Though not situated on its banks or indeed close to it, Portugal’s capital Lisbon is a common starting point for river cruises along the Douro, whereupon passengers will have a day to explore the city before transferring to Porto to begin their voyage along the picturesque Rer of Gold. One of the world’s oldest cities and indeed, the oldest in Europe, Lisbon can trace its history as far back as the Neolithic Period, though some historians believe the origins of the city itself lie in its earliest incarnation of a Phoenician trading post. Since then, it’s been under Roman, Muslim and Moorish rule, has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most important European trading centres in the world and has survived a major earthquake, after which most of it was rebuilt. Today, this long and varied history combined with its temperate climate and vibrant culture makes it a great city to explore and an enduring tourist destination with visitors the world over.
Belem Tower is arguably the city’s most famous landmark and an architectural treasure both inside and out. Situated in the Belem district, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site which lies on the banks of the Tagus River and dates back to the 16th century. There are some great views to be had from it and the district is also where you’ll find the city’s other UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jeronimos Monastery, also known as the Hieronymites Monastery. It offers a fascinating look at Portuguese history as well as being a fantastic piece of architecture and it’s recommended to book a guided tour to get the most out of your visit. Both of these celebrated structures are understandably very popular with visitors whichever time of year you visit and are sure to feature on any excursion which involves a sightseeing tour.
Another of the city’s most visited districts is Alfama, which offers the perfect way to get a taste of old Lisbon, with charming narrow streets revealing a blend of architectural styles at every turn. For a completely different kind of experience, you can immerse yourself in the contemporary side of the city if you visit the Chiado district, Lisbon's modern shopping hot-spot, which is home to all manner of chic boutiques and larger retail stores too. With plenty of places to eat, it’s the perfect place to people-watch, pick up the perfect holiday gift or just sit with a snack or drink and soak up the atmosphere.
For the ultimate view of the city from above, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is a great lookout which offers the perfect escape from the hustle-bustle of the city, too. This is the place to go if you want to capture that quintessential shot of Portugal from the air and a great place from which to see the city’s landmark Vasco da Gama Bridge, which is the longest in Europe at well over 10 miles.
If you've an overnight in Lisbon before you set sail, then it's the perfect time to indulge in a little retail therapy or pick up some souvenirs as a lot of the shops are open late, many until 10pm. If shopping in the day, be aware that the majority of stores are closed between 1pm and 3pm.