Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Portugal still harbors strong accents of Old World Europe and even though Lisbon has embraced contemporary ways, it is still very much a beacon of tradition on the continent.
I lived in Lisbon in the 1990s and still travel there regularly. Even though there are exciting and new advancements, the city still honors its past in a graceful way.
A visit to Lisbon must encompass not just the Capital, but also many of the surrounding areas along the coast and into the mountains (serra) to the northwest. The coastal train from Cais da Sodre station out to Cascais is one of the most exhilarating coastal rail experiences in Europe and introduces the passenger to outstanding views of the Tagus estuary and delightful coastal villages of Carcavelos, Estoril and Cascais. From there it is worth walking to the Cascais outdoor market to experience a wide variety of fresh produce stalls and sample fresh pão com chouriço (sausage bread) with a caneca (small beer). Then take the bus ride out to the Guincho Beach, which is famous for wind surfing along a rugged coastline.
There is also a train from Lisbon out to the summer residences of past royalty in the Serra da Sintra. There you will find a cultural landscape that is protected as UNESCO World Heritage site – the Palace of Monserrate, the Castelo dos Moros and the Pena Palace are magnificent structures that evoke centuries of Portuguese culture. There are traditional restaurants around the main square that are known for authentic Portuguese cuisine like amêijoas à bulhão pato (clams in garlic and cilantro) and açorda de marisco (bread soup with seafood). There are also a number of bakeries selling traditional sweet desserts like queijadas (cinnamon spiced cheesecakes) and pastel da nata (custard tart).
But touring Lisbon is as Old World as it can get. There are cable cars and funiculars that criss-cross the city, which suggests an authentic and reasonable pace of life. The city is also embracing the foodie culture and there are chefs adding contemporary touches to the authentic cuisine that alternates between coastal and country. The wine culture (viticulture) is noticeable with menus ranging from young wines poured from the barrel, to remarkable table wines, to exquisite vintages from the Douro or Alentejo regions.