Guides

Summer holidays in Lisbon

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With delicious Atlantic breezes and a big blue sky overhead, summer holidays in Lisbon are outdoors and full of party spirit. Book a summer Lisbon hotel to catch the hottest festivals, laze on the beach or dine alfresco in the Moorish Alfama.

Lazy beach days

When Lisbon swelters, nothing is more refreshing than a tingling dip in the Atlantic. Follow the lead of Lisboetas by boarding the train to Cascais, where palm-dotted plazas and a trio of bays invite relaxation. Stick around to see the lively 5pm fish auction. Lined with 19th-century villas and famous for its casino, neighbouring Estoril has a more sedate vibe. Ferries breeze across to the Costa da Caparica’s long stretch of golden sand, a magnet for beach-goers and surfers.

Alfresco dining

Lisbon’s dining scene goes alfresco in summer. Freshly grilled sardines are served with citrusy vinho verde wine in the sun-dappled lanes of Moorish Alfama, where the owners of family-run restaurants spontaneously burst out into mournful fado song. For prime views of the castle glowing on the hillside, dine on Calçada do Duque’s twisting steps at dusk. Nearby, the Bairro Alto serves pre-party tapas on candlelit patios. Jostle for a table on Bonjardim’s terrace to eat Lisbon’s juiciest spit-roast chicken with piri-piri sauce.

Celebrate summer

There’s always an excuse for a festa (party) on Lisbon summer holidays: from starlit fado concerts at the castle to nautical-themed parades at August’s Festival dos Oceanos. Jugglers and nimble acrobats captivate crowds at free BaixAnima on weekends from June to September. Locals feast, drink and deck their homes with multicolored garlands at the three-week Festas dos Santos Populares (Feast Days of the Popular Saints). The city becomes a giant street party for the Feast of Saint Anthony when Lisboetas declare their love with poems attached to manjericos (basil plants).

Picnic goodies

Get your basket ready for a picnic in Lisbon’s shady botanical gardens and precipitous miradouros (viewpoints). Rise early at your Lisbon hotel in summer to bag the freshest fruit and crusty loaves at domed Mercado da Ribeira. Slip back to the 1930s at Conserveira de Lisboa, where tinned squid, cod and tuna are still lovingly wrapped in brown paper. Since 1860, Manuel Tavares has done a brisk trade in Portuguese specialities. Look out for muslin-wrapped Azeitão, a pungent ewe’s milk cheese, Alentejo chorizo and full-bodied Douro wines. 

Summer nights

Lisboetas toast summer with Sagres beers at viewpoints overlooking Lisbon’s seven hills and upbeat street parties in the Bairro Alto’s grid-like lanes. Begin an evening over sticky shots of ginjinha (cherry liqueur) on the cobbles at A Ginjinha, just off Rossio square. Noobai Café’s well-hidden terrace is the place to be as Lisbon lights up, with views over the rooftops to the River Tagus. As the night wears on, meet for caipirinhas and dancing in the street at Portas Largas, or dockside drinks at Doca de Alcântara

The coolest day trips

Escape Lisbon’s heat with a day trip to cool, mountainous Sintra, whose whimiscal palaces and gardens inspired Lord Byron’s pen. Stroll through boulder-dotted woodlands to Bavarian-Manueline Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle’s serpentine ramparts. On fine days, the lively port of Setúbal merits a visit for its boat trips to the Sado estuary, the playground of bottlenose dolphins and storks. Back on dry land, alfresco restaurants on Avenida Luísa Todi serve heaped plates of choco frito (fried cuttlefish) with sweet Muscat wine.