Lisbon is the governmental, cultural, and economic heart of Portugal while also being the oldest city in Western Europe. Portugal’s hilly capital, Lisbon is a mid-sized coastal city known for its beautiful beaches, cafe culture and soulful music.

Lisbon is remarked for retaining a village atmosphere with its traditional Portuguese white houses, compact maze of alleys and pastel-colored buildings filling the old city. A lively pace of nighttime activity, the city offers tastes of traditional tapas delicacies and wine or fun rides aboard a historic funicular in the cobblestoned Alfama neighborhood.

According to the International Congress & Convention Association, Lisbon is the world’s 6th most popular destination for conventions and events. After a walking excursion through ancient Belém and sipping a glass of vinho verde overlooking the coast, it is easy to understand why.

Population

530,847

Airport & Transportation

Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport is the main international gateway to Portugal and a major European hub. It is the 22nd largest airport in Europe and handled over 20 million passengers in 2015.

Lisbon also has a subway system, which has four lines and a main hub in the station of Baixa-Chiado; as well as a network of trams and funiculars to help visitors and residents alike negotiate the steep streets.

Currency & Tipping

Portugal officially operates on the Euro. Tipping: Taxis- Not expected, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest euro. / Restaurants & Bars- In touristy areas, 10% is acceptable (few Portuguese ever leave more than a round up to the nearest euro.)

Time of Year to Visit

The peak summer season (June to August) serves up hot weather and is the best time for al fresco dining, however, the perfect season for exploring is spring (March to May.) It has milder but often sunny days, and accommodations are still reasonably priced.

Hotels & Convention Center

Located near the Tejo River, the Lisbon Congress Centre was distinguished as the “Best Congress Facility” of Portugal and won the 2015 Portugal Trade Awards. Located in the historic area, the centre offers 8 auditoriums, 5 halls, 33 meeting rooms, one restaurant and 2 car parks.

The Cultural Centre of Belém (CCB) is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal. The CCB’s spaces were initially built to accommodate presidents, but adapted to provide spaces for conferences, exhibitions and artistic venues (such as opera, ballet and symphony concerts.) In addition, (due to its original purposes), the CCB offers high security meeting halls and 23,000 feet of exhibition area.

With a recent construction explosion in city, new event and hotel properties include: the 577-room Lisbon Marriott, the 518-room Corinthia Lisbon, the 369-room Sheraton Lisboa Hotel & Spa and the 331-room InterContinental Lisbon.

Local Culture

Fado is a type of traditional Portuguese folk music that includes guitars and mandolins with one ‘fadista’ singing poetic lyrics. Fado’s roots can be traced back to the early 1800’s. In 2011, Fado was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Many fadistas perform regularly in restaurants so you can enjoy a great meal while enjoying this moving music.

Since 1837 patisserie Antiga Confeitaria has been transporting locals to sugar-coated heaven with their famous ‘pastéis de belém’. The crisp pastry nests are filled with custard cream then dusted with cinnamon. Add yourself to the list of guests who often try to guess the secret ingredient.

(www.pasteisdebelem.pt/ from €1.05)

The city’s most imposing public square is the Praça dos Restauradores. This famous landmark commemorates Portugal’s independence from Spain in 1640 and is a great starting point to discover the city’s history and traditions. Step back in time and enjoy a short ride on a vintage tram, Tram #28, a local transport legend.

Historical Sights

Towering dramatically above Lisbon, rests the 11th-century hilltop castle, São Jorge Castle. The castle has hosted the Moors in the 9th century, Christians in the 12th century, royals from the 14th to 16th centuries, and convicts in every century. Amid fortified courtyards and towering walls, the standout attraction is the view along with a 360-degree camera obscura and artifact galleries displaying relics from past centuries at the featured Archaeological Site. Three guided tours daily (Portuguese, English and Spanish) are included in the admission price. (www.castelodesaojorge.pt/ €8.50)

One of the undisputed scene-stealers is the Unesco listed monastery, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. King Manuel I commissioned it to celebrate explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India in 1498. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was once populated by monks of the Order of St. Jerome, when the order dissolved, the monastery was used as a school and orphanage until 1940. Vasco da Gama is interred in the lower chancel, opposite venerated 16th century poet Luís Vaz de Camões. The monastery boasts gargoyles and carved beasts on the upper balustrade, Portugal’s first Renaissance woodcarvings and stone Manueline-style cloisters. (www.mosteirojeronimos.pt/ €10/ Open October-May)

Activities for Groups

The National Azulejo Museum displays 5 centuries of decorative and historic ceramic tiles. Housed in a 16th century convent, the museum covers the entire azulejo (hand-painted tile) spectrum. Star exhibits feature a 118 foot long panel depicting pre-earthquake Lisbon, a Manueline cloister with blue-and-white azulejos and a gold covered baroque chapel. Here you’ll find early Ottoman geometry to scenes of lords hunting and even food-inspired azulejos, which will lead you into the restaurant on-site and its vine covered courtyard.

(www.museudoazulejo.pt/ €5)

The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (MNAA) is one of Lisbon’s biggest draws. It features a star-studded collection of European and Asian paintings and decorative arts. Highlights include souvenirs from Vasco da Gama’s voyages, 16th-century Japanese screens and elaborate period furniture pieces such as Portuguese king’s ceremonial thrones. The museum is housed in a 17th century palace that features a lemon garden, river gardens with views and a stone covered cafe available on-site.

(www.museudearteantiga.pt/ €6)

Festivals

Each June, the Festas dos Santos Populares (Popular Saints’ Festival) occurs and is the largest annual festival in Portugal. The celebrations cover the feast days of Saint Peter, Saint John and most of all Saint Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon. During the 14 days of revelry, there are traditional open air dances, BBQ’s selling grilled sardines and the public squares in Lisbon are decorated with streamers and tinsel. The culmination of the festivities takes place on June 12th, when there is a large carnival with parades going down the Avenida da Liberdade.