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Car hire in Lisbon from Carrentals.co.uk

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The Portuguese capital offers something a little different to the rest of Europe, with its rustic appeal, vibrant nightlife and historic architecture. Set in hilly terrain on the banks of the River Tagus, Lisbon is simply bursting with culture. One of the best things about the city is that it can be discovered at an affordable price.

History: inhabited since Neolithic times, it was the Romans who first developed the city before the Moors arrived in 711 AD. Three hundred and fifty years later, the city was back in Christian hands and later became capital of Portugal in 1255. The Age of Discovery, the citys golden age, saw it become the departure point for world explorations by the likes of Vasco da Gama and the city prospered from its trading until it was devastated in the 1755 earthquake. Having been rebuilt, the neutral port of Lisbon escaped the devastation of WWII to become a thriving European hub.

Sightseeing: Lisbon is teeming with worthy visitor sites from the novelty of the Santa Justas Elevator, designed by Gustav Eiffel, to the Belem Tower and other relics from the Age of Discovery. If the weather turns grey, you can head for the Gulbenkian Museum where artworks by Monet and Renoir wait. Exploring the city on foot is possible, with dozens of pretty plazas in the Bairro Alto or Old City to explore; but if you want stunning views, an elevator ride up to the Cristo Rei statue will guarantee you some of the most breathtaking vistas.

Shopping: Chiado is probably Lisbons most elegant shopping district, where shoppers can rest their legs at one of the quaint cafs in between purchases. Several large air-conditioned malls are on hand from Colombo to the Armazens do Chiado and the Vasco da Gama. The Baixa is another popular shopping area with an excellent selection of European clothing stores.

Eating and drinking: Bairro Alto is the citys hub of dining and partying, and is home to several popular nightclubs. Things get going late here and they dont come to a close until morning. Even restaurants do not fill up until after 10pm, with several offering traditional fado music as you dine. For an evening out away from the crowds, Alfama has some excellent seafood restaurants set among atmospheric Moorish style streets where you can see a different side of the city.

Where to stay: most visitors choose to stay downtown where there are many small, often family-run, hostels and hotels. If you prefer your modern conveniences to more traditional lodgings, all the big hotel chains are represented such as Sofitel on avenida da Liberdade. Another popular option is to rent a furnished holiday home in the Baixa.

Getting there: Lisbons international airport, Portela, is regularly serviced by airlines linking the city with most major destinations in Europe. Scheduled flights to Cairo, Moscow and Boston are also available. Alternatively, there are high-speed train links with Spain as well as bus connections. Those travelling to Lisbon by road can make use of the citys highway links, with the E90 connecting to the Spanish capital, Madrid.