, the Lisbon Story Centre, in the grand Rua Augusta Arch, traces Lisbon’s illustrious past. The highlight: An exciting multimedia presentation capturing Lisbon’s devastating 1755 earthquake.
In Alfama, the city’s oldest quarter, Museu do Fado celebrates the mournfully romantic songs born in 1820s Lisbon. Pore over vintage photos, musical scores and hand-crafted guitars.
Continue east to gold-encrusted Convent of Madre de Deus where the National Tile Museum displays colorful Portuguese tiles from the 15th century till today. Don’t miss the Hunt Room’s striking animal murals.
Parque das Nações, site of Expo ‘98, is a 40-minute bus ride northeast. The Lisbon Oceanarium, by American architect Peter Chermayeff, is Europe’s largest indoor aquarium with 16,000 creatures ranging from fish and seabirds to penguins and sea otters.
Bid Lisbon farewell with a cable-car ride high above the park’s riverfront. Then treat yourself to an Eating Europe (www.eatingeurope.com) tour through cozy eateries.
CASCAIS AND THE COAST
From Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station, it’s a pleasant 30-minute train ride to the Portuguese Riviera where 19th-century Portuguese nobility and exiled World War II royalty once sheltered.
In seaside Cascais (www.visitcascais.com), check into five-star Farol Hotel (www.farol.com.pt). Rising dramatically from the rocks, Portugal’s first design hotel has 33 luxurious rooms in sleek black and white. Also here: an art-filled bar, a saltwater swimming pool, and a seaside pavilion for spa treatments.
Steps away, the Museum Quarter has a dozen intriguing art and history museums. The Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, in a blue-and-white striped lighthouse, is next door to Casa de Santa Maria, filled with a 19th-century tobacco magnate’s plush furnishings.
At the Cidadela Art District, in the town’s star-shaped citadel, browse through a half-dozen contemporary-art galleries.
The Casa das Histórias Paula Rego houses over 500 wise and witty paintings, etchings and drawings by Portugal’s 85-year-old feminist artist Paula Rego.
Consider touring nearby coastal towns with Shortcuts (www.shortcutstourism.com). Part of Cascais municipality, Estoril is home to the casino that inspired Ian Fleming’s novel, Casino Royale. In grand Hotel Palácio Estoril, order a 007 Martini at the bar.
Sintra is home to hilltop Pena Palace, a colorful riot of red and yellow towers and turrets. Often compared to Neuschwanstein, Bavaria’s fairytale castle, it was designed by King-Consort Ferdinand II of Germany’s House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha for his Portuguese bride, Queen Maria II.
On Sintra’s main square, Praça da República, lunch at elegant Café Paris. Then sample an almond-flavored Pastel da Cruz Alta and other pastries at nearby Casa Piriquita.
Come afternoon, head to nearby Colares and Casal Sta. Maria (www.casalstamaria.pt). A tasting at Europe’s westernmost vineyards might include a fruity Pinot Noir and a well-rounded Merlot. Most unforgettable: Malvasia with a surprisingly salty aftertaste borne on Atlantic breezes.
Before leaving the coast, join Walk Hike Portugal (www.portugalwalkhike.com) for an easy trek through Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Starting high above the Atlantic at Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s westernmost point, the hike ends at Adraga Beach restaurant, serving the freshest seafood.
TAP Air Portugal flies to Lisbon daily and Porto twice weekly from Newark, 5 x per week from Toronto, 4x weekly from Washington-Dulles, 3x weekly from Boston, Miami and Montreal, 2x weekly from Chicago O’Hare and 1x weekly from San Francisco. Visit www.flytap.com.
For more information, log on to www.visitlisboa.com, www.visitcascais.com and www.visitportugal.com