see + do
Lisbon see + do
At the far western end of Europe, Lisbon's topography—and geography—alone makes it worth visiting, with the 18th-century Baixa neighborhood framed by hills across the River Tagus and the Castelo de São Jorge (351-21-880-0620; www.castelosaojorge.egeac.pt) perched above the whitewashed medieval Alfama. After his 1809 visit, Lord Byron, not easy to impress, declared that "to travel the world and leave out Lisbon is to go blind about." So it's only right that the few decades the Portuguese capital spent on the bottom of people's European must-see lists are history. This city is booming, with a succession of rebuilding waves having left various parts of it transformed for good. First, a catastrophic fire back in 1988 led to the rethinking of the tony Chiado neighborhood—largely under the aegis of Oporto architect Avaro Siza Vieira—and a wave of development along the neglected waterfront followed. Arriving a decade later, the 1998 Expo was the largest single event of its kind in Lisbon's history, and it left the magnificent souvenir of an entire new district fashioned from a derelict wasteland—the Parque das Nações. With its huge Oceanário, Europe's biggest aquarium (Esplanada D. Carlos I, Doca dos Olivais; 351-21-891-7002; www.oceanario.pt), its venues, the Pavilhão de Portugal (Alameda dos Oceanos, Parque das Nações; www.parquedasnacoes.pt), Pavilhão Atlantico (Rossio dos Olivais, Lote 2.13.01A; 351-21-891-8409; www.pavilhaoatlantico.pt), and Teatro Luís de Camões (Passeio de Neptuno, Parque das Nações; 351-218-923-470; www.cnb.pt in Portuguese only), the übermall Centro Vasco da Gama (Av. D. João II, Lote 1.05.02; 351-21-893-0600; www.centrovascodagama.pt), and, maybe best of all, Santiago Calatrava's Gare do Oriente (piso 1, Av. D. João II; 351-21-318-5990; www.cp.pt) rail station, what used to be called Cabo Ruivo is now essential on any itinerary. Yet most people will still crave the old town most of all, and various historic districts, too, are evolving. The funky Bairro Alto, with its narrow alleys and late-night bars, is having a moment, its longtime status as nightlife central being augmented by a new role as a source of chic boutiques. The happening waterfront Docas, where many warehouses have been transformed into bars and restaurants, is also a good option for nightlife.