Lisbon: Portugals Top Port of Call

Category: Europe
Date Posted: 2013-10-26

When you're browsing through cruise deals for Southampton you'll find vessels sailing from the south coast city call at some fantastic ports all along Europe's west coast, including Oslo and Amsterdam.


But while these cities are big on art, they're hardly sun-soaked hot spots if you're in desperate need of some vitamin D. Lisbon on the other hand is just as rich in culture, with the added bonus of being a year-round warm and sunny destination that is just perfect for dining al fresco and seeing the sights.


If you're unfamiliar with the city's charms, read on for a guide to the top things to see and do, and check out this website if you'd like to book your cruise to Lisbon today.


Tower of Belem


Photo Credit: Tower of Belem by sheilaellen, on Flickr  

Unesco World Heritage Sites

Unsurprisingly for a city with a history dating back thousands of years, there are an array of impressive and important structures dotted across Lisbon. Two of them have been deemed significant enough to warrant Unesco World Heritage status: the Monastery of the Hieronymites (Jeronimos Monastery) and the Tower of Belem.


The monastery and the nearby tower are spectacular examples of Manueline-style (Portuguese late Gothic) architecture, incorporating complex ornamentation and maritime influences.


These, of course, are highly appropriate for a coastal city, and the Tower of Belem was right at the heart of the local seafaring action for several hundred years - playing an important role in defending Lisbon from attacking ships, as well as being used as a prison. Today, it's a tourist attraction for cruise passengers.


The monastery is the final resting place of legendary 16th century Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who was the first European to sail to India. The Goan city of Vasco da Gama is named after him.


Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon

Photo Credit: Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon by heatheronhertravels, on Flickr  

Modern attractions

Vasco da Gama's name has also been given to the longest bridge in Europe, which spans the Tagus River. This impressive 10.7 mile-long structure is just one of the fine examples of modern architecture on show in the city.


Another is Ponte 25 de Abril (25th April Bridge), which links Lisbon with Almada across the Tejo River. Its American designers modelled it on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, using similar geometry and colours.


And it's not just bridges that have been added to the Lisbon skyline in the past 100 years. The Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is an enormous statue standing 171 ft high featuring the likenesses of Henry the Navigator, our old friend Vasco da Gama and 32 other important historical figures.


In front of the monument is the Rosa dos Ventos (Compass Rose) square featuring a 160 ft wide marble compass design with a 46 ft map of the world at its centre.


Vineyard Sunset, Criacao Velha, Pico


Photo Credit: Vineyard Sunset, Criacao Velha, Pico by Ulrich Thumult, on Flickr  

Wine tours

Lisbon is also the perfect base from which to head off in search of a tipple or two. Portugal has a long history of winemaking and two of its wine-producing regions have Unesco status, so no visit to the capital is complete without sampling a nice drop of local red.


In nearby Azeitao, enjoy a wine-tasting session at a wine lodge and also sample some of the famous local pastries called tortas de Azeitao. These egg-based pastry rolls flavoured with a hint of cinnamon and lemon are a real favourite with locals and tourists alike.


Feature Image: Wiki Commons