Vintage trams rumble, buskers perform and Rua Augusta throngs with shoppers in central Baixa. Here 18th-century townhouses and the neo-Gothic Santa Justa Elevator rise gracefully above gridlike streets, leading to Praça do Comércio’s grand arcades and triumphal arch. West of Baixa is literary Chiado, home to gilded Art Deco cafés, the ruptured Carmo Convent and Rodin works at the Chiado Museum. Chiado sidles up to the pulsating Bairro Alto nightlife district and fountain-dotted Rossio square.
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Spilling down to the Tagus River, the labyrinthine Moorish Alfama is an appealing choice of where to stay in Lisbon. Strains of fado ballads and whiffs of barbecued sardines drift from tiny bars and laundry flaps above the red rooftops in alleys fanning out from Romanesque Sé Cathedral. High above, fortified St George’s Castle gives far-reaching views over whole Lisbon. Uphill from Alfama is serene Graça, home to the austerely beautiful National Pantheon and the azulejo-tiled cloisters of São Vicente de Fora Monastery.
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Overlooking the Tagus River, Belém is a speedy tram ride west of the centre. This leafy district whisks you back to the 15th-century Age of Discovery contemplating Jerónimos Monastery’s intricate cloisters, Belém Tower’s lacy stonework and the caravel-shaped Monument to the Discoveries. Tourists pile into the Antiga Confeitaria for moreish pastéis de nata (custard tarts) before viewing the Maritime Museum’s galleons and Warhol at the Berardo Collection. The neoclassical Ajuda National Palace sits north of Belém.
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The dazzling white dome of neoclassical Estrela Basilica overshadows Estrela’s genteel, tree-fringed streets. Children feed the ducks in the botanical greenery of Jardim da Estrela opposite. Estrela’s elegant neighbour is Lapa, where bijou mansions hide romantic Lisbon hotels and art enthusiasts look at Dürer originals in the palatial Museum of Ancient Art. Slightly south, the Alcantara Docks’ riverfront warehouses harbour industrial-chic bars, fashionable restaurants and the treasures at the Orient Museum.
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Boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants and design-driven hotels draw luxury lovers north of the centre to Marquês de Pombal, bisected by the well-heeled Avenida da Liberdade boulevard. Here strolls in the manicured Parque Eduardo VII and the world-class collections of Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and the Modern Art Centre await. A metro ride north-east brings you to the riverfront Parque das Nações’ open-air art, futuristic architecture and mammoth Oceanarium
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