Lisbon I'm hooked, from red roof to trundling tram this is my town.
Even with a favorable exchange rate (€1 is approximately $1.20 at the moment), popular western European destinations like London, Paris, and Rome can be staggeringly expensive. Lisbon, on the other hand, offers the same old-world ambiance at a bargain. Most of the city's attractions are free or inexpensive to enter, and the local food and wine offer high quality at low prices. Family-run inns, known as pensaos, are not only more affordable than your typical hotel, but they also provide a more authentic experience.
From the wide, tree-lined Avenida de Liberdade, to the brightly painted houses in Baixa and Alfama, to the majestic arches in Terreiro de Paço (Lisbon's sprawling central square), Lisbon's streets are filled with whimsy, romance, and vibrancy. Don't forget to look down as you stroll: ornate tilework, a Portuguese trademark, adorn a number of the city's sidewalks.
The climate is ideal.
Lisbon's position on the coast means it has great weather year round. It's sunny and warm from late May through October, while winters are mild, with blustery weather and snow rare. That's great news for off-season travelers.
It’s perfect for beach lovers.
Lisbon is one of the few major European cities to be surrounded by beaches. Hop the train to Estoril (35 mins) or Cascais (40 mins, pictured), but beware of the crowds—these beaches are popular with tourists and locals alike. Less busy, but also slightly further afield, lies Praia de Adraga, one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe.
It’s also perfect for foodies.
Portuguese cuisine is a seafood lover's dream. The country’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean manifests in a menu heavy on fish dishes. Traditional eats like bacalhau (dried, salted cod—make sure you have a tall glass of water at your side) and qmêijoas à bulhão pato (clams in white wine sauce) are as ubiquitous as they are tasty. Head to the famous restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro (Av. Almirante Reis, nº1 – H, 1150-007 Lisboa) to get your fill of the best seafood Lisbon has to offer. For a sweet treat, grab a pasteis de nata (custard tart).
The nightlife is bustling.
Lisbon is well known for its happening and inexpensive nightlife. For bars, head to the Bairro Alto district (pictured)—its streets are densely packed with hotspots. The areas around the Cais do Sodré and Largo de Santos are rife with discos. And for a more old school vibe, hit up a Fado club in the Alfama district. Fado, a type of traditional Portuguese folk music popular in Lisbon, is tuneful, though decidedly morose.
Sintra is less than an hour away.
You can't visit Lisbon without making a daytrip to the municipality of Sintra. Sintra is a 45-minute train ride outside of the city, home to a UNESCO-listed complex of now-uninhabited former royal palaces. Pro tip: While there are at least five major palaces to see, those short on time would do well by only visiting two, the Sintra National Palace and the Pena National Palace. You can get a combined ticket for entry to both for about €20.