Relax in the laid-back charm of Portugal's capital city, Lisbon. Sprawled over 7 hills on the sunny Atlantic coast, its walkable city centre is alive with independent shops, cafés and monuments that hint at Portugal's rich history. No need for a guided tour in Lisbon: hop on vintage Tram 28 for a fun trip through bustling Baixa (downtown), historic Alfama, trendy Bairro Alto, upscale Chiado... Take the historic Elevador de Santa Justa up to Carmo for a bird's-eye view over Lisbon. Everywhere you go in Lisbon, you'll find yourself enchanted by this relaxed city and its friendly, hard-working people.
Savour fresh, simple Portuguese cuisine in Lisbon's numerous local restaurants and cafés – like Pastelaria Aloma (www.omelhorpasteldenatadelisboa.com) in Campo de Ourique, which locals swear serves even better pastéis de nata (custard tarts) than the long-standing Confeitaria Nacionall (www.confeitarianacional.com). Gourmets should look out for Lisbon's best-kept dining secret, The Decadente (www.thedecadente.pt) by innovative young chef Nuno Bandeira de Lima. If you're in Alfama, pop into Faz Figura (www.fazfigura.com) for traditional bacalhau (salt cod) and a glass of vinho verde, Portugal's light, young white wine.
When night falls over Lisbon, head behind the São Jorge castle to Mouraria, birthplace of fado. This distinctive Portuguese musical style is now recognised by UNESCO as a piece of cultural heritage. In Bairro Alto, Lisbon's long-standing nightlife hotspot, you can enjoy genuine – free – fado by keen amateurs and professionals in the non-touristy Tasca do Chico. For an authentic jazz joint head for Hot Club (www.hcp.pt) in aptly-named Praça da Alegria (Happy Square).
A host of independent boutiques makes shopping in Lisbon a pleasure. Pick up a handmade gift or quirky curio at the Feira da Ladra every Tuesday and Saturday in Alfama. For Portuguese wines and spirits along with specialist advice, visit Garrafeira Nacional (www.garrafeiranacional.com) on Rua de Santa Justa, open since 1927. Continue the indulgence with Portuguese beauty products at City Spa (www.cityspa.com.pt) in Belém.
Fashionistas should visit MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda (mude.pt), an extraordinary new collection of Portuguese fashion items. If you're in Lisbon with kids, treat them to the Oceanarium (www.oceanario.pt) in Parque das Nações, with over 25,000 sea creatures in giant tanks and activities for children. For a break from Lisbon's compact city centre, take a tram to Belém. The Torre de Belém tower (www.torrebelem.pt), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery (www.mosteirojeronimos.pt), are fitting monuments to Portuguese maritime history.
Before you visit Lisbon, check out its lively events calendar. Traditional festivals such as June's Festa de Santo António, celebrating Lisbon's patron saint, see families and friends pour into the main squares. Wind up the rhythm – and volume – at Rock in Rio Lisboa (www.rockinriolisboa.sapo.pt) in early summer in Parque da Bela Vista. For something more home-grown and local, check out up-and-coming venues such as Pensão Amor (www.pensaoamor.pt) in the once-seedy docklands at Cais do Sodré. This trendy café-bar is set out like a cabaret, hosting live shows throughout the year.