Growing meeting opportunities in Lisbon

Lisbon Convention Bureau

When choosing a suitable incentive or convention destination, its organisers and sponsors must bear into account four main factors: its uncommon appeal; its travel facilities; its suitable equipment, attractions and staff; and its good value for money.

Lisbon is the top answer to these four requirements.

Still one of the most mysterious European capitals, Lisbon is also a charming city used to welcoming, over the centuries, many different peoples. It lies in the southwestern point of Europe, nearest to the eastern American and Western African coasts, and is proud of its busy international airport and old ocean port, as well as a number of superior international hotels, meeting and banqueting rooms, and a booming and open economy. A large heritage panoply of cultural, natural, sports and lively attractions also adds up to one of the best available overall bargains in the conventions, meetings and incentives market.

But let us show you some of the past, present and future exclusive meeting and incentive opportunities available in Lisbon and its renowned coast.

The past

Lisbon is considered the Atlantic capital of the European Union. It was founded as a Christian city in 1147 (when Henry the first, in fact the first king of Portugal, conquered its stronghold castle from the Moors). It has been the capital of Portugal since 1256. Its origin is lost in pre-historical times, but it still holds several interesting remains from Phoenician Greek, Carthaginian, Roman, Vandal, Swevi, Visigoth, Moorish, German, English, Flemish Jewish and Castillian civilisations. Imagine all of these combined traditions gathered over the centuries and enhanced by quite a legendary interchange of cultures.

A remarkable list of monuments of the different periods is today one of the most valued attractions for convention and incentive participants. We can recall just a few: St. George's Castle (a blended mixture of Moorish and Medieval styles); the underground Roman Theatre and Spa (on the southwest slope of the castle); the 13th-century Fernandine Walls (the outer belt of the city area in that period passing through the 12th-century Cathedral on to the slanting hill leading into the Chiado district, and remains of which can still be seen here and there); the 16th-century Jeronimos Monument (classified by UNESCO as one of the world's heritage sites, and today housing Santa Maria's church, its fine cloisters, the Archaeological and Marine Museums, and a school); the nearby Belem riverside Fortress (standing at the entrance of the port like a 16th-century watch-tower), the 18th-century impressive Aguas Livres Acquaduct (over the Alcantara Valley); the Gothic ruins of Carmo Church (standing on one of the steep slopes of Carmo/Bairro Alto hills, overlooking Rossio Square and the western walls of St George's Castle) and which are the present-day remaining sign of the 1755 earthquake which destroyed most of the centre of Lisbon; the Commerce Square (known as Terreiro do Paco - the former Royal Palace's open courtyard), now housing Government departments; the many old churches in every parish, with their tall domes and bell-towers; and the l9th-century former Royal Palace of Ajuda (dominating the westernmost hill of the city, and housing the old Crown treasure).

Museum-wise, Lisbon also offers multiple opportunities providing an overview of its past, according to the personal tastes and interests of its visitors. We can name the following popular museums: Royal Coaches (Belem), Fine Arts (at the Janelas Verdes 18th-century palace), the Gulbenkian Collections, (at the Foundation's own headquarters), the Chiado's Modern Art, the Vieira da Silva and the Glazed Tiles Collections (this one at the 16th-century Madre de Deus Convent-Church), the Popular Art, the City's Estate and the Bordalo Pinheiro Collections, as well as the Sacred Art (at Sao Roque's Church) and St Anthony's Collections, plus the striking old Barbadinhos and Mae d'Agua Water Supply Stations, the old Belem Electricity Power Station, the Military History at Santa Apolonia, the Marine History and the adjoining Gulbenkian Planetarium, the Ethnology, Geology, Natural History and Science, Archaelogy, Theatre, Costume and Puppets Collections (at Monteiro-Mor Park), and so on.

The present

Despite its age, Lisbon is not an old city out of pace with the modern world. On the contrary. Nowadays, the preserved typical quarters blend in perfect harmony with the advanced modern-styled architecture of its charming tree-lined boulevards spread over the modern expanded areas to the north.

Lisbon's main skyline is better seen from some of its seven hills, all sloping down (along a ten-mile natural antitheatre) towards the Tagus estuary, which also forms one of the largest and safest ports in the world.

River, estuary and port open into the Atlantic Ocean, on continental Europe's westernmost coast.

A distinct feature is also Lisbon's open-air nightlife by the riverside. It still offers, of course, the old Fado singing at original dinner shows, in some 15 typical restaurants, where the best female and male singers perform nightly. But Lisbon's youth and visitors alike have now 'discovered' their seaward fate. They wonder all night around dozens of sophisticated and modern pubs, restaurants and discos along the exciting Santo Amaro-Alcantara Cais do Sodre riverside docklands. Informal dancing, drinking, eating, talking and mixing is fun in Lisbon. No other European city boasts now of such a variety of lively nightlife, on the waterside or afloat. Just a few miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, with the Tagus, its bridge, the marinas and ships from all over the world as the unusual background and witnesses for all types of parties.

Add to these features the mildest all-year-round climate in Europe, plus 85 years experience of organised international tourism structures (it was in 1911 that the first Portuguese Official Tourism Department was set in Lisbon).

The future

The future also looks bright. In 1998 (from May to September) Lisbon will be hosting also the World's Exhibition (Expo '98), devoted to the oceans. This will be the last 20th-century World Exhibition and the first to be held on a central and ecological subject: the Future of the Oceans.

Lisbon's eastern part is now totally under reconstruction. A new city will be born there. And after Expo '98 all the new buildings and areas will be developed for other purposes, such as office blocks, three hotels, apartments, shopping centres, restaurants, a new park, a new marina, a new common rail/bus terminal (the Orient Station), Europe's largest aquarium, a new enclosed stadium to hold sports competitions, musical shows, cultural events and conventions for up to 15,000 participants, as well as the new Lisbon International Fair complex (the present Junqueira site will be transformed, after 1998, into the new Lisboa Convention Centre).

This means, precisely, that Lisbon will have more hotel rooms, more meeting and entertainment facilities, and also. . . more opportunities.

The Lisboa Convention Bureau

All the above is very well, but what about the suitable meeting facilities, special tours, entertainment and experienced staff which a convention destination needs?

That is where the Lisboa Convention Bureau's team comes in. A non-profit organisation, run hand-in-hand by the Lisbon City Council and the main representatives of local hotels, tourist operators, carriers and specialised services operators, it holds almost ten years of successful experience in international relations. At the Lisboa Convention Bureau, most projects can pick up some special add-on difference. The traditional Portuguese assistance is available to produce unrejectable proposals by an experienced team.

They have handled satisfactory international meetings, conventions and incentives, from 150 to 10,000 people. And the package may contain some exciting events, all within reasonable distance and cost, such as a gala dinner and international show at the Casino Estoril (Europe's largest), a private banquet in a genuine royal palace or old convent, a sunset garden-party in beautiful parks, a golf tournament, some yacht racing or offshore fishing, a bullfight or some Portuguese Horse-Riding School show, multi-lingual sightseeing tours in Lisbon, Queluz, Sintra, Mafra, Estoril, Cascais, Roca Cape (the westernmost point of Continental Europe), or the Three Castles Tour (Palmela, Sesimbra and Setubal), or a little further to Fatima, Batalha and Alcobaca Monasteries, Obidos and Nazare (the celebrated walled town and Phoenician fishing village).

Post-convention tours are also unlimited: to the Green North, or to the Algarve and Alentejo, or even to the Azores or Madeira (where there is a choice of 11 different and all beautiful islands in mid-Atlantic).

Sights and experiences which one will never forget. That is also why Lisbon is unforgettable. Do try to experience the Lisboa Convention Bureau's professional spirit.