Football fans, and particularly supporters of the two Madrid teams, Real and Atletico, are heading en-masse to the city of Lisbon for the UEFA Champions League Final being held at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz tomorrow night. It has been estimated that as many as 100,000 fans will make the journey from Madrid, whether by car, plane or train and the atmosphere in this compact and already very vibrant city will certainly be buzzing. Prices to stay the night in Lisbon have reportedly gone through the roof because of the influx of football tourists, causing many supporters to stay one and a half hour’s drive away across the border in Spain.
Reporters from all over Europe and indeed all over the world are covering the match, giving Lisbon the opportunity to promote its charms to the uninitiated. So what has Lisbon to offer the city break tourist at a more peaceful time?
Any visitor to Lisbon has to take a ride on the century-old wooden trams and iron funiculars that still lurch and rumble their way among the hills over which the city lies. Wander through the pedestrianized streets of the elegant Baixa district, the area which was completely rebuilt after the massive earthquake of 1755 by the first Marquis of Pombal.
Head up one of Lisbon’s hills to the Moorish Alfama neighbourhood, where sunset-amber walls and dusty lanes surround the Arabic-cum-medieval castle that looks out over the terracotta rooftops of the city below. At the imperial Belém waterfront, Portugal’s “Age of Discoveries” is celebrated in the form of a lavish monastery and impressive river-facing statues, built with the proceeds of Portugal’s ostentatious colonial empire. Whilst in Belém stop to buy a pastel de nata, a delicious egg custard tart. It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém. You can buy the tarts to take away or eat in at the café, Pastéis de Belém, a few hundred yards from the monastery.
When the football fans have returned home, life in Lisbon will return to normal – a friendly, welcoming city with plenty to interest the visitor.