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Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and its largest city, is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe. The city of seven hills, it has myriad attractions, and its light and unique features enchant writers, photographers and film-makers. Marvel at the views from - the São Jorge Castle, São Pedro de Alcântara, Graça, Santa Catarina, or from the statue of Christ the King on the other side of the River Tagus. Take a walk through typical neighbourhoods like Alfama or Bairro Alto, a tram through the more traditional areas, a boat trip on the river or even a trip on the metro with its colourful stations. Besides the wide range of museums evenly spread around the city, it is absolutely imperative to visit Belém (in the west) with its gardens, the Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery (classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO), the Coach Museum and the Belém Cultural Centre, not to mention sampling its food and delicious Belém custard-style tarts.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and nearby the Torre de Belém are two monuments bearing testimony to a period that gave a whole new direction to the course of the world`s history. They were erected symbolically in Belém, the city’s port, from where, in the 15th century, the caravels and other large ships set sail on the great voyages of the Portuguese maritime discoveries. Today, now that both the port and beach have disappeared, the area has become a pleasant leisure area where Lisbon inhabitants love to go for a stroll and enjoy the delightful climate of their city.
Jerónimos Monastery was itself commissioned by D. Manuel I, with a view to its later being used as his own pantheon, and entrusted to the Order of St. Jerome (Hieronymites). The magnificence of the building reflects the universalist vision of its founder and the powerful financial resources that the Portuguese crown enjoyed at that time. The 16th century was Lisbon’s golden era inspiring a unique style that later came to be known as "Manueline", since it was developed in the reign of D. Manuel I. The decorative features carved out of the monastery`s stone (many of which were inspired by the sea) are incredible. The most impressive features of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which was classified as an UNESCO World Heritage in 1983, are Santa Maria Church, cloisters and the larger monastic rooms.
Belem Tower is a beautiful monument originally built as a fortified lighthouse late in the reign of Dom Manuel l (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port. Its harmonious and distinctive shape is sharply outlined against the sky and the water of the River Tagus, and the delicate decoration of its stone suggests to those who feast their eyes upon it the appearance of a finely carved jewel. The tower was built on a basalt island located close to the right bank of the Tag but, with the progressive southward creeping of the shore over the years, it is now practically "moored" to the bank itself. It has remained for posterity as one of the world`s most beautiful examples of military architecture. In 1983, it was also designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Quelez’s National Palace was built at the orders of Pedro III, the husband of D. Maria I (1734-1816), and used as a royal residence, this palace is one of the finest examples of Portuguese architecture in the late 18th century. It has been further enriched by an important museum of decorative art, whose collections mostly belonged to the royal family and are exhibited in an appropriate setting. Many of the rooms are decorated in the rocaille style, such as the superb Throne Room, its walls lined with mirrors and magnificent carved gilded woodwork. The surrounding gardens are embellished with fountains and ornamental ponds, where sparkling water spouts forth from mythological figures. Particularly impressive is the group of sculptures around the Neptune Basin.
There are plenty of other things to admire about Lisbon too : the colourful tiled buildings, art-nouveau establishments, other monuments and museums (Tile museum, Fado museum, Antique Art museum...), parks, squares, the Atlantic Ocean...The medieval 12th century Roman Catholic Cathedral (Sé) is worth seeing, a starting point for many pilgrims doing the Camino de Santiago.
Places worth visiting close to Lisbon include the UNESCO heritage site the National Palace in Sintra, with its beautiful painted rooms and huge pair of conical chimneys, the most characteristic feature of Sintra.. This palace combines features from the Moorish, Gothic and Manueline styles, in keeping with the different constructions added to the original building. Of this building there still remains the Arab Room (lined with unusual and magnificent azulejos). Many of the rooms have been named after the paintings on their ceilings, such as the Swans Room, the Room of the Sirens, the Magpie Room or the Room of the Coats of Arms.
In addition, Cascais is a traditional seaside fishing village,which underwent significant development in the 14th century, when it was a busy port of call for ships on their way to Lisbon. But it was in the late 19th century, when sea-bathing became popular, that Cascais was transformed into a very fashionable seaside resort. The chief architect of this transformation was King Dom Luís I of Portugal, who converted the fort into the summer Residence of the Portuguese monarchy. The example was followed by the nobility, who built mansions and fine villas, where they would spend the hottest part of the year, changing the face of the former fishing village. Cascais nowadays is a lively, cosmopolitan place which retains a certain aristocratic atmosphere. It is worth a walk along its streets, with their excellent quality shops, or spending some time relaxing on one of its numerous belvederes. The beaches continue to be one of the main attractions of Cascais, and one can choose between those in the bay, sheltered by the town, and the ones a bit further away in the Guincho area (now part of the Sintra-Cascais National Park), which are excellent for surfing and windsurfing. A natural curiosity on the way out of Cascais is the Boca do Inferno (Hell´s Mouth), a recess of the coast surrounded by craggy rocks and caves, providing a fantastic spectacle when the sea dashes against them on stormy days. Another outstanding feature is the food, especially fresh fish and shellfish, which can be sampled in the many local restaurants.
Population: 545,245 (2015)
Area: 100.05 km²
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