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I sit under perfect blue skies in the centre of Lisbon and I start to dream. My mind carries me back to memories of visiting the Portuguese capital city as a child and not truly realising what a magical and beguiling place Lisbon truly is. As an adult, I can dispense with childhood memories and really enjoy my return visit to Lisbon.
If you are after a slice of Portuguese culture whilst keeping your feet firmly set square in the modern day, this city has you under its embrace. Lisbon is a wonderful destination for both short city breaks or longer visits and there is always plenty to see and do in the city.
The cobbled streets lines the hilly environment of Lisbon with avenues of picturesque houses painted in sun bleached light pastel shades. Countless generations of locals fed up with repainting their walls only for the sun to fade it back sometimes have replaced the paint with beautiful mosaics or murals or even sometimes quirky, eye-catching graffiti. Nowhere in Lisbon is a wall or open space left without color.
Just above central Lisbon visitors can find the Castello de Sao Jorge. The climb to the castle's gate can be quite hard going under a hot unforgiving sun but it is worth the effort. At the summit, the castle, or what is left of it, may be just an empty shell of its former glories but a walk along the ramparts and climbing to the top of the towers affords some truly outstanding panoramas of the city below.
Belem, just outside the centre of the city, is another must see on any visitor's agenda. It's location alongside the River Tagus at the geographical point where the river empties into the North Atlantic provides the perfect site to learn about the city, its history, and its future with a wondrous collection of historical monuments and art exhibitions as well as the usual array of restaurants and bustling cafes.
Belem boasts a wealth of tourist attractions including the Torre de Belem, the tower built to defend Lisbon from any seaborne aggression; then there is the ancient and most beautifully decorated church of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Portugal's sea going ancient explorers are also honored and remembered at the Padrao aos Descobrimentos and the Discoveries Monument.
The sea is only a short distance from Lisbon and many of the once quaint, quiet, and small seaside communities have been transformed into seaside resorts. One of the best known and most frequented is Cascais. Everyone who visits Cascais is advised by tourist guides and locals alike to make time for the leisurely short coastal walk to see the outstanding Boca do Inferno, a beautiful cliff formation that has to be seen and experienced to be believed.
Eating and drinking in Portugal is an enjoyable experience and Lisbon has some of the best restaurants and eateries. There are expensive ones, mid range, and low end eateries so every pocket and budget is welcome. Many of the best can be found lining both the east and western edges of Comercio Square. Be prepared to eat fish in Lisbon and one of the best fish restaurants in the city is the extremely quirky Can the Can that pays homage to canned fish in its appetisers and sharing plates.
If you want to truly experience an authentic and traditional Portuguese cuisine then a visit to the Barro Alto district is a must. Here you will find unhurried, friendly al fresco dining with seats set up outside for food, drink, and conversation with some stunning views of the city of Lisbon.
For desserts, the traditional Pastel de Nata is a must for every sweet toothed tourist or foodie. This custard tart with a sprinkling of cinnamon is a delight and can be found almost everywhere as it is considered something of a Portuguese national dish. The best place I found to try it, however, is undoubtedly the Casa Pasteis de Belem, who have been making the delicious tart for in excess of 150 years.