The capital of Portugal, Lisbon has experienced a renaissance in recent years, with a contemporary culture that is alive and thriving and making its mark in today's Europe, and beyond. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is one of the rare Western European cities that face 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. Here is an interesting page about Lisbon, highlighting its cultural richness and liveliness: Lisbon Comes Alive.
Belém ~23km from DSN venue
Public transportation: 15E (tram), 1, 76, 729 Belém
Belém is the historical place from which many of the great Portuguese maritime endeavours, like Vasco da Gama's expedition to India, set off. The historical charge of Belém is patent in its monuments. The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém were built in the 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I, as celebrations of the success of Vasco da Gama, but also served other noble purposes. While the Torre de Belém was an important defense site of Lisbon, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (originally the house of Hieronymite monks) served as a house of prayer for navigators leaving or entering port, and now houses the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum). The connection of Belém to the maritime background of Portugal was further emphasized in the 20th century, namely in 1960, when the Padrão dos Descobrimentos was built as a tribute to Henry the Navigator, the sponsor of the Portuguese Discoveries.
Belém is as rich in culture as it is in history. Besides the forementioned monuments, you can also find the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal, the Centro Cultural de Belém. It is the venue of many music, theatre and dance shows, exhibitions, and the permanent home of the Berardo Collection, an internationally renowned collection covering almost all the major modern artistic movements up to the most recent developments in contemporary artistic creation, with works of Picasso, Miro, Bacon, Moore, Mondrian, Duchamp, Warhol, and many others. As Prime Minister José Sócrates remarked when the museum debuted in 2007, “In the past, the European route of modern art ended in Madrid.” He added, “Now it ends here.”
On another kind of culture, Belém is the place to get a taste of the world famous Pastéis de Belém (small custard tarts which filling has a recipe for which its cooks subject to a non-disclosure agreement) and the lesser known Pastéis de Cerveja de Belém.
Baixa/Chiado ~31km from DSN venue
Public transportation: Restauradores, Rossio, Baixa–Chiado 15E, 28E (tram),7,36,40,44,60,91,205,207,709,711,732,745,746,759,790 Rossio
In the morning of 1 November 1755, an earthquake devastated Lisbon, killing 60,000 people and reducing virtually every building in miles to rubble. The vision of then Minister of the Kingdom Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (more widely known as 1st Marquis of Pombal), who also contributed to the study of seismology with a very pertinent survey to the population, resulted in immediately starting to rebuild the most devastated zone of Lisbon (that nearest of the river, from where a 15-meter high tsunami came to add to the destruction), with the world's first earthquake-proof buildings. With the a grid street pattern, characteristic how meticulous the Marquis of Pombal's endeavour was, this part of Lisbon is known as Baixa Pombalina (Pombaline Downtown).
The main street of the Baixa Pombalina, Rua Augusta, possesses a triumphal arch, which connects it to the Praça do Comércio, also known as Terreiro do Paço, which appeared as part of the same rebuilding project. Present home of many governmental institutions, this place witnessed a significant happening towards Portugal becoming a parliamentary republic. On 1 February 1908, King Carlos I and the heir apparent, his son Luís Filipe, were assassinated by members of the Republican Party.
West of the Pombaline Downtown, you'll also find a zone of Lisbon charged with historical events: the Chiado, a traditional shopping area mixing old and modern commercial establishments. In 1988, the Chiado zone was struck by a fire, considered the worst disaster to strike the city since the 1755 earthquake.
If you ever heard that Lisbon is built over seven hills (which, by the way, is only true for a relatively small part of the city), then let us present you one of them — the highest one at that, indeed. The Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of Saint George) was occupied by the Moors, until Lisbon was reconquered in 1147, after a 3-month long siege. Before being rendered less important by the construction of the Ribeira Place, near the Tagus river, the castle was the seat of the Royal Palace, and also housed the archive of the Kingdom, a fact to which is owed the fact that the modern premises of the National Archive of Portugal are called the Tower of the Tomb (Torre do Tombo).
In the 18th century, the castle came to host the charitable institution Casa Pia, and the first geodesic observatory in Portugal, which defined one of the many meridians to were, at some point, used prior to the establishment of the Prime Meridian in Greenwich as the gold standard.
After an extensive renovation initiative in the 1940s, today's Castelo de São Jorge is a major tourist attraction, surrounded by a traditional residential neighborhood, with houses both inside and outside the castle walls.
Parque Eduardo VII ~29km from DSN venue
Public transportation: Parque 12,48,53,83,91,203,205,702,711,713,718,723,726,742,746
King Edward VII was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, from which stemmed the last line of Portuguese kings, due to the marriage of Queen Maria II with Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Parque Eduardo VII was named in honour of the British monarch, who visited Portugal in 1902, during the reign of his second cousin once removed Carlos I, to strengthen the relations between the two countries.
With 26 hectares of green area (slighty larger than St. James's Park, in London), this park streches northwest from the proximity of the statue of the 1st Marquis of Pombal (which is erected in the center of a five lane roundabout), and offers a great view over the Baixa and the Tagus river. This area includes a winter garden, the Estufa Fria, with a diversity of exotic plants, water streams, waterfalls, palm trees, fuchsias, and banana trees.
Its premises also comprise the Carlos Lopes Pavillion, named in honour of the winner of the marathon race at the 1984 Summer Olympics, which is set to become a National Museum of Sports.
Gulbenkian Park ~30km from DSN venue
Public transportation: São Sebastião 16, 56, 205, 726, 746
Calouste Gulbenkian was an Armenian petrol magnate, who managed to become one of the wealthiest man of his time, and acquired throughout his life an extensive art collection, encompassing works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Monet, and many others. He spent the last 13 years of his life in Lisbon, living in an exquisite hotel suite, and it was in Lisbon that the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, created per Gulbenkian's will of testament, established a museum to display his art collection.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum exists since 1960, and in 1969 the Gulbenkian Park was inaugurated. Besides the museum and the headquarters of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the park presently hosts a Modern Art Centre, conference rooms, a library, two auditoriums, and gardens, stretching for a total of 7.5 hectares.
If on a need to go for some shopping, you will find nearby Lisbon's main department store, El Corte Inglés.
Parque das Nações ~37km from DSN venue
Public transportation: Oriente 5,25,28,44,208,708,750,759,782 Lisboa–Oriente
The proposal to organize a World Exposition in Lisbon in 1998 had in mind the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's arrival in India. To host the exposition, themed “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”, construction was performed in an area of 50 hectares at Lisbon's east end alongside the Tagus river, with the concern of pre-selling every building to be used after the exposition, to prevent the abandonment of the area. Construction also included extensive accessibility improvements, through a new service line for the underground train (with 7 new stations), a new bridge over the Tagus river, and a multi-modal (bus, train, underground) terminal.
After 132 days of exhibition, with 155 countries and organizations represented, and 11 million visitors, the area was repurposed as planned, and Lisbon got itself a modern quarter, full of culture and leisure areas, and home to many corporate offices.
Perfect for a leisure day, the Parque das Nações offers you, among other facilities, the largest oceanarium in Europe, 3km of pathway by the river (perfect for walking, jogging or cycling), and a casino. The 44 Carris bus route connects the Parque das Nações with the Portela International Airport, so this can pretty much be your very first or very last stop in Lisbon.
Monsanto Forest Park is a protected forest right in the heart of Lisbon. With about 900 hectares of green (slighty more than the Bois de Boulogne, in Paris), planted in the early 20th century by inmates and farmers with a predominance of oak trees, Monsanto offers a glimpse of nature's variety, in terms of fauna, flora, and terrain; the park is populated by diverse animal species, such as blackbirds, woodpeckers, eagles, owls, and squirels.
With 200km of tracks, activity centers, play grounds, picnic area, sports facilities, restaurants, a campground, the Monsanto Forest Park is well tailored for a leisure time based on outdoor activies, like jogging, cycling, orienteering, or geocaching.
The forest still holds some of the many windmills that existed in the area. At least one of them, with a nearby picnic area, can be explored from the inside, and gives a great view from its top.
Estoril and its spectacular coastline are a must-see destination forany visitor to Portugal. Flanked on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean,the region is located just 30km from Lisbon and its internationalairport, stretching west in a rectangle from Carcavelos to GuinchoBeach.
With its mild year-round climate, the Portuguese Riviera offers asurprising variety of landscapes and attractions, combining a widerange of possibilities in one very unique destination. From pureleisure to business, golf, sun, sea and water sports, the EstorilCoast simply has it all and offers a new definition of the concepts ofeco- and activity-based tourism.
Boasting such a privileged location, one could say that the entireregion is a mosaic composed of both natural and socialmicroclimates. From pre-history to the Roman occupation, fromcenturies of Moorish rule to the Middle Ages, from Baroque to theRenaissance period, and from New Art to the new schools ofarchitecture and urbanism, there are strong traces of all these inthe Estoril Coast. The truth is that wherever you want to go, you'll get there quickly inthe Estoril Coast — whether it's the beach or the countryside, arustic village or a cosmopolitan town centre.
There's a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, bars and attractionsavailable — most notably Estoril Casino, the largest in Europe, withits busy programme of concerts and cultural activities — andCascais Marina, not to mention the many extraordinary palaces,museums, natural parks and leisure and cultural areas. The regionoffers a perfect mix of relaxation, sport and opportunities forbusiness meetings. One of the most modern in Europe, the Estoril Congress Centreenables the region to compete in the fast-growing business tourismmarket. Therefore, it's true to say that Estoril's main strengths lie,fundamentally, in the rich combination of its natural characteristics,high-quality facilities and professional services.
Contributing to this, the Estoril Coast boasts more than 90 years ofhistory and involvement in the development of tourism in Portugal,having started all those years ago as an important sun and beachdestination of international repute.
Today, having adapted itself to the demands and modern profile ofthe 21st century tourist, it offers a full package of attractions andservices, including those most in demand in international markets.The region is also popular for its excellent natural conditions andfacilities for all types of sport, from the most extreme such asparagliding, delta wing gliding, rock climbing, mountain biking,surfing and windsurfing, to the more traditional kind of sport likehorse riding, polo, tennis, all kinds of sailing and motorised watersports and motor racing at the famous Estoril Autodrome.
Concerning gastronomy, the visitor can choose from an enormousrange of possibilities that include some of the region's most typicaldishes, most notably the freshest possible fish and seafood, stewedlobster, sea bass, bream and the famous Cascais sole. Thesespecialities can be found in most of the region's restaurants butmainly in the Guincho area, where some of the best restaurants arelocated. A visit to the traditional ice cream store Santini,near the Cidadela and historic centre of Cascais, is indispensable.
Sintra owes its name to Cynthia, one of the aliases of the Greek goddess Artemis (Diana, for the Romans), who the legend purports took retreat in its mountains (the Lunae Mons, as they were known to the Ancient World). But the romance behind the place doesn't end in the legends. In the 19th century, when Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Queen Victoria's first cousin) married Queen Mary II, and became King consort of Portugal, he took a passion for Sintra, acquired several estates in the area, and set out to rebuild the ruins of the Castle of the Moors and of a monastery built for the Hieronymites (not to be confused with the Monastery of the Hieronymites in Lisbon), in the romantic spirit of the time. The Castle of the Moors, which overlooks the town and offers a breathtaking view of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, had its towers and walls rebuilt, with the Church of Saint Peter deliberately kept in ruins. As for the remains of the monastery, they were transform into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family: the Pena National Palace. Around the palace, King Ferdinand II also established 200 hectares of forested area, the Pena Park, by ordering diverse plants from distant locations: sequoias, cypresses, magnolias, and a variety of ferns.
The Sintra mountain range extends up until the Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca), the westernmost point of mainland Europe. Camões, who is said to have first read his masterpiece epic poem “Os Lusíadas” to King Sebastian right here in Sintra, described Cabo da Roca as the place “where the land ends and the sea begins.” The place features a 18th century 144-meter high lighthouse, and a municipal delegation who issues diplomas for having visited this landmark.
Sintra, although not having the highest administrative status a town can have, is the seat of a wide and diverse municipality. Although some parts of it became highly populated commuter towns, much of the municipality keeps traditional places and values, with much culture to offer. The forementioned Cabo da Roca, for instance, is part of a parish, Colares, which happens to also be the center of the highest classified wine region in Portugal, known for its deep colored, full bodied red wines. The Adega de Colares, a wine cellar responsible for 50% of the region's wine production, is well worth a visit.
Mafra ~35km either from DSN venue or from Lisbon
Public transportation: “Mafrense” Lisboa (Campo Grande)–Ericeira service
Mafra is mostly known for its sumptuous National Palace. As documented in the novel “Baltasar and Blimunda”, by Nobel-laureate Portuguese author José Saramago, the Mafra National Palace was built during the reign of King John V, sponsored by the abundant flow of gold from Brazil, and motivated by a vow related with the fertility of his wife, Queen consort Mary Anne of Austria.
Although not permanently occupied by the royal family, it was popular among members who enjoyed hunting in the nearby preserve, the Tapada Nacional de Mafra, presently open for walking, mountain biking, horse riding, archery and crossbow shooting activities, and populated by a variety of wild animals, like deer, wild boar, foxes, and birds of prey.
Between both sites, you can also visit the Jardim do Cerco, a fabulous Baroque-style garden is constituted by a Botanical Garden, with a lovely pond, and the Woods, with hunting purposes.
Ericeira ~40km from DSN venue, ~45km from Lisbon
Public transportation: “Mafrense” Lisboa (Campo Grande)–Ericeira service
With a traditional background as fishing town, Ericeira is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal of fresh seafood with a view to the nearby Ocean Atlantic itself. It is also a very popular surf spot, both at national and international levels, and home of the very first surf association in Portugal. The Ribeira d'Ilhas Beach, 2km north of the town center, routinely hosts a round of the World Surf Championship.
The town is also very walkable. Here is a suggested route for a walk through the town, starting and ending near the “Mafrense” bus stop. This route brings to some of Ericeira's monuments, alleys and hiding places: the Golfinhos' Fountain, the Misericórdia's Church and Museum, the Northern Fountain, the Fishermen Beach, and the Furnas (a zone with very characteristic rock formations).
Peniche ~100km from Lisbon
Public transportation: “Rede Expressos” Lisboa (Sete Rios)–Peniche service
Peniche is yet another town by the Atlantic Ocean, with a tradition of fishing and of long windy beaches that invite practioners of surf, windsurf, or kite surf. Off the coast of Peniche, you will the Berlengas Islands, of which the larger one, the Berlenga Grande island, is inhabited (although not permanently). In this island you will also find the Lighthouse of the Duke of Braganza and the Fortress of John the Baptist.
Lighthouse of the Duke of Braganza, Berlenga, Peniche
To visit the Berlenga Grande island, you will have to take a boat. For that, you should take a prior visit to the website of Viamar, the company that runs connections to the island in a boat called Avelar Pessoa, in memory of the corporal who led the 20-man team who tried to defend the Fortress from a Spanish attack, in the 17th century. Tipically, the service runs between May and September, with a trip to the island in the morning, and a trip back to Peniche in the afternoon, but trips may be cancelled due to unforeseen situations, like the sea situation.
Óbidos ~100km from DSN venue
Public transportation: Óbidos (regional service to Caldas da Rainha)
Óbidos is a traditional town, with its medieval times streets, squares, fortified wall and castle well-preserved. Most the constructions and settlements that still exist in the heart of the town date from the 14th century.
Adding to its medieval atractiveness, Óbidos has, in the recent years, invested in holding special events in the castle premises, which turn out very popular and bring thousands of people to visit them. Near the beginning of the Spring, Óbidos hosts the International Chocolate Festival, where, besides the highlight of a chocolate sculptures exhibition, the local traditional “Ginjinha em copo de chocolate” (a sour cherry liqueur served in a small edible chocolate cup) is particularly sought for. During the Summer, the town hosts a Medieval Fair (in 2009, it will be held between from July 10 to July 20), and at the appropriate time of the Winter the castle turns into a children-oriented Christmas Village.