They say that Lisbon has a melancholic charm to her. It might be the perpetual state of construction, the faded azulejos (hand painted ceramic tiles) on building walls or the haunting sounds of fado that float through Lisbons streets at dark. Or it might be the wealth of history that once defined this great state, and the memory of a once-great colonial empire.

Today, Lisbon may not be the same Lisbon of the Portuguese Empire, the city that launched the Age of discovery and the seat of the Portuguese Kings, but snatches of its grandeur still remains, and a hint of an enduring strength and culture pulses beneath it all.

Find it in the winding, hilly streets. In the yellow trams sliding past sun-drenched squares and up windy streets. At the Belm Tower and its views over the harbour; or the giant statue of Christ, Cristo Rei, that stands 100 metres high across the river. Find it in the white cobblestone streets, in some places patterned with the black and white city emblem. Find it in the smells, sights and sounds of a city that has one foot in the past, but is resolutely looking forward all the same.

This is after all, Lisbon that were talking about here. Lisbon is a city of explorers, a significant port and once-maritime power. Its a city that was interrupted abruptly with a devastating earthquake some 250 years ago; a city that has since been rebuilt with earthquakes in mind. A city filled with art nouveau cafes and mouth watering pastries, warm weather and glaring, sun-drenched piazzas. A city that has a thumping nightlife along its docks, and revellers that spill out onto the streets until the early morning.

What to see
Lisbons 7 hills provide for an interesting city layout, with distinct neighbourhoods and characters. From the chic and trendy Chiado, boutiques in Bairro Alto, commercial shopping grids of Baixa and the Moorish quarter of Alfama, exploring these streets on foot are the best option. If you get tired (or if you just want a ride on one of these retro babies), take one of the 5 funiculars lines taking you the harder to reach hill tops.

Make sure that you explore the Moorish castle that dominates the city from above - Castel Sao Jorge. Explore the ramparts, the shady courtyards and peek over the terraces to check out the prime real estate below. The Santa Justa Elevator, in the Baixa, is a great piece of architecture, but the stunning 500 year old Jeronimos Monastery, in Portuguese Baroque style, is the real stunner. Dont miss the Belm Tower on a sunny day.

At night, find a hidden fado bar among the streets of Alfama, and let yourself be enchanted by the soulful music, unique to Portugal.

What to eat
One thing thatll hit you in Lisbon is the smell. Mid afternoon, the smell of grilling fish and meats will assail your nostrils and call you to lunch; in the mornings, youll pass shops selling the local specialty, bacalhau (dried salted cod). In the afternoons, itll be the smell of coffee and sugary pastries

The seafood here is fresh, cooked simply, often grilled and, best of all, great value. Try local specialties like the cozido portuguesa (meats, rice and vegetables all boiled together) and the arroz de marisco (seafood rice). Codfish, or bacalhau in Portuguese, is well loved here as well - there are reportedly 365 ways of serving it Try at least one! Youll find great restaurants, and hole in the wall establishments, in Bairro Alto and the Alfama districts.

To try the original, and undoubtedly best, Portuguese tart, the pasties de Belm, find it near the Belm Tower along the harbour.

Where to party
Lisbon has a thriving night scene, and comes alive with an international scene to be envious of. Just a part of the whole looking-forward Lisbon idea.

Bairro Alto is known for its cluster of bars and pubs, with revellers often spilling out onto the streets until the early morning. There are also bars around the Chiado area, under Castles shadow. For nightclubs, explore the area around the docks, docas, for clubs that close at 6am and some that reputedly open at 7am.

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