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    City Breaks: Lisbon

    October may seem bleak and rainy, and there's little hope that November will prove to be any better, which is exactly why we propose a glorious plan where you simply fly south like the birds in search of sunnier shores ;).

    Lisbon is often said to be the sunniest capital in Europe. I don't know whether that claim has any scientific merit, but the charming Portuguese capital certainly seems to live up to its name.

    Located on the country's long Atlantic coast, Lisbon is a nice sunny place graced with warm weather all year round. Here are some of our tips for making the most of a quick escapade in the south-westernmost capital of Europe.

    First of all, you have probably heard about the lovely pastéis de Belém that tourists who've been to Lisbon always rave about. There isn't a single post ever written on the Internet about the city that doesn't at least mention them. They certainly deserve the credit they get, but if you would rather avoid all the queuing to get them at the only bakery allowed to sell them, I'll let you in on a little secret. Pastéis de Belém are the branded version of pastés de nata, which can be found in any cafe in Portugal (little bakery-style places which can be found on any street corner, where coffee and pastries are served). Purists may protest that pastéis de Belém are undeniably superior in quality to the more common pastés de nata, but I promise you won't be disappointed ;)

    Secondly, wear sensible, non-slippery shoes. This may seem like a no-brainer for any traveller, but let me assure you that the Lisbon pavement IS out to get you, so you need to be extra careful when navigating the streets. Portuguese sidewalks are true works of art, lovingly decorated with traditional imagery drawn in black against white stones. They're beautiful and very typical, but they're also incredibly slippery for the uninitiated.

    Shoes are also an important consideration when going out to enjoy the Lisbon nightlife. The Lisbon night scene is varied, with something for every taste, but the most famous spot is without a doubt Bairro Alto, one of the oldest quarters in the city, known for its pubs and strong connection with Portugal's traditional Fado music. The pubs are housed in old residential buildings, so they are usually quite small. Owing to this and to the generous weather, people tend to get their drinks and stand outside, either hanging out or moving from club to club as the fancy takes them. Warm comfortable clothes are advised (think sense over fashion), and high-heels are very much not recommended. The old-fashioned cobbled streets mean you will spend your evening trying to avoid getting your heels stuck in between the cobblestones.

    Cascais and Sintra are within an easy 20-minute drive from Lisbon, and they both warrant a visit. One of the most famous spots in Cascais is the charming Praia das Maçãs beach, great for a walk and some sightseeing even in autumn, and surrounded by a myriad of hip restaurants and cafés. As for Sintra, it is unlike anything you are ever likely to find outside a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale. Surrounded by lush forest, it is home to several palaces, including the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira - once a place used for secret Masonic rituals - and the Romantic Pena Palace, perched atop a hill overlooking the village.

    As a final tip, I would like to point out that you should be extra careful about not drinking and driving. Portuguese drinks tend to be stronger than those served in the UK, and the legal blood alcohol limit is lower (0.08% in the UK, 0.05% in Portugal), so you can more easily go over the limit without realising.

    Happy travels!

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