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Lisbon is the largest city and the capital of Portugal and westernmost large city in Europe, with an urban population of a little over half a million. Whilst facing the Atlantic Ocean, the city enjoys a mostly Mediterranean climate.
Lisbon is also one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest city in Western Europe. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lisbon: Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
Though in recovery from financial crisis, Lisbon remains a relatively safe and crime-free city. Prices are lower than most European capitals, more similar to those of south and eastern Europe than other Western capitals.
Since the Carnation Revolution of 1974, Portugal has seen huge advances in its gay rights laws. Portugal is one of very few countries in the world that specifically states within its constitution that no one can be discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
Homosexuality was decriminalised as early as 1852. However, it was re-criminalised in 1886 when the country came under dictatorship rule. It was not until 1982 that the law repealed, and homosexuality was again decriminalised in Portugal.
During the last thirty years, Portugal has been at the forefront of aligning the rights of same-sex couples to the same as those of heterosexual couples. In 2010, Portugal became the eighth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
As of February 2016, full adoption rights were granted by the Parliament.
Portugal’s Gender Identity Law, introduced in 2012, is said to be the most advanced in the world for transsexual and transgender people. The age of consent is 14 years old.
Lisbon is a very gay-friendly city. It is often difficult to say which venue is all-gay, mostly-gay or just gay-friendly, as everyone is equally welcome. The Lisbon gay scene is centered around the Bairro Alto district and the neighbouring Principe Real area.
Around Principe Real area, located next to Bairro Alto, there are a number of gay-friendly venues and gay cruise clubs. The connecting street between the two areas, Rua da Atalaia, is where the crowds fill up until the late hours.
Gay beach lovers will enjoy the long, popular beach at Costa da Caparica, a 15-minute drive from Lisbon. To get there, take the metro to Praça de Espanha, then the bus. As you go further south, the beaches become trendier and more nudist-friendly.
The gay beach area is at Beach 19 or Praia de Bela Vista where there are a few gay-popular venues and some cruising in the dunes before sunset.
Lisbon International Airport is just a 10-minute taxi ride from central Lisbon (averaging around €15). An aerobus service leaves the airport every 20 minutes and costs €3.50 (cheaper if you buy online. The number 91 bus to Cais do Sodre railway station is an even cheaper alternative, costing only €1.35.
Alternatively, take the red metro line directly from the airport and transfer at Alameda or San Sebastian on the Green/Blue Lines respectively. Tickets cost €1.40 but you must purchase the 7 Colinas/Viva Viagem to travel.
The centre of Lisbon, including most shopping areas, attractions and nightlife spots, is compact and easy to get around on foot.
Be aware that the city is extremely hilly which can add time to journeys. When passing through Baixa-Chiado, use escalators inside the station to avoid climbing uphill.
Tram – The city is well served by both small Carris (yellow trams) and electric trams (longer and more modern). The flat fare is €2.85.
Metro – The green and blue lines should get visitors to most places worth visiting. Stations are well marked, close together, and services run regularly. Single tickets are €1.90 without a rechargeable card but cheaper without.
Train – Trains are necessary when visiting all beaches on the north shore, including Estoril and Cascais. Services from the coast run from Cais do Sodré and take around an hour.
Ferry – Regular service ferries run across the Rio Tagus from Cais do Sodré and Tereirro do Paco. A single ticket costs €2.75.
Taxi – Taxis are relatively inexpensive with a 20-minute journey late at night costing from 10 euros to more depending on traffic.
Lisbon has an excellent choice of hotels to suit all budgets. Bairro Alto, Principe Real and Baixa (Lower Town) are the most popular areas among gay tourists.
Alfama – postcard-pretty and the oldest remaining part of Lisbon.
Praça do Comércio – huge, modern square on the riverfront filled with museums and restaurants.
Belem – home to the statue of the discoveries, the famous Pastel de Belem, and countless museums.
Avenida de Roma – a huge presidential boulevard slightly outside the city and an excellent place to sit back and watch the day.
Oriente – site of the Expo ’98 which saw the area transformed to its current state, with concert halls, water gardens, and regular free outdoor concerts.
Chiado – fashionable shopping district with shops, book stores, cafés, etc.
Cascais – an old fishermen’s village and a famous attraction for locals and foreigners.
National Tile Museum – a huge church with walls of beautiful ceramic tiles and artworks.
Oceanario de Lisboa – an aquarium, opened in 1998, featuring impressive exhibits and promoting knowledge of the ocean habitats.
Portugal is within the Schengen zone. Those who do not hold an EU passport or a valid Schengen Visa should check requirements with their own embassy.
Portugal’s official currency is the euro. Visitors will have no trouble exchanging cash and traveller’s cheques. Post offices usually offer a better rate than banks and commercial money-changing shops, though the latter might be the only option for obscure currencies.
ATM’s are widely available. When withdrawing cash from an ATM, a charge will be added (usually around €2), so it’s best to take out 100 or more at a time.
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