Home of Vasco de Gama and the other great explorers, Lisbon parties like no other European city. It is where Europe meets Africa and Brazil in a heady, sophisticated cultural mix. Don't assume that Portugal is Spain's poor relation on the nightlife front: it is very like Spain, only more so. Prepare to start partying earlier and to go on later. Things kick off in the early evening in the Bairro Alto area, with chic crowds of Lisboetas mingling in the brightly lit squares and lingering in the shady lanes. Clubs rarely get going before midnight. Around 1am, head down to the Santos and Docas waterfront areas, where the main clubs are. A word of warning: expect to be offered drugs on most street corners, because Portugal has extremely relaxed drug laws.
Sip cocktails and ponder over a game of backgammon with Lisbon's cool crowd at Pavilhao Chines, Rua de Atalaia 105. For those who like tequila-based cocktails, check out the drinks at Mezcaloco, Travessa da Agua da Flor. Cluba da Esquina, Rua da Barroca, is a groovy, popular bar offering a chilled-out assortment of reggae, jazzy funk and dub that draws a diverse mix of locals. No trip is complete without trying the local cherry liqueur, ginjinha, at A Ginjinha, Largo de Sao Domingos 8.
Reserve a table at Pap' Acorda, Rua da Atalaia 57 (00 351 21 346 4811), for a great dinner that will sustain you through the long night. Push open the heavy metal door to reveal a hip salon with backlit diffused-glass walls and crystal chandeliers, where crowds of hip Lisboetas enjoy delicious fish dishes. Around £30. Alcantara Café, Rua Maria Luisa 15 (00 351 21 362 1226), next door to the nightclub of the same name, is a former industrial warehouse fitted out with red velvet and chandeliers. International cuisine. Approx £25. For tasty, traditional fish staples and hearty stews at low prices, try Primavera, Traversa da Espera 34 (00 351 21 342 0477). Around £15.
Don't miss out on fado, the traditional blues-like music that is indigenous to the city and currently enjoying a comeback – you will either love it or hate it. Meaning "fate", fado is sung by both men and women and is generally melancholic and wailing in nature. Try Club de Fado, Rua Sao Joao da Praca 92/4, which has a friendly atmosphere and a magnificent dining room with huge stone columns and graceful arches.
Signature DJs regularly spin the vinyl at Lux, Rua Gustavo Matos Sequeira 42, a former dockside warehouse with sliding glass panels, projections, Sixties retro furniture and a funky crowd. Fragil, Rua da Atalaia 128, was the first venue to reinvent the Lisbon club scene and it is still going strong. Mixed crowd. Industria, Rua do Instituto Industrial 6, offers three bars and the dance-floor starts filling up around 3am and is packed by 5am. The later it gets, the gayer it gets.
Get rid of any hunger pangs with some oven-warm pasteis de nata, vanilla custard-cream tarts from a pastelaria, a coffee shop specialising in cakes. Pasteis de Belem, Rua de Belem 84, is renowned for its pastries and provides bags full of cinnamon to dip them in.
Take a stroll through one of the ancient neighbourhoods, such as Baixa, or jump on one of the frequent trains from Cais do Sodre station and in 20 minutes you will be soaking up the rays on the beautiful beach at Estoril, which stretches to Cascais, further along the coast.
Sovereign (08705 768 373; www.sovereign.com) offers a three-night b&b break at the four-star Hotel Turim from £305 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights. Lisbon Tourist Board (www .atl-turismolisboa.pt, www.areapromocion allisboa.org).
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