Lisbon, the capital of Portugal has experienced a renaissance in recent years, with a contemporary culture that is alive and thriving and making its mark in today’s Europe. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is one of the rare Western European cities that faces the ocean and uses water as an element that defines the city. Lisbon enchants travelers with its white-bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways, and an easy-going charm that makes it a popular year-round destination.
Lisbon enjoys a warm climate with mild winters and very warm summers. Strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, it is one of the mildest climates in Europe. Among all the metropolises in Europe, here are the warmest winters on the continent, with average temperatures above 15.2°C (59.4°F) during the day and 8.9°C (48.0°F) at night in the period from December to February. Snow and frost are very rare. The typical summer season lasts about six months, from May to October, with an average temperature of 25°C (77°F) during the day and 16.2°C (61.2°F) at night. Although, sometimes in November, March and April there are temperatures above 20°C (68.0°F) with an average temperature of 18.5°C (65°F) during the day and 11.2°C (52.2°F) at night. Rain occurs mainly in winter and the summer is very dry.
The city stretches along the northern bank of the river Tejo as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. As the terrain rises north away from the water, steep streets and stairways form the old tangled districts or give way to green parks in the western suburbs.
In the city centre, the vast Praça do Comércio, facing the river at the base of the pedestrianized grid of Baixa (lower town), occupies a central position. Further northwest from Baixa stretches Lisbon’s “Main Street”, Avenida da Liberdade, a broad boulevard resplendent in leafy trees, chic hotels and upmarket shops, terminating at the circular Praça de Marques de Pombal. To the east are old districs of Mouraria and Alfama, both relatively spared during the Great Earthquake (as they are on a firmer rock) and therefore both retaining the charm of the winding alleys and azulejo-covered crumbling walls (further north lie relatively boring residential quarters). To the west the hill rises steeply into Bairro Alto (upper town; prepare to trek up, or take one of the elevadores, or funiculars); still further west are the rapidly gentrifying former docks of Alcantara, dominated on the western end by the supports of the gigantic new bridge over the river, and the suburbs of Santo Amaro and Belém.
Spread across steep hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, Lisbon offers all the delights you’d expect of Portugal’s star attraction, yet with half the fuss of other European capitals. Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums are all part of the colourful cityscape, but the real delights of discovery lie in wandering the narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets.