Boasting some of the most spectacular coastline in Portugal, this capital city also provides visitors with the opportunity to savour irresistible seafood dishes accompanied by renowned local wines, while exploring centuries of fascinating history. Those who like to party hard and far into the balmy night will find no lack of pulsating clubs, pubs and live entertainment venues just waiting to accommodate them. Here are the top 10 things to do in Lisbon during your gap year.
1. Belem Tower
Standing majestically at the mouth of the River Tagus, the Belem Tower was originally intended as a lighthouse but, eventually served as a protective fortress. Inaugurated in 1521, this iconic structure was granted World Heritage status in 1983. Built from ivory-white limestone and resembling a ship’s bow, the exterior of this superb Manueline sea fort is embellished with various symbols of Portugal’s proud seafaring history. The Renaissance loggia that dominates the south façade is not visible from the shore, which motivates everyone to tread the gangway to explore its superb style and beauty.
2. Lisbon Oceanarium
Lisbon is home to the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, so for those wanting to get up close and personal with the region’s kaleidoscopic marine life, it is a must-see. Lying within the extensive grounds of the Parque das Naҫôes on the banks of the Tagus, an enormous central tank features every awe-inspiring sea creature from fearsome sharks to the huge and graceful manta rays.
3. Vasco da Gama Tower
Opened on the 500th anniversary of its famous namesake’s dramatic voyage to India, this amazing tower is just a short cable-car ride from the oceanarium. Resembling a 575ft high nautical sail, it is easily Lisbon’s tallest structure and offers a spectacular view of the city.
4. Lisbon Cathedral
Students interested in architecture will surely want to visit this cathedral during their gap year. The oldest church in Lisbon, this 12th-century national monument has survived quite a few earthquakes and modifications, which has resulted in an interesting mix of various architectural styles.
5. Carmo Convent
The southern façade of this medieval convent still bears visible signs of the great earthquake of 1755 that destroyed many of the city’s buildings. Founded in 1389, it has been home to various tenants from the Carmelites in 1407 to the Royal Police Guard in 1800. Today, it is a fascinating archaeological museum.
6. Fronteira Palace
One of the most stunning residences in the city, any trip to Lisbon would be incomplete without visiting the Fronteira Palace. Built in 1640, it is an absolute treasure chest of frescoed panels, oil paintings and 17th to 18th-century decorative tiles. Its magnificent formal gardens are also a huge draw-card for visitors.
7. Decadente, Bairro Alto
For a mouth-watering meal in a funky atmosphere and that won’t break the bank, the Decadente is tops. Low-hanging table lamps set the mood for – among other delectable dishes – the delicious seafood rice proudly and aptly displayed on the menu as Portugal on a plate.
8. Bairro Alto
The Bairro Alto district offers the ultimate party experience. Clubs include the Music Box, which promises the trendy a night of wild writhing to top DJs, live bands and MCs. There is also the Lux that keeps things pumping inside of a huge dockland warehouse.
9. Costa da Caparica
Those on a gap year in Lisbon will appreciate this 15km strip of stunningly soft sands and turquoise waters, as well as the trendy bar scene that attracts many students. Lisbon weather is perfect for making the most of this region.
10. LX Factory Sunday Market
Extremely popular, this weekly market offers quirky vintage clothes, jewellery and a variety of odds and ends from the funky start-up designers and craftsmen who inhabit this hip art centre.