When it rains you can still explore Lisbon while avoiding a soaking. For instance, using the city’s metro (subway) system will spare you from inclement weather, and many stations are located near popular tourist attractions.
If you’re in town on a brief visit, then a one-day itinerary should include the Oceanário de Lisboa, in Parque das Nações. This is Portugal’s most popular tourist attraction and takes visitors on a fascinating undersea journey through five different habitats – North Atlantic, Antarctic, Temperate Pacific and Tropical Indian. There’s also a huge central tank, the Global Ocean, where sharks, rays and other amazing aquatic species glide by with blissful nonchalance.
A sleek shark, one of many found in the Oceanario de Lisboa — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
If it’s still wet outside, we suggest you head for the nearby Vasco da Gama shopping mall for a spot of retail therapy. Dozens of shops, restaurants and a multiplex cinema complex means there’s plenty to see and do for adults and youngsters alike.
A two-day itinerary allows for a more leisurely exploration of what Lisbon has in store. Unfortunately, the metro line doesn’t extend west as far as the Museu do Oriente, but the number 15 tram stops outside this fabulous cultural showpiece.
Dedicated to Asian art, with a special emphasis on the Portuguese presence in the Far East, the museum houses a magnificent display of rare and priceless artifacts from China, Japan, Indonesia and India. Allow two hours to absorb this unique collection.
After arriving back in the city centre, your coffee break will be enriched by bagging a table inside Pastelaria Suiça (conveniently situated a stone’s throw from Rossio metro station). Admittedly, this café is renowned for its exterior terrace where the seating arrangements make for wonderful people-watching. But you can still gaze upon the world through large picture windows that lend character to this historic hangout. Incidentally, Suiça rustles up a pretty good brunch for those feeling a bit peckish.
Across Rossio and up into Chiado is A Vida Portuguesa, a quirky designed boutique crammed full of traditional products, anything from vintage-style soap to gourmet salt. This is a wonderful place to browse for that special souvenir.
A selection of soaps in vintage wrapping on sale at A Vida Portuguesa — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
By the way, here’s a tip. Whenever it rains in Lisbon you’ll notice squat elderly ladies standing on street corners shouting chuva (“rain”) and selling umbrellas. If you’re really stuck, then it’s worth parting with a few euros to save yourself a dousing. However, be aware that these ‘emergency’ brollies are manufactured on the cheap and won’t last much beyond a week.
If you’ve three days to spare in Portugal’s vibrant capital, but the forecast is rain throughout, then you’re very unlucky. But there are still lots of places to visit besides the suggestions already listed above.
Culture vultures can immerse themselves in the outstanding Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (also on the metro line, at São Sebastião). The scale of this extraordinary collection of Eastern and Western art is staggering and one could spend several hours meandering the galleries of Oriental tapestry, Chinese porcelain and paintings by masters such as Rembrandt and Monet, among other breathtaking pieces.
Over 300 port wine varieties at Solar do Vinho do Porto — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Afterwards, head back into Chiado because rain or shine, it’s hard to resist a glass of port wine, and the very best can be tasted at the Solar do Vinho do Porto at Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 45. Mellow out in a comfy armchair and indulge in a late vintage tawny, or any one of the 300 varieties stocked in this stunning venue, a former palace. It’s a very conducive way to end the day.