Spread over seven hills on the banks of the Tagus River, Lisbon is centered on the Baixa district, or "lower town." With the twin squares of Rossio and Praça da Figueira at its heart, Baixa is home to wide streets paved with mosaics and lined with neoclassical buildings. Rising above Baixa is the chic district of Chiado, Lisbon's hub for expensive shops and culture. The adjacent neighborhood of Bairro Alto, during the day a sleepy place on a hillside above Chiado, becomes the epicenter of Lisbon nightlife as darkness falls. The broad, tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade runs north of the city center, trimmed by a clutch of elegant hotels, boutiques, and restaurants. Out west by the waterfront is the gentrified dock area known as the Docas, which is now chockablock with restaurants, clubs, and bars, and the Santos district, also a hub for fancy restaurants. Go further west, and you'll find the historic waterfront district of Belém.
WHEN TO GO
Though it's very far south, Lisbon's Atlantic breezes keep it generally a little cooler than other cities on the same latitude. June is probably the best summer month to visit, especially since the saints' festivals fall then. Spring and fall are very pleasant, warm, and sunny. Winter tends to stay warm too, but the rain can be relentless.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lisbon's airport, Portela, is ten minutes from the city center (351-218-413-500; www.ana-aeroportos.pt). SATA Internacional airline flies direct from Boston, and TAP airline from New York (Newark). Taxis from the airport to the city cost around $10, though to avoid possible rogue drivers, it's worth using the voucher system. The Turisma de Lisboa booth in Arrivals sells prepaid vouchers for a little more than you'd pay on a meter, but they include tip and baggage surcharge. Alternatively, a shuttle bus to Cais do Sodré and Praça do Comércio runs every 20 minutes.
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