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Lisbon, Portugal

A city full of surprises, Lisbon is the cultural heart and capital city of Portugal. A large port at the mouth of the Tagus River, it was from this city that the 15th-century great wave of exploration was launched. The soaring, mile-and-a-half-long 25th of April Bridge greets you as you enter the harbor with unspoken promises of things to come.

In the Baxia, the heart of the capital, classical buildings surround the riverfront square of Praco do Comercio, also known as Black Horse Square. Follow the pedestrian street, Rua Augusta, to Rossio Square, a busy shopping district decorated with flower vendors and fountains, once used for the popular Portugal tradition of bullfighting. Palm trees and ponds line the Avenue of Liberty, leading to the statue of the Marquis of Pombal and Edward VII Park, known for its collection of rare and unique, tropical flowers and fernery.

Alfama, the ancient Moorish quarter, is home to centuries old, orange-tiled roof buildings and churches. The charm of the quarter is accentuated with winding cobblestone lanes and stairways. A nearby museum showcases a fine collection of azulejos, Portuguese tiles in simple blue and white, and more intricate designs. Keepsake tiles make wonderful Lisbon souvenirs.

The 16th century Belem Tower is a majestic monument to the Age of Discovery, and the starting point of many voyages, including Vasco da Gama's epic journey to India. Commemorating that expedition, the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery is one of the city's finest examples of unique Manueline architecture, combining Gothic and Moorish styles. In the monastery is the Maritime Museum, focusing on the exciting navigation history of the Portuguese. Along the Tagus River, the Monument to the Discoveries, shaped like the prow of a caravel ship, is a modern tribute to these great marine explorers.

Explorations and trade routes in the East brought rich and varied tastes to Portuguese cuisine. Marinated pork, sautéed steak and port wine provide an exquisite experience for the palate. Walk off a large meal by exploring the multitude of shopping choices available: from small boutiques with handmade lace, to the tile and pottery sidewalk markets along the Rua Augusta.
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